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Special Education Teacher Salary


Since 1975, students with disabilities have been guaranteed free access to special education services. This includes being provided teachers who are uniquely qualified to address learning, physical, emotional or other disabilities. Special education teachers customize curricula to fit students’ needs. They develop an Individual Education Program for each student and work with a planning team to make sure annual goals are met. They incorporate assistive and adaptive technologies into classroom activities. Special education teachers are not just concerned with students’ academic success, but with making sure students gain important life skills throughout the school year. 

What is the average salary of a special education teacher? In 2018 there were over 437,000 of these highly trained professionals working in Pre-K-12 education in the United States. And the average special education teacher salary that year was $63,386. But salaries vary widely due to factors like teacher education, state of residence and years of employment. So to give you a better estimate of your potential special education teacher salary, let’s take a closer look at each factor.

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Salary By Education and Experience. Teacher salaries reflect the idea that more education and experience should result in more compensation. School districts produce salary schedules that calculate wages based on an employee’s education level and years of employment. Here’s a sample salary schedule from a district in California (San Diego Unified School District, January 2020). Notice that the entry-level salary increases as you add semester hours to a bachelor’s (BA) or master’s (MA) degree. This district pays the same for a bachelor’s + 36 hours as it does for a master’s degree. And the salary also increases with experience as you move from one step to another.



BA + 36 (semester hours) or MA

BA + 60 or 

BA + 54 with MA

BA + 72


MA + 66

BA + 90


MA + 84































Of course these aren’t national averages and they aren’t specific to special education teachers. But they show how your degree and continuing education can positively affect your salary.

Average Salary By State. Job and resource availability, the desirability of a location, and the quality of life are factors that shape cost of living. And there is usually a direct relationship between cost of living and salary levels. So you’d expect salaries to be highest where it costs the most to live – places like Hawaii, California and New York. While listing data from every state isn’t practical here, take a look at these example special education teacher salaries:

  • Arizona
    • Elementary school: $45,270
    • Middle school: $44,450
    • High school: $49,280
  • California
    • Elementary school: $77,370
    • Middle school: $74,210
    • High school: $80,120
  • Florida
    • Elementary school: $53,910  
    • Middle school: $53,900
    • High school: $55,270
  • Kansas
    • Elementary school: $52,250  
    • Middle school: $52,790
    • High school: $52,450
  • New York
    • Elementary school: $75,760
    • Middle school: $80,380
    • High school: $85,600
  • Tennessee
    • Elementary school: $50,050
    • Middle school: $50,650
    • High school: $51,060
  • Washington
    • Elementary school: $63,620
    • Middle school: $61,740
    • High school: $63,590

Average Salary By Grade Level. State salary averages sometimes show high school teachers making less than elementary or middle school teachers do. But the opposite is true when looking at national averages. As academic skills and concepts become more complex, students are expected to be more responsible. Educational stakes are also higher as students prepare for life beyond grade school. Therefore, high school teachers earn more on average than elementary school teachers. These national salary averages from May 2018 include all special education teachers, regardless of education or experience.

  • Preschool. Special education teachers certified in early childhood work with preschool and younger children. Although the age range is narrow, these teachers address a wide spectrum of physical and behavioral issues. A special education preschool teacher would earn an average salary of $61,610.
  • Kindergarten and elementary school. Many more learning disabilities make themselves known as academic content is introduced and students are taught to read. Special education teachers reinforce academic concepts using phonetics, repetition and various other techniques. Elementary school special education teachers earn an average salary of $63,110.
  • Middle school. Special education teachers in middle school employ the same instructional techniques, but also deal with the challenges of adolescent students. Enforcing boundaries and minimizing social distractions in the classroom is part of the job. Middle school special education teachers earn an average salary of $64,390.
  • High or secondary school. High school special education builds on the individualized instruction and progress monitoring those students previously received. Special education teachers at this level are also preparing students for life and success beyond graduation. The national average salary for high school special education teachers is $65,320.

Get Your Education Degree

As you think about a rewarding career in special education, consider starting at Alliant International University’s California School of Education. Alliant’s teaching credential programs are approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). For more information, contact our University at (866) 679-3032.


  1. “Special Education Teachers,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-educatio…
  2. “SDEA Bargaining Unit Salary Plan 0160 Effective January 1, 2020,” San Diego Unified School District, https://www.sandiegounified.org/sites/default/files_link/district/files…
  3. “Special Education Teacher Salary,” Study.com, https://study.com/resources/special-education-teacher-salary
  4. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018 (Special Education Teachers, Preschool),” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252051.htm
  5. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018 (Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School),” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/oes/2018/may/oes252052.htm
  6. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018 (Special Education Teachers, Middle School),” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/oes/2018/may/oes252053.htm
  7. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018 (Special Education Teachers, Secondary School),” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/oes/2018/may/oes252054.htm

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