Early Childhood Special Education Teacher

Early childhood special education teachers help infants, toddlers and small children who have learning or physical disabilities. This career requires patience, compassion and a love for children. Read on to learn more education and licensing requirements.

Is Early Childhood Special Education Teaching for Me?

Career Overview

Early childhood special education teachers hold a unique position within the educational system. They work with very young children, usually infants through age five, and all of their students have physical, mental or emotional disabilities. On an average day, some of your job duties as an early childhood special education teacher may include working with individual students or small groups, leading activities designed to stimulate cognitive, motor, language and social skills. You may also develop Individualized Education Programs (IEP) based on students' needs and abilities.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for special education teachers was expected to increase by just 6%, or slower than average, over the 2012-2022 decade. As of May 2013, the mean annual salary of a special education teacher working at the preschool level was $55,990 (www.bls.gov).

How Do I Become an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher?

Bachelor's Degree Programs

A bachelor's degree in special education can take longer to complete than a typical 4-year program, due to the amount and type of coursework. In particular, you may study the foundations of special education, behavior management, language and literacy. You'll also learn about the strategies used to teach students with disabilities. Many states require teachers who work with young children to hold an early childhood certificate as well.

Master's Degree Programs

If you pursue a master's degree in special education, you may have the chance to pursue additional research opportunities and fieldwork. At the graduate level, you'll learn about current disability and early childhood education issues and study medical assessments. Field experience is often one requirement to gain state endorsement, which can include a practicum or student teaching experience.


All teachers, including special education teachers, need to be licensed. A common requirement for licensure is a bachelor's degree; some states require a master's degree, so be sure and check with your state board of education.

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