Careers in Special Education

Careers in Special Education and Related Fields

There were two primary purposes in creating this website. One was to provide teachers with resources they can use in developing or improving a peer tutoring or peer buddy program. The other was to give you, a high school student, accurate information about possible careers in special education and other fields in which people devote time toward working with people with disabilities. The information and links provided in this module will give you an overview of the range of career options available in the human services field.

Most students in your school are aware of special educators working with students who have disabilities. You might hear them referred to as “special ed” or “resource” teachers. However, most students are not aware that there is a wide variety of potential careers that involve working with people with disabilities outside of teaching. These careers range from what are called “paraprofessional” positions that require two years of college or equivalent experience, to highly specialized professions that require many years of graduate study. Many fields, like nursing and psychology, have opportunities for working with students with disabilities. Yet in community services, there are entire fields like job development or residential support that deal exclusively with helping people with disabilities in their lives after they graduate from high school.

The term "Human Services" is often used to describe direct service work on behalf of individuals with disabilities. This idea of human services is very appropriate because many of us come into this field because we are genuinely interested in working directly with people—serving people. As you review the information on these web pages you will see that human services is a field which employs many people and is highly personally rewarding.

In human services the “bottom-line” is to provide services to people. As you explore some of the units on this web site, you will be able to look back on the history of how society has treated people with disabilities, and be able to relate that history to the rise of the various careers in human services that are in existence today. These careers are meant to ensure better lives for individuals with disabilities, lives that were not possible just a few short decades ago!

The National Organization for Human Services is intended to bring together Human Service agencies and professionals across the country to meet employment needs, provide useful tools, share "best practices", and communicate trends for the advancement of the people with whom they work. 


Spend some time searching the Career Catalogue. Pretend that you are applying for a job and write a paragraph reflecting on the experience. What career did you apply for? Were many jobs available in that area? What qualifications were needed?

Read one of the articles from the Conference Proceedings available on the website (choose a summary of interest to you). Based on what you read, what can you say about the findings and the need for human services positions in this area.


You notice we keep talking about “careers,” and not just getting a job. What is the difference between a job and a career? A career is a long term plan for what you want to achieve in life. It is a roadmap built from increasing skill and responsibility. It starts now—when you are new to the process—and stretches on for some people for a lifetime.

Review the Getting Started links available from Mapping Your

 Based on this activity, what did you lean about career planning? What did you learn about yourself? Write a paragraph about the experience including questions you have about your own future.

There are a number of other websites to help young people work through the process of planning. For example, College-Career-Life Planning offers on-line tools to help you explore career interests and options. The Career Key also offers free on-line support for those seeking the perfect career match for them.

To get back to our “bottom line,” we would like you consider what it might be like to explore a career in special education or a related human service. The other web pages in this section on careers will provide you with a variety of information on:

  • Careers in teaching special education
  • Careers in community services for adults with disabilities
  • A range of other professions that work directly with people with disabilities in the schools, and
  • University programs in Kentucky and sources of financial aid for college

So sit back, relax, and explore the various options available to you when you consider a career in the human services.