How to become a specialist education teacher

Hear a calling to support and nurture students with disabilities and additional needs? Find out how you could become a specialist education teacher in Australia.

Begin your career in specialist education

By 2026, the demand for specialist education teachers will grow by 13.5%, which translates into 4,100 additional jobs.  Now, we know this isn’t the reason you’re thinking about going into the field, but it’s worth noting that Australia will need you!

Here’s how you can become a specialist education teacher:

1. Complete a primary or secondary specialist education teacher course at a bachelor degree-level. Thinking of doing it online? This degree is available.

Alternatively, study a mainstream bachelor of education or teaching and do further training in specialist education later. This will allow you to work in the education sector for a while before making a decision as to whether specialist education is for you. 

2. Soak up everything you can when it comes to studying education. You’ll learn inclusive education strategies, such as these. You’ll also have in-person placements during which you can spread your wings in the classroom. 

3. Upon graduation, register with your local teaching regulatory authority.

I want to get a taste for studying teaching first

See if teaching in general is right for you before signing up for a full degree. With an undergraduate certificate in education, you can get a taste for the field first. Like what you learned? Use your successfully completed subjects to step into a bachelor degree. 

You can also sign up for a short course or single subject in topics relating to specialist education (available at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels).

I already have a degree in teaching and want to specialise

Study a master of specialist education to focus your knowledge in the area. This will not only provide you with niche skills, but it will signal to your employer that you’re interested in specialist education at your school. As a first step, you could consider enrolling in a Graduate Certificate in Special Needs Education, or any of these other options.

What is a specialist education teacher?

If ‘angel’ was an official job title, specialist education teachers would be able to introduce themselves as just that. Specialist education teachers work with students who have physical, cognitive or learning disabilities as well as those with emotional, social or behavioural difficulties. 

“We unlock potential, help kids elude anxiety, get them to stand on their own two feet and feel good about themselves,” says Dianne Wright, campus principal of Emerson School, a specialist school in Dandenong, Victoria.

What does a specialist education teacher do?

Because every school and student is different, a specialist education teacher can work in many different settings—specialist schools, specialist education units in mainstream schools or mainstream classrooms, amongst others.

Within those settings, the roles are varied too! You may work as a classroom teacher, support teacher, a teacher who works with students across different schools and more.

Says Dianne, “I’ve been teaching for over 50 years and have worked in specialist schools, social adjustment centres for behavioural issues and remedial opportunity centres based in mainstream settings for kids with learning disabilities.” 

Duties and tasks

  • Teaching basic academic subjects as well as practical life skills
  • Helping students develop to the best of their interests and abilities
  • Modify lessons and learning materials creatively to meet a student’s need
  • Collaborate with parents, psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists (and more) to create and execute Individual Education Plans
  • Assess and evaluate students’ progress and adjust teaching methods
  • Manage classroom conflict
  • Monitor students’ progress and prepare reports for parents

A specialist education teacher's salary

Specialist education teachers in Australia earn similar salaries to their counterparts in mainstream schools. According to Seek, average earnings are between $85,000/year to $95,000/year. Experienced Specialist education teachers may get up to $105,000/year.

Must-have skills for specialist education teachers

  • Compassion
  • Empathy and patience
  • Listening
  • Adaptability
  • Flexibility
  • Communication
  • Classroom and behaviour management

Industry bodies

  • Australian Association of Specialist Education (AASE)
  •  Institute of Specialist Educators (InSpEd)
  • Specialist Education Network and Inclusion Associations (SENIA)

Discover special education degrees

Discover special education subjects

Postgraduate MAQ-EDSX8301

Inclusive and Special Education

Undergraduate UNE-EDME340

Mathematics for the Inclusive Classroom

Undergraduate LTU-EDU4LDD

Learning Difficulties and Disabilities

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