Why You Should Add a Special Education Credential

If you’re a preservice teacher, you’ve probably already pictured yourself in your future classroom. Maybe you’re working on an early childhood degree, because you want to help young children get their education off to a strong start. Or you have a passion for math, and want to immerse yourself all day in the wonders of geometry and calculus. There’s a wide range of subjects and age groups to choose.

But you may not have considered special education. Or maybe you did, and dismissed the idea because it seemed overwhelming, or you thought it wasn’t for you. Whatever the reason, you may want to reconsider.

Even if you’re already a working teacher, adding an additional credential or certification in special education might be worth the investment of time and money. Here are some factors to consider:

A special education credential will make you more marketable and eligible for more open positions

From a practical standpoint, gaining an additional certification in almost any subject will provide you with more options when you launch your job search. But a special education certification in particular pairs well with every academic or age group specialty, and you’ll have the qualifications to apply for a wider range of positions and the flexibility to change specialties if needed.

In 2001, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) started the push to keep students with disabilities in the general education classroom. This led to an increase in inclusion classrooms, which are generally staffed by both a regular education teacher and a special education teacher. According to this article, which cites federal education statistics, six in 10 students were spending most of their day in a regular education classroom. So even if you’re hired for a position as a non-special education teacher, there’s a good chance you’ll have students with special needs in your classroom, and having the additional training will help you effectively support and teach those students.

The demand for special education teachers will always exist

If you’re concerned about taking the additional courses needed to obtain certification in special education, only to have the demand dissipate by the time you’re finished, you can rest easy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts average growth of 6% for special education teachers, which is in line with other teaching specialties, and points out that teachers leaving the profession through retirement or attrition will create job opportunities.

And while the phrase “teacher shortage” has made a comeback, as enrollment in teacher preparation programs decline and teachers leave the profession, those shortages aren’t across the board. In fact, teacher surpluses exist in certain states and specialty areas. But special education is one of the few areas with chronic teacher shortages. Though teacher education programs have evolved to prepare all educators to effectively differentiate instruction, having a special education credential shows you know how to address all the learners in your classroom.

You’ll still find it fulfilling

Engaging in work which makes a difference in the lives of others is a key reason many cite for choosing a career in education. While all teachers can bask in the knowledge that they’re helping children learn, helping students with special needs achieve breakthroughs is an especially notable accomplishment- for you and for them. Adding a special education credential will greatly expand your knowledge of pedagogy and provide you with the skills to teach all students effectively, which is powerful.

Are you convinced? If so, your next steps will vary based on where you are in your own education and career. If you’ve just started a teacher education program, it may be fairly uncomplicated to add on the classes you’ll need for special education certification. If you’re an in-service teacher, the process may vary from what preservice teachers need to do. It’s important to look at what your individual state requires. Examining the specific shortage areas in your state will also provide useful information to facilitate decision making and career planning. Expanding your qualifications will make a difference in the lives of your students and contribute to a challenging and rewarding career as an educator.

Tracy Derrell is a Hudson Valley-based freelance writer who specializes in blogging and educational publishing. She taught English in New York City for sixteen years.