Special Education Teacher Salary

Demand is high, supply is low, and salaries for special education teachers are better than ever.

Make no doubt about it: The supply of special education teachers is at critically low levels in the U.S. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services, 49 states currently report a shortage of special education teachers.

Recruitment and retention challenges, coupled with an increasing workload and an abundance of paperwork, have certainly contributed to shortages in this area. Still, the simple fact that an increasing number of children need special accommodations in school is the biggest contributing factor. According to 2016 statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCEA), in the 2013-14 school year, 6.5 million children in the U.S. received services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). During this period, 538,000 were receiving services for an autism spectrum diagnosis alone—that’s an increase of 40,000 students from a year prior and 83,000 from two years prior.

Ask any number of special education teachers and they’ll likely tell you the same thing—it’s not a job for the faint of heart. But it’s also a highly rewarding and gratifying profession for those who are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children with disabilities.

While the lack of special education teachers is a serious and prevalent problem, for those looking to enter or advance in the field, it equates to plentiful job opportunities and more competitive salaries than ever.

Special Education vs. General Education Teachers: Who’s Earning More

According to May 2016 statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average, annual salary for special education teachers was $57,870, while the top 25 percent earned an average, annual salary of $73,820.

BLS also reported that special education teachers earned more, across all grade levels, than their general education counterparts, both at the median level and top (75th percentile) level.

For example, general education elementary school teachers earned an average, annual salary of $55,800, with the top 25 percent earning an average salary of $71,170. However, special education teachers at the elementary level earned an average, annual salary of $57,870 during the same period, with the top 25 percent earning $72,590.

The statistics were similar for other grade levels, as well, revealing that special education teachers, on average, earn about $2,000 more per year than their general education colleagues.

Middle School

  • General education middle school teachers: $56,720 (median salary), $71,850 (75th percentile)
  • Special education middle school teachers: $58,570 (median salary), $74,230 (75th percentile)

High School

  • General education secondary school teachers: $58,030 (median salary), $74,160 (75th percentile)
  • Special education secondary school teachers: $59,860 (median salary), $76,710 (75th percentile)

Special Education Teacher Salaries, by State

Where do special education teachers earn the most, by school and by state? We broke down BLS statistics from May 2016 and found the highest-paying states for special education teachers, both by median, annual salary and by salaries at the 75th percentile. We examined salaries among the 75th percentile to account for special education teachers with advanced degrees, as well as those with advanced levels of experience.

We identified those states where special education teachers earned at least $60,000 and separated them according to school: preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school.

Several states made our list of the top-paying states for special education teachers at all grade levels, including Washington, Rhode Island, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, and Alaska, among others.

At the preschool level, Oregon took top billing for the highest paying state for special education teachers, with the annual, average salary coming in at $74,410, while the top 25 in Connecticut were earning the most at the preschool level—$93,890.

At the elementary level, special education teachers in Connecticut earned the highest, annual average salary, at $78,690, and were also the highest earners at the 75th percentile, at $96,860.

Middle school special education teachers earned the highest annual, average salary in Alaska, at $75,290, while the highest earners were in New York, bringing home an average, annual salary of $96,240.

Some of the highest earners were found at the high school level. Connecticut came in first with an annual, average salary of $76,880, while New York’s top 25 percent earned an annual, average salary of $100,460.

Preschool

  • AK: $65,930 (median) $76,990 (75th percentile)
  • CT: $71690, $93,890
  • IA: $62,130, $75,500
  • MD: $68,610, $90,620
  • MA: $60,560 $79,310
  • MN: $60,360 $74,200
  • NJ: $65,890, $93,580
  • NM: $60,210, $72,360
  • NY: $60,560, $88,940
  • OR: $74,410 $89,720
  • RI: $68,610, $76,310
  • UT: $65,820, $84,130
  • WA: $62,270, $72,260

Elementary

  • AK: $75,370 (median), $92,140 (75th percentile)
  • CA: $71,620, $85,020
  • CT: $78,690, $96,860
  • DE: $61,050, $74,450
  • MA: $68,280, $81,300
  • MI: $63,240 $74,720
  • NJ: $63,890, $79,930
  • NY: $67,860, $91,340
  • OR: $66,690, $85,300
  • PA: $62,090, $78,100
  • RI: $69,500, $77,330
  • VA: $62,870, $79,190
  • WA: $61,230, $71,540

Middle School

  • AK: $75,290, $91,510
  • CA: $68,240, $82,870
  • CT: $70,890, $88,110
  • DE: $72,540, $89,250
  • DC: $61,510, $80,700
  • IL: $64,050, $85,610
  • IA: $61,460, $74,810
  • MA: $67,140, $81,290
  • MI: $62,220, $75,380
  • MN: $61,020, $75,440
  • NJ: $64,830, $82,300
  • NY: $74,120, $96,240
  • OR: $69,620, $88,460
  • PA: $62,150, $77,110
  • RI: $69,620, $78,980
  • VT: $60,310, $73,120
  • VA: $63,690, $79,310
  • WA: $60,610, $70,870

High School

  • AK: $74,210 (median), $87,970 (75th percentile)
  • CA: $76,620, $93,420
  • CT: $76,880, $92,520
  • DE: $62,770, $73,350
  • DC: $65,480, $78,440
  • IL: $63,140, $85,460
  • MD: $63,110, $78,400
  • MA: $66,620, $79,510
  • MI: $65,240, $77,390
  • MN: $61,920, $76,640
  • NH: $60,700, $71,250
  • NJ: $72,220, $90,270
  • NY: $75,980, $100,460
  • OR: $69,480, $88,200
  • PA: $61,900, $77,930
  • RI: $70,220, $78,730
  • VT: $60,100, $72,200
  • VA: $62,750, $83,920
  • WA: $63,200, $72,720