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Become A Secondary Special Education Teacher

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Working As A Secondary Special Education Teacher

  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Scheduling Work and Activities
  • Developing Objectives and Strategies
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Deal with People

  • $51,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Secondary Special Education Teacher Do

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Duties

Special education teachers typically do the following:

  • Assess students’ skills to determine their needs and to develop appropriate teaching plans
  • Adapt general lessons to meet the needs of students
  • Develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each student
  • Plan, organize, and assign activities that are specific to each student’s abilities
  • Teach and mentor students as a class, in small groups, and one-on-one
  • Implement IEPs, assess students’ performance, and track their progress
  • Update IEPs throughout the school year to reflect students’ progress and goals
  • Discuss student’s progress with parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators
  • Supervise and mentor teacher assistants who work with students with disabilities
  • Prepare and help students transition from grade to grade and for life after graduation

Special education teachers work with general education teachers, counselors, school superintendents, administrators, and parents. As a team, they develop IEPs specific to each student’s needs. IEPs outline the goals and services for each student, such as sessions with the school psychologists, counselors, and special education teachers. Teachers also meet with parents, school administrators, and counselors to discuss updates and changes to the IEPs.

Special education teachers’ duties vary by the type of setting they work in, student disabilities, and teacher specialty.

Some special education teachers work in classrooms or resource centers that only include students with disabilities. In these settings, teachers plan, adapt, and present lessons to meet each student’s needs. They teach students in small groups or on a one-on-one basis.

In inclusive classrooms, special education teachers teach students with disabilities who are in general education classrooms. They work with general education teachers to present the information in a manner that students with disabilities can more easily understand. They also assist general education teachers to adapt lessons that will meet the needs of the students with disabilities in their classes.

Special education teachers also collaborate with teacher assistants, psychologists, and social workers to accommodate requirements of students with disabilities. For example, they may have a teacher assistant work with them to provide support for a student who needs particular attention.

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide variety of mental, emotional, physical, and learning disabilities. For example, some work with students who need assistance in subject areas, such as reading and math. Others help students develop study skills, such as by using flashcards and text highlighting.

Some special education teachers work with students who have physical and sensory disabilities, such as blindness and deafness, and with students who are wheelchair-bound. They also may work with those who have autism spectrum disorders and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

Special education teachers work with students from preschool to high school. Some teachers work with students who have severe disabilities until the students are 21 years old.

Special education teachers help students with severe disabilities develop basic life skills, such as how to respond to questions and how to follow directions. Some teach the skills necessary for students with moderate disabilities to live independently, find a job, and manage money and their time. For more information about other workers who help individuals with disabilities develop skills necessary to live independently, see the profiles on occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants and aides.

Most special education teachers use computers to keep records of their students’ performance, prepare lesson plans, and update IEPs. Some teachers also use various assistive technology aids, such as Braille writers and computer software that help them communicate with students.

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How To Become A Secondary Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers in public schools are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or license. Private schools typically require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, but teachers are not required to be licensed or certified. For information about teacher preparation programs and certification requirements, visit Teach.org or contact your state’s board of education.

Education

All states require special education teachers in public schools to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some earn a degree specifically in special education. Others major in elementary education or a content area, such as math or science, with a minor in special education.

In a program leading to a bachelor’s degree in special education, prospective teachers learn about the different types of disabilities and how to present information so that students will understand. These programs typically include fieldwork, such as student teaching. To become fully certified, some states require special education teachers to complete a master’s degree in special education.

Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools may prefer to hire teachers who have at least a bachelor’s degree in special education.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed. A license is frequently referred to as a certification. Those who teach in private schools are not required to be licensed. Most states require teachers to pass a background check.

Requirements for certification vary by state. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, states also require teachers to complete a teacher preparation program and supervised experience in teaching. Some states require a minimum grade point average. Teachers may be required to complete annual professional development classes or a master’s degree program to maintain their license.

