Expect to see an increase in the number of sporadic job openings in coming years for special education teachers, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall demand will be spurred by a continued push for services aimed at helping students with learning disabilities. In Los Angeles, where special education instructors earn an average yearly salary of $55,000, experts consider this worthwhile vocation an opportune course of study to pursue.

(Photo Courtesy of Eric Latham)

(Photo Courtesy of Eric Latham)

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“Los Angeles is home to the second largest school district in the country and has the greatest diversity in students,” said Eric Latham, program director at Pathway, a certificate program at UCLA Extension designed for students with intellectual and developmental challenges. “Those two facts open teaching opportunities to people from a wide range of backgrounds and the chance for teachers to specialize in working with particular populations.”

Latham, who earned his Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of LaVerne, has aided individuals with disabilities for nearly 30 years. He said an effective special education teacher lists adaptability as a top skill.

“You must be a good communicator and collaborator,” said Latham. “Working as a special educator requires being able to work not only with the students, but also with their parents and teachers.”

In what way has instruction changed since 2010?

“The increased use of technology has improved the accessibility of education for everyone. Now students with disabilities have greater opportunities for inclusion in regular classrooms with their non-disabled peers.”

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What developments do you foresee by 2020?

“Special education teachers will need to be mobile and flexible to meet the needs of students where and when they need support.” 

How should a teacher prepare for this field?

“When looking for a teacher training program, look for one that provides an opportunity to get real classroom experience and on-the-job training.”

What is your advice to teachers contemplating a career in special education?

“Special education requires someone with good teaching skills, but ultimately it is about working with people. It can be incredibly tough work. It is also hugely rewarding to make a difference in the life of a young person.”

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Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to Examiner.com.