Deaf Educator: Job Outlook, Education, Salary

Deaf Educator: Job Outlook, Education, Salary
The Editorial Team February 22, 2023

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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. 

At-a-glance: deaf educator

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 educator job description

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:

  • Preparing individualized education plans
  • Gauging the educational needs of hard-of-hearing students and tracking their progress
  • Notifying staff and administrators about students’ needs, capabilities, changes in performance, and any extra support they require
  • Gathering data to improve student performance, guide the curriculum, and give timely feedback
  • Collaborating with deaf students and their families to foster individualized learning
  • Educating parents on hearing loss, teaching, and learning strategies
  • Monitoring language development in both ASL and spoken language, depending on the individual
  • Using specialized technology equipment for deaf students and instructing them on proper use 
  • Adapting teaching strategies and instruction for students
  • Encouraging individual and social development 
  • Maintaining relationships with parents and guardians and routinely meeting to review student progress
  • Modifying existing classroom equipment for use by hard-of-hearing learners

Who makes a good deaf educator?

Deaf educators are competent professionals who require specific abilities above and beyond what’s required of traditional teachers. 

Qualities include:

  • The ability to be patient, as American Sign Language requires greater communication time
  • Near-native fluency in ASL
  • The highest level of articulation, tone, and speech patterns 
  • Functional mouth and lip movements to aid speechreading
  • A warm, compassionate, and understanding personality
  • Being accepting of each student’s hearing impairment and able to approach challenges with patience
  • A genuine desire to help deaf students excel
  • The ability to remain calm while frustrated or under pressure
  • Resourcefulness and ability to stay updated on the field’s latest developments 
  • The ability to help students compensate for hearing deficiencies through visual competencies, which requires imagination and creativity 
  • Technological knowledge to operate specialized learning equipment 

Deaf educators in-depth

Education requirements:

  • Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Typical time to earn a graduate degree: 3-5 years

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. 

Average salaries for deaf educators

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. 

Job outlook for deaf educators

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:

  • Preschool: 8%
  • Kindergarten and elementary school: 4%
  • Middle school: 4%
  • Secondary school: 4%
  • All other, including postsecondary education: 7%

Challenges and opportunities for deaf educators

There are many benefits to the rewarding role of deaf educator, but there are drawbacks to the position as well. 


  • Helping deaf and hard-of-hearing students perform well academically and lead happy, successful lives 
  • Giving students a powerful sense of self
  • Learning new teaching strategies to help more students excel in a classroom environment, including rephrasing questions and information, using visual aids, reducing background noise and using technology and hearing equipment to support the learning process
  • Playing a vital role in helping families understand deafness and navigate resources
  • Flexible schedule, with weekends, holidays, and summers off, plus winter and spring breaks 


  • Limited planning time, which makes it difficult to develop curricula and accommodate each student’s needs 
  • More paperwork and day-to-day responsibilities than mainstream teachers, including due process compliance documents and meetings, plus additional meetings with parents and administrators
  • A possibly stressful job that may result in emotional exhaustion
  • Challenging and time-consuming, as deaf students face more learning difficulties than their peers
  • May often be the only educator of their type, making it harder to get advice and feedback
  • Must navigate challenges on their own and come up with solutions

Professional development

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.

Continuing education

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. 

Professional associations

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:

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