Teaching Individuals with Orthopedic Impairments

Learn how you can gain a position teaching individuals with orthopedic impairments. See the education, licensing and certification requirements. Find out about the career prospects and earning potential for this specialty area of teaching.

Is Teaching Individuals with Orthopedic Impairments for Me?

Career Details

Individuals who have orthopedic impairments, which are also known as physical and health disabilities, are generally taught by special education teachers. Orthopedic impairments can be caused by congenital anomalies and result in issues such as clubfoot or missing limbs. Other orthopedic impairments include cerebral palsy, bone tuberculosis or burns. Students facing these challenges may have needs that range from simple classroom rearrangements to complex educational accommodations involving varying specialists and technologies.

Teaching special education involves assessing a student's needs, and then preparing and implementing educational plans that will meet those needs. You will need creativity, patience and excellent communicative skills as you will document work with students and relate to their parents. Special education teachers generally work as part of a team, which may include physical and occupational therapists, social workers and speech pathologists. You will need to be licensed to teach, which generally requires a teaching degree, and you will need to take continuing education coursework to maintain your licensure.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 442,800 special education teachers employed in the U.S. in 2012 (www.bls.gov). This number was projected to increase by 6% between 2012 and 2022. Special education teachers were reported by the BLS in May 2013 to have median salaries of $52,070 in preschools, $53,910 in kindergarten and elementary schools, $56,300 in middle schools and $56,920 in high schools. Jobs were projected to be more plentiful in the South, West and rural settings, because of higher enrollment rates.

How Can I Work Teaching Individuals with Orthopedic Impairments?


Most states require you to have a bachelor's or master's degree in special education in order to teach students with orthopedic impairments. Many schools offer 5-year programs that combine bachelor's and master's degrees. Endorsements in orthopedic impairments or physical and health disabilities are often offered as a part of graduate programs. Special education coursework should cover characteristics of severe and multiple disabilities, assistive technology for reading and academics and strategies for teaching children with multiple disabilities. You will need to complete a student teaching practicum and pass a basic skills exam in most states. During the course of your degree program, you should also spend time in classroom settings observing and working with a variety of students.

If you already have a bachelor's degree, most states will allow you to take a special education teaching job if you earn a special education teaching certificate within a specified period of time. You would work under the direct supervision of a licensed teacher while earning your certification, and then continue for a year or two under the supervision of a mentoring teacher afterwards.

Special education teachers often use the continuing education coursework required to maintain certification to earn additional certificates and master's degrees in special education. Earning a doctoral degree in special education can prepare you to work in research, lead a special education department or teach at a university.

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