Many states offer general licenses in special education that allow teachers to work with students with a variety of disabilities. Others offer licenses or endorsements based on a disability-specific category, such as autism or behavior disorders.

Some states allow special education teachers to transfer their licenses from another state. Other states require even an experienced teacher to pass their state’s licensing requirements.

All states offer an alternative route to certification for people who already have a bachelor’s degree. Some alternative certification programs allow candidates to begin teaching immediately, under the close supervision of an experienced teacher. These alternative programs cover teaching methods and child development. Candidates are awarded full certification after they complete the program. Other programs require prospective teachers to take classes in education before they can start to teach. They may be awarded a master’s degree after completing either type of program.

Training

Some special education teachers need to complete a period of fieldwork, commonly referred to as student teaching, before they can work as a teacher. In some states, this program is a prerequisite for a license to teach in public schools. During student teaching, they gain experience in preparing lesson plans and teaching students in a classroom setting, under the supervision and guidance of a mentor teacher. The amount of time required for these programs varies by state, but may last from 1 to 2 years. Many universities offer student teaching programs as part of a degree in special education.

Advancement

Experienced teachers can advance to become mentor or lead teachers who help less experienced teachers improve their teaching skills.

Teachers may become school counselors, instructional coordinators, assistant principals, or principals. These positions generally require additional education, an advanced degree, or certification. An advanced degree in education administration or leadership may be helpful.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Special education teachers discuss students’ needs and performances with general education teachers, parents, and administrators. They also explain difficult concepts in terms that students with learning disabilities can understand.

Critical-thinking skills. Special education teachers assess students’ progress and use that information to adapt lessons to help them learn.

Interpersonal skills. Special education teachers regularly work with general education teachers, school counselors, administrators, and parents to develop Individualized Education Programs. As a result, they need to be able to build positive working relationships.

Patience. Working with students with special needs and different abilities can be difficult. Special education teachers should be patient with each student, as some may need the instruction given aloud, at a slower pace, or in writing.  

Resourcefulness. Special education teachers must develop different ways to present information in a manner that meets the needs of their students. They also help general education teachers adapt their lessons to the needs of students with disabilities.

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Average Length of Employment
Special ED Teacher 3.9 years
Special Educator 3.3 years
Inclusion Teacher 2.8 years
Top Careers Before Secondary Special Education Teacher
Teacher 9.8%
Cashier 7.0%
Instructor 2.8%
Tutor 2.1%
Director 2.1%
Top Careers After Secondary Special Education Teacher
Teacher 6.6%
Internship 4.9%
Instructor 4.9%
Educator 4.1%
Associate 3.3%
Counselor 2.5%
Specialist 2.5%

Do you work as a Secondary Special Education Teacher?

Average Yearly Salary
$51,000
Show Salaries
$34,000
Min 10%
$51,000
Median 50%
$51,000
Median 50%
$51,000
Median 50%
$51,000
Median 50%
$51,000
Median 50%
$51,000
Median 50%
$51,000
Median 50%
$76,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Santa Clara Inc./Cigar Wholesaler
Highest Paying City
Salinas, CA
Highest Paying State
District of Columbia
Avg Experience Level
4.7 years
How much does a Secondary Special Education Teacher make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Secondary Special Education Teacher in the United States is $51,308 per year or $25 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $34,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $76,000.

