Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month, we explore the role of a Special Educational Needs Teacher.

SEN Teacher Jenny shares her insights with this video career profile from the Indigo Careers module.

So what is a Special Educational Needs Teacher?

Teachers for special educational needs help children with disabilities, learning difficulties or emotional or behavioural problems to achieve their best. You might also work with exceptionally gifted children.

Working with educational psychologists, social workers, other teachers and learning support workers, you will assess each child’s individual needs and draw up an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

In each of these teaching jobs, you will accompany students on visits and trips, help them understand the world around them, and teach life skills to give them greater independence.


You will work 39 weeks a year in school. Hours are usually 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. Additional hours will be required to create lesson plans and attend meetings.

Part-time work is possible if you are registered with a supply agency or your local authority. Freelance or self-employment is less common.


You may be based in one school or work in teams covering a number of institutions.

Type of work

You will work with children with additional needs and will need to tailor your approach to meet the individual needs of each child.

Things to consider

Make a difference
Supporting children with disabilities, learning difficulties or emotional or behavioural problems and knowing that you helped them to progress is extremely rewarding. 

Stressful aspects
You will be kept very busy with duties including preparation, classes marking and assessing, analysing coursework, communicating with examining bodies, meetings, and ordering materials, which can be stressful.

Meet range of people
You will work with students, educational psychologists, social workers, other teachers and learning support workers. 

Behavioural issues
You may have to deal with challenging behaviour. 

Long hours/overtime

You may have to work late for meetings and to plan for lessons. 

Most people have an undergraduate degree and you will need previous experience/passion for the field

It is generally necessary to have teaching experience in a mainstream school before you can work as a teacher for pupils with special educational needs. In England and Wales you must have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and in Scotland you should have a teaching qualification (TQ). In order to obtain these you should have a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE), a Bachelor of Education (BEd), or a BA or BSc with QTS. Employment-based training programmes such as SCITT, Teach First and School Direct (England and Wales) are also available.


You must have relevant qualifications if you are teaching children with visual, hearing or multi-sensory impairments. Qualified teachers are required to have a university postgraduate mandatory qualification (MQ) validated by the National College of Teaching and Leadership. Qualified teachers of visually impaired pupils must be proficient in Braille, while qualified teachers of hearing impaired pupils must be able to use sign language. The universities of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Hertfordshire, Edinburgh and Liverpool John Moores University are all approved providers of MQs.

Salary progression
Salaries are based on the teaching pay scale and start from £22,917 per year.

The upper range for starting salaries is £33,824 a year.

Once you reach the top of the main salary scale you can apply to be assessed for the upper salary scale which ranges from £35,927–£38,633.

Top Tip

SEN teachers working in a mainstream school may have the opportunity to be promoted to special education needs co-ordinator (SENCO). You could also progress to a role as a special needs assessor in a local education authority.

Click here to explore the full library of over 650 career profiles, including multimedia content and LMI data for students to interpret and discuss.