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Careers in Teaching Children with Autism

Explore the career requirements for teaching children with autism. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Does a Career Teaching Children with Autism Entail?

Individuals who teach children with autism spectrum disorders are a subset of special education teachers in general. Their job duties include assessing a student's level of interaction and understanding in order to tailor their educational goals, mentoring students one-on-one, training teaching assistants, discussing a student's progress with teachers and devising lesson plans. They collaborate with other professionals like social workers, teaching assistants and psychologists to ensure that each child receives an effective education. They may also provide services and support for autistic students enrolled in mainstream schooling. Learn more about this career from the table below:

Degree RequiredBachelor's degree required for entry-level
Master's degree
Education Field of StudySpecial Education
Key ResponsibilitiesEvaluate and educate students
Provide feedback to parents, administrators and appropriate healthcare personnel
Plan, assign and assess student work including assignments
Maintain discipline in the classroom
Supervise teacher aides and other ancillary personnel
LicensureGeneral teaching license
Special education teaching license required in some states
Job Growth (2018-2028) 3% growth (for special education teachers in general)*
Average Salary (2018) $63,110 (for kindergarten and elementary special education teachers)*
$65,320 (for secondary special education teachers)*

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Special Education Teachers and Their Responsibilities

If you choose to become a teacher of autistic children, you need to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the disorder and the general field of special education. Those afflicted commonly have difficulty communicating normally or gaining the social skills suitable for their age group. The behavior of an autistic child is often repetitive and restricted in focus, but varies by individual. As a teacher of autistic children, you need to be able to identify each child's learning style and specific needs. You may be asked to help assess a potential student's state of neural development; autism can often be recognized before children reach the age of three.

Education Requirements

If you have your high school diploma or GED certificate, a good way to become a teacher of children with autism is by enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in special education. In addition to courses covering autism specifically, you can expect to cover vocational disabilities, remedial reading, special education law, physical education for disabled students and assessment methods for exceptional children. You can also expect to gain real-world experience working with autistic children under a lead teacher. Upon graduation, if you want to continue your education, there are several master's degree programs available that focus on autism teacher training.

After achieving at least a bachelor's degree, you are required to get your teaching license. In order to work with autistic children, some states require you to get a teaching license specific to special education. Many state licensure programs also specify that you need a minimum number of teaching hours under a lead special education teacher in order to begin working in a professional capacity. You usually have already earned these hours in your bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree program.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs available for special education teachers was expected to grow at a rate of 3%, which is in line with the national average for all industries, from 2018-2028 (www.bls.gov).

Salary Data

In May 2018, the BLS estimated that the average annual wage for secondary special education teachers, including teachers of children with autism, was $65,320. The four top paying states for secondary special education teachers were New York, Oregon, California and Connecticut.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many other career paths that allow you to work directly with children in need of help. You may want to consider becoming a social worker, specifically those working with children and in schools. Social workers monitor vulnerable children to ensure they are receiving the proper care and support both at home and in school. Educational requirements for social workers will vary, but they must have earned at least a bachelor's degree and gained the relevant licensing in order to work.

Another option is to become an occupational therapist, helping people with long-term disabilities and injuries recover and adapt. Some occupational therapists may work with children with autism or other similar issues in order to develop fine motor or language skills. Occupational therapists need to be educated to the master's degree level in order to find work.