In the United States alone, over 300,000 deaf or hard-of-hearing children ages 5-17 are enrolled in the educational system, according to the National Association of the Deaf. While 20.8% of these students attend specialized schools, 77.4% are mainstreamed into general education programs.
Regardless of institution, it’s pivotal that teachers have the extensive education and training required to handle the accessibility, learning, and communication requirements of deaf students. This role is both challenging and rewarding, but for educators who want to work closely with deaf children and make a difference in their everyday lives, it is an impactful one.
Deaf educators are responsible for instructing students with hearing impairment. They may be employed in public or private schools where deaf students are integrated into mainstream classrooms or specialized schools for the deaf. Educators select their preferred grade level or age group, institution, and classroom environment.
Deaf students need help acquiring speechreading, language, speech, and auditory comprehension — vital skills to communicate effectively with their hearing peers. Educators must respond to these challenges while helping children stay up to date with their academics. From developing curricula and lesson plans to communicating with parents, the role requires time, commitment, and dedication. Due to the unique abilities required, deaf educators are always in demand nationwide.
Deaf educators have a vital role to play in their students’ academic experiences and personal development. They develop class curricula, lesson plans, and exams while teaching students one or multiple subjects, depending on grade level. Generally, tasks include:
Deaf educators are competent professionals who require specific abilities above and beyond what’s required of traditional teachers.
Deaf educators must possess a bachelor’s degree and state teaching credentials to work in any educational institution. While requirements vary by state, teaching credentials require passing an exam, obtaining classroom practice, and completing a specified amount of coursework. Many professionals choose to advance their education through advanced degrees or certificates.
Salaries range widely by region, state, city, and school district. The deaf educator’s chosen type of learning institution and age group/grade also impacts annual earnings, but average income generally aligns with the following figures:
According to Glassdoor, salaries range between $37,000 and $110,000, depending on location, experience level and institution. The potential for higher wages arises as deaf educators gain experience and improve their teaching strategies, technical knowledge, and skills.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, projected job growth for deaf educators is expected to rise by 4% between 2021 and 2031, aligning with average growth rates. Hiring varies by district, budget, and demand, so certain grade levels will have more open positions than others.
In 2021, BLS documented 476,300 special education jobs, with deaf educator roles being a vital part of that figure. Percentages remain relatively even across grade levels, with projected job distribution for special education teachers increasing in the following categories:
There are many benefits to the rewarding role of deaf educator, but there are drawbacks to the position as well.
Deaf educators must attend ongoing programs, training, classes and conferences to bolster their professional growth and stay up to date with the latest technologies and teaching methods. The Central Institute for the Deaf provides training, learning materials, and education tools for educators to broaden their knowledge and excel in their careers.
The National Center on Deaf-Blindness offers webinars, online courses and self-study modules, with many eligible for university credit. The Online Itinerant has convenient online learning and professional development tools for teachers of the hard of hearing. Similar programs, courses, and workshops are available at universities across the country.
If deaf educators want to progress to the next stage of their careers, they can consider a master’s degree in special education, deaf education, or a related field, such as human services. According to Zippia, 61% of professionals who teach the deaf and hard of hearing possess a bachelor’s degree, while the remaining 33% have a master’s degree. In a competitive and rapidly evolving field, a higher level of education sets candidates apart.
The following national organizations are all part of the Council on Education for the Deaf, which supports ongoing education, professional development, and community for deaf educators throughout the United States: