Typical Salary of a Special Education Teacher

The salary of a special education teacher varies by location, experience, and type of school. Because special education teachers are in demand in rural and inner city areas, salaries there can be—but are not always—higher. Sometimes, special education educators are paid more than general education teachers, but sometimes they are paid less, depending on the school district.

A vast majority of special education teachers work in public schools, approximately 90 percent. Six percent work for private schools. The rest are employed by hospitals, social service agencies, and other facilities as well as private homes. These special education teachers often receive a higher salary than those working elsewhere. Among those special education teachers who work in schools, nearly half work in elementary schools.

As of 2008, according to the United States Department of Labor, the annual average salary of a special education teacher working in elementary schools, kindergartens, and preschools was about $50,020. The highest paid special education teachers at this type of school made more than $78,980, while the lowest paid were given less than $33,770. Most teachers in this category earned between $40,480 and $63,500.

In 2009, the states with the highest pay in this type of school were Alaska, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and California. The states with the highest concentration of special education teachers in preschools, kindergartens, and elementary schools were, in order, Delaware, West Virginia, Maine, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. However, it was those special education teachers who worked for health practitioners who had the highest paying jobs in this level of special education.

Middle school special education teachers earned slightly more than elementary school, kindergarten, and preschool special education teachers. According to the United States Department of Labor, the median salary of a middle school education teacher was $50,810 annually. While the highest paid middle school special education teachers earned more than $78,200, the lowest paid earned an average of $35,180. Most middle school special education teachers earned between $41,720 and $63,480.

In 2009, the top-paying states for middle school special education teachers, in order, were Rhode Island, Connecticut, Alaska, New York, and California. The states with the highest concentration of middle school special education teachers were New Jersey, West Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, and New Mexico. Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, on average, paid the most to special education teachers who worked with middle school students.

Secondary school teachers earned more on average than elementary school, kindergarten, preschool, and middle school teachers. According to the United States Department of Labor, the average salary of special education teachers who worked in high schools or secondary schools was about $51,340. The highest paid special education high school teachers earned more than $82,000, while the lowest paid earned less than $35,150. Most high school special education teachers earned between $41,810 and $65,680.

In 2009, the highest paying states for secondary school special education teachers were, in order, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, California, and New Jersey. The states with the highest concentration of secondary school special education teachers were Louisiana, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Missouri. Special education teachers working in outpatient care centers earned more than teachers in any other category, including at schools, on average.

Like many teachers, a majority of special education teachers are members of a union or worked at schools where teachers were covered by labor contracts. According to the United States Department of Labor, approximately 64 percent of special education teachers fell into this category. Despite such contracts, many teachers take on extra jobs within the school system to earn an adequate amount of money. Some work as sports coaches, while others are paid for helping students with extracurricular activities. Though teachers are not required to work during the summer, some take jobs as summer school teachers or in other positions within or outside of his or her school system.

Last Updated: 05/07/2014

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