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Special needs teacher

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Summary of occupation

​Special needs teachers educate primary and secondary school students who have special learning needs such as learning difficulties, an impairment in their intellectual abilities, or students who need extra support to reach their full potential.

Special needs teachers assess students' abilities and limitations and aid students in the development of their literacy, numeracy and other academic skills, as well as fostering independence and life skills. They may also meet with parents and other teachers to discuss a student's progress.

ANZSCO description: Teaches academic and living skills to primary, middle or intermediate, and secondary school students with particular learning difficulties using various techniques, and promotes students' social, emotional, intellectual and physical development. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names: Special education teacher
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

​A special needs teacher needs:

  • to enjoy working with young people with special needs
  • patience and understanding
  • a supportive and caring nature
  • excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • the ability to motivate and guide others
  • to be able to work as part of team.
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Working conditions

​Special needs teachers mainly work in the education sector, in special education units teaching individuals or groups with special needs. They create educational plans for each student to address individual needs and enhance learning. They may also help integrate students into regular classrooms.

Special needs teachers usually work regular school hours, but may be required to work additional hours to prepare for classes and to attend staff meetings.

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Salary details

​On average, special needs teachers, classified under special education teachers, can expect to earn between $1 403 and $1 933 per week ($72 937 and $100 536 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience.

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Tools and technologies

​Special needs teachers may use a variety of assistive technology to educate students with special needs. They may use communication boards, computers with text-to-speech or voice operated software, talking calculators or tablet computers. They may also use standard teaching materials, such as whiteboards, textbooks and workbooks.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

​To become a special needs teacher, you usually need to complete a degree in primary or secondary education, specialising in special needs teaching.

Alternatively, you can complete a degree in a relevant study area, followed by a postgraduate qualification in education. You may also need to undertake further postgraduate study in special needs education to specialise in teaching special needs students.

Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

To work as a special needs teacher in Western Australia, you must be registered with the Teacher Registration Board of Western Australia (TRBWA). You also need to hold a current Working With Children Check issued by the Department of Community Services, and undergo a National Police History Check conducted by the Department of Education Screening Unit. Contact the Department of Education for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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