Life Skills Instructor: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a life skills instructor, which generally involves a special education background. Learn about job duties, education requirements, employment outlook and wages to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Emotional & Behavioral Disorders degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At A Glance

Life skills instructors use their knowledge of psychology and their problem-solving skills to help students with learning or physical disabilities develop skills needed to perform basic daily tasks. For this reason, many life skills instructors are special education instructors. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering the field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Elementary Education, Special Education, Content Area with minor in Special Education
Key Skills Communication and interpersonal skills; patience; resourcefulness
Job Growth (2012-2022) 6% for all special education teachers*
Median Salary (2013) $53,910 for kindergarten and elementary special education teachers; $56,920 for secondary special education teachers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Life Skills Instructors Do?

Typical job responsibilities might include managing a classroom, keeping records of attendance, communicating with school administrative staff and preparing lessons. You could meet regularly with parents to discuss their child's progress and setbacks. Additional duties could include:

  • Designing individualized learning plans (IEPs),
  • Ensuring IEPs are legally defensible,
  • Collecting and interpreting data on students,
  • Helping students eat and keep clean, and
  • Managing the physical needs of students.

What Should I Study?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that most aspiring special education teachers need to earn a bachelor's degree ( In a Bachelor of Arts in Special Education program, you might explore topics like IEP development, behavior management and assessing children with disabilities. Most programs require completion of a teaching internship in order to earn a bachelor's degree.

Some states expect special education teachers to hold a master's degree. A Master of Education in Special Education program might train you in areas like common learning disorders, teaching methods and behavioral analysis. Typical courses could include trends in special education, research methodologies, behavior and learning environments, statistics in special education, educational assessment and diverse learning. You can usually earn a master's degree in 2-3 years.

Do I Need a License?

You need a license to teach special education in all 50 states. The BLS reports that most states require completion of at least a bachelor's program in special education as well as a student teaching experience in order to obtain licensure. Alternative licensing routes may be available as well. These programs are often designed to attract bachelor's degree-holders who have no prior experience in education.

What is the Job Outlook?

According to the BLS, the number of employed special education teachers was expected to increase by 6% between 2012 and 2022. This was slower growth than average.

How Much Might I Earn?

In 2013, the BLS reported that special education teachers at the kindergarten and elementary levels earned a median salary of $53,910. Meanwhile, those at the secondary level earned a median of $56,920. Special education teachers with master's degrees typically earn more competitive salaries.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:

Popular Schools

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next »