Real Secondary Special Education Teacher Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Santa Clara County Office of Education San Jose, CA Jun 21, 2013 $100,196
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Santa Clara County Office of Education San Jose, CA May 21, 2013 $87,565
Teacher-Secondary Education Baltimore City Public Schools Baltimore, MD Sep 01, 2013 $84,432
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Santa Clara County Office of Education San Jose, CA Feb 19, 2014 $82,954
Teacher-Secondary Education Baltimore City Public Schools Baltimore, MD Oct 11, 2013 $81,970
Teacher-Secondary Education Baltimore City Public Schools Baltimore, MD Sep 01, 2013 $80,668
Teacher-Secondary Education Baltimore City Public Schools Baltimore, MD Nov 13, 2013 $78,910
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Santa Clara County Office of Education San Jose, CA Dec 26, 2013 $78,711
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Santa Clara County Office of Education San Jose, CA Dec 18, 2013 $78,711
Special Education Teacher, Secondary School Crosswood Inc./Pathways Schools Temple Hills, MD Mar 01, 2013 $78,000
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Church Everyday Los Angeles, CA Jul 19, 2013 $77,670
Teacher-Secondary Education Baltimore City Public Schools Baltimore, MD Nov 30, 2013 $76,870
Teacher-Secondary Education Baltimore City Public Schools Baltimore, MD Nov 06, 2013 $76,870
Secondary Teacher-Special Education Baltimore City Public Schools Baltimore, MD Jul 01, 2014 $76,870
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Northeast Georgia RESA Winterville, GA Dec 23, 2015 $47,280
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Global Teachers Research and Resources, Inc. Morrow, GA Jun 06, 2014 $46,827
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Global Teachers Research and Resources, Inc. Morrow, GA Jun 12, 2013 $46,827
Special Education Teacher, Secondary School Baltimore City Public School System Baltimore, MD Apr 08, 2016 $46,773 -
$82,769
Special Education Teacher, Secondary School Baltimore City Public School System Baltimore, MD Nov 16, 2016 $46,773 -
$82,769
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Baltimore City Public School System Baltimore, MD Apr 09, 2013 $46,773 -
$82,769
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Pittsburg Unified School District Pittsburg, CA Jun 10, 2014 $45,057 -
$74,857
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Los Angeles Unified School District Los Angeles, CA Aug 05, 2013 $44,518
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Los Angeles Unified School District Alta, CA Nov 14, 2013 $44,518
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Los Angeles Unified School District Los Angeles, CA Oct 28, 2013 $44,518
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Florence Unified School District #1 San Tan Valley, AZ Sep 26, 2013 $44,457
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Florence Unified School District #1 San Tan Valley, AZ Jul 25, 2014 $44,457
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School Pittsburg Unified School District Pittsburg, CA Jun 05, 2014 $44,230 -
$74,857
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School East Baton Rouge Parish School Board Baton Rouge, LA Nov 13, 2013 $43,536

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Top Skills for A Secondary Special Education Teacher

  1. Special Educational Strategies
  2. Appropriate Curriculum
  3. Special Needs
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Coordinated services and teaching in a self-contained setting with 15-18 special needs students.
  • Prepared lessons accommodating the differences of student learning styles.
  • Develop lesson plans that increase student performance and adhere to GPS.
  • Delivered instruction in the areas of reading decoding, reading comprehension, writing, and mathematics.
  • Communicate on a regular basis with general education teachers to ensure implementation of students IEP and related accommodations/modifications.

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Top 10 Best States for Secondary Special Education Teachers

  1. Michigan
  2. Texas
  3. Oregon
  4. Illinois
  5. California
  6. Connecticut
  7. Alaska
  8. New York
  9. Minnesota
  10. District of Columbia
  • (405 jobs)
  • (1,343 jobs)
  • (87 jobs)
  • (712 jobs)
  • (2,142 jobs)
  • (200 jobs)
  • (29 jobs)
  • (399 jobs)
  • (282 jobs)
  • (41 jobs)

Secondary Special Education Teacher Demographics

Gender

Female

64.5%

Male

24.1%

Unknown

11.4%
Ethnicity

White

65.4%

Hispanic or Latino

13.1%

Black or African American

11.5%

Asian

6.7%

Unknown

3.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

62.5%

Portuguese

25.0%

Greek

12.5%

Secondary Special Education Teacher Education

Schools

Aurora University

7.0%

Grand Valley State University

7.0%

Troy University

7.0%

University of Nevada - Reno

4.7%

Our Lady of the Lake University

4.7%

Texas Tech University

4.7%

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

4.7%

Sam Houston State University

4.7%

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

4.7%

University of Illinois at