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Occupational Profile

Special Needs Teacher

Special needs teachers work primarily with children who require special instructional services to help them learn and develop to their potential.

  • Avg. Salary $79,825.00
  • Avg. Wage $43.98
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook Down
Also Known As

Educator, Instructor, Teacher, Teacher of Children with Visual Impairment, Teacher of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, Teacher of Gifted Children, Teacher of Hospitalized, Homebound or Institutionalized Children, School Teacher

NOC & Interest Codes
The Special Needs Teacher is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Elementary School and Kindergarten Teachers
NOC code: 4142
SOCIAL

Interest in leading students in activities to promote their physical, mental and social development; in participating in staff meetings, educational conferences and teacher training workshops; and in preparing examinations

INNOVATIVE

Interests in co-ordinating information to prepare courses for presentation to students according to curriculum, to identify children's individual learning needs and to prepare and implement remedial programs for students requiring extra help

DIRECTIVE

Interest in instructing students using a systematic plan of lessons, discussions, audio-visual presentations and field trips; and in assigning and correcting homework and administering and correcting examinations; may supervise teachers' aides and student teachers

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Special needs teachers spend most of their working day providing instruction and dealing with unexpected as well as routine situations. They work with children who have:

  • physical or developmental disabilities
  • hearing, visual, speech or language disabilities
  • learning disabilities
  • behaviour disorders or mental illness
  • high intelligence or talent.

Special needs teachers must understand the unique characteristics of each student and choose or develop appropriate instructional programs and methods. Teaching techniques and methods vary with the particular disability or special talent but, in general, special needs teachers:

  • work closely with parents and professionals from community agencies
  • perform diagnostic assessments to determine student strengths and areas of need
  • develop educational goals, objectives and individualized program plans
  • choose or develop specially designed instructional methods and materials
  • prepare and present lessons
  • monitor student performance and assess each student's progress
  • work with teaching assistants.

Their working environments and responsibilities may vary considerably. For example, special needs teachers may:

  • teach all or most subjects for a class of children who have a variety of disabilities or a particular type of difficulty
  • meet with students from regular school classrooms on an individual basis or in small groups, and work in co-operation with classroom teachers to help children who have learning disabilities, language deficiencies or academic deficiencies
  • travel from school to school providing tutorial services for students who are hearing or vision impaired, and provide consultative services for classroom teachers
  • work with therapists in special clinics which children visit for assessments, therapy or instruction
  • work with other teachers to adapt educational programs for students with special needs in regular classrooms.

Special needs teachers also may work in:

  • special schools with many classes of children with disabilities
  • hospitals for children with short and long term disabilities or illnesses
  • the homes of children who are homebound due to sickness, rehabilitation needs or severe physical disabilities
  • institutional schools for children who have neuropsychiatric, emotional or social disabilities.
Working Conditions
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Working with children who have special needs requires considerable physical, mental and emotional energy. Other working conditions for special needs teachers vary depending on student needs, the type of facility and the philosophy of the facility. For example, some special needs teachers may lift over 20 kilograms when helping children move to and from wheelchairs.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 15, 2016

In addition to the qualities required by other teachers, special needs teachers must be able to:

  • work closely and co-operatively with other teachers, parents and consultants
  • maintain a positive attitude and focus on student capabilities, not limitations.

They should enjoy finding different ways to solve questions and present information, and organizing and co-ordinating the work of others.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Special needs teachers may need specific skills for working with children who have particular types of disabilities. For example, teachers of deaf and hard of hearing children must be able to use various sign languages, techniques and aids to communicate with their students.

In Alberta, special needs teachers generally have a bachelor of education (B.Ed.) degree with a specialization related to special education. The minimum qualification is a four year B.Ed. degree in elementary education, or a university degree in another area and a teaching certificate.


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

University of Saskatchewan - Saskatoon

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Teacher

Elementary school teachers teach and facilitate the learning of children ranging in age from four to 12 years (Kindergarten to Grade 6). Secondary school teachers may be generalists or subject area specialists who provide instruction to young people in junior and senior high school (Grades 7 to 12).

Legislation

Under Alberta's School Act and Certification of Teachers Regulation, school teachers must be certificated by Alberta Education.

Education

Minimum requirements for an interim professional certificate: (1) four years of university education and a recognized degree including 48 semester hour credits in teacher education coursework and 10 weeks of supervised student teaching at an approved institution, (2) a Statement of Professional Standing from the jurisdictions in which applicants were trained and last taught, (3) verification of currency of teaching experience, (4) evidence of Canadian citizenship or permanent residency, and (5) proficiency in English or French. 

Requirements for a permanent professional certificate: (1) the equivalent of two years of full time teaching experience in Alberta, (2) at least two successful evaluations of classroom performance based upon requirements in the Teaching Quality Standard, and (3) a positive recommendation from the employing Superintendent of Schools or, in the case of private schools, from a Designated Signing Authority.

For official, detailed information including coursework requirements for elementary and secondary teachers, visit Alberta Education's teacher certification website or contact the Professional Standards branch.

Working in Alberta

Teachers who are certified by and in good standing with a regulatory organization elsewhere in Canada may be eligible for certification in Alberta if certified teachers in the two jurisdictions have similar responsibilities and competencies. For more information, see "What if I am already certified in another province or territory?" and the Alberta regulatory authority (below).

Contact Details

Professional Standards
Alberta Education
2nd Floor, 44 Capital Boulevard Building
10044 - 108 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada  T5J 5E6
Phone number: 780-427-2045
Toll-free phone number (within Alberta): 310-0000 and then 780-427-2045
Fax number: 780-422-4199
Website: www.education.alberta.ca/teachers/certification.aspx

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Below-average occupational growth is expected in Alberta for 2016 to 2020. Job openings are a result of employment turnover and newly created positions.

Special needs teachers are employed in public and private schools, and in hospitals and other institutions. With experience and additional training, they may advance to positions in school administration or consulting services.

Special needs teachers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 4032: Elementary school and kindergarten teachers.  In Alberta, 99% of people employed in this classification work in the Educational Services (PDF) industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Educational Services industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 21,300 Albertans are employed in the Elementary school and kindergarten teachers occupational group. This group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.5% from 2016 to 2020. As a result, 320 new positions are forecast to be created each year, in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. Note: As special needs teachers form only a part of this larger occupational group, only some of these newly created positions will be for special needs teachers. 

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years. The Alberta Teachers' Association estimates that about 900 teaching positions will become vacant each year due to retirement.

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Salaries vary from one school board to another because wages and benefits are determined by collective agreements between boards and their teachers. However, all teachers are paid according to a grid system based on the number of years of training and experience a teacher has.  

All teachers employed in Alberta's publicly supported schools are members of the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) and are automatically included under the Alberta Teachers Pension Plan Act. Holidays and pensions are specified by provincial legislation. However, teachers often use the summer break period of July and August, or Christmas and spring break holidays, for professional development or for fulfilling additional professional responsibilities.

Special needs teachers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 4032: Elementary school and kindergarten teachers. 

According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Elementary school and kindergarten teachers occupational group earned on average from $31.03 to $53.68 an hour. The overall average wage was $43.98 an hour. For more information, see the Elementary school and kindergarten teachers wage profile.

Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Languages (other than English)
  • Science
  • Health, Recreation and Human Services
    • Human and Social Services
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Education and Library Studies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) website: www.teachers.ab.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Feb 01, 2012. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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