Pros and Cons of Working as a Special Needs Teacher

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Working as a special needs teacher stands out as a job in special education that can be extremely challenging and rewarding at the same time. Not everyone has the personality to be a special needs teacher, but those who do can carve out a very rewarding career. Here's a quick rundown of the details of this very important job.

Teaching Special Needs Students

A special needs teacher typically works with a variety of special needs children. These needs may be mental, emotional, physical or a combination of the three. Some students will have sensory issues like blindness or deafness, and others may have autism spectrum disorders.

Job Duties

The job duties of a special education teacher may vary quite a bit, depending on the particular students they are teaching. Standard teaching duties such as preparing class schedules and lessons are part of the job, as are extra duties. Special needs teachers may:

  • Perform diagnostic assessments
  • Work closely with parents, which can sometimes be difficult, and other professionals to enhance the student's learning potential
  • Develop goals and objectives
  • Travel to different schools for tutoring sessions
  • Lift and care for students physically who can't move themselves

Both routine and unexpected issues will likely be part of every school day with special needs students, and the teachers must always be prepared.

Personality Traits

Aside from having the necessary teaching and professional skills, a special needs teacher must have specific personality traits to thrive in this field. Special needs teachers must have an abundance of patience and be able to maintain a positive outlook no matter how frustrating a situation becomes. They must have superior organizational skills, above-average physical strength and be able to work closely with a wide variety of different professionals. In essence, a special needs teacher must be relatively 'unshakable.'


The distinct skills required for special education careers demand unique training. In most places, the standard bachelor's degree is required, as is further schooling related to special needs and special education. Many teachers who specialize in one specific area such as autism will acquire training in that area before entering the workforce.

Not everyone is cut out to be a special needs teacher. These individuals must be dedicated, focused and ready to devote a large portion of their lives to work. If you have the devotion and the desire, you're on your way to a rewarding career.

Do You Have Summers Off?

If you are excited about the benefit of having summers off, well...think again. While it is true that teachers often enjoy longer breaks than the rest of us, many of them spend their time furthering their education or participating in required continuing professional development courses. Many also provide extended school year services to their students.

What We Like
  • Satisfying

  • Strong camaraderie with other special education teachers

What We Don't Like
  • Demanding physically, intellectually, emotionally

  • Less time off due to ongoing education, extended school year services

A Word From Verywell

Special education careers can be personally rewarding and at the same time quite demanding in terms of time, physical energy, intellectual challenges, and sometimes emotional stamina. Many special education teachers will attest to the fact that there is no satisfaction quite like that of knowing that you helped a special needs child to learn and grow.

They also report that although there are challenges, special education teachers often enjoy a strong sense of camaraderie with other special education teachers that are often lacking in other professions.

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  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. What Special Education Teachers Do. Updated September 1, 2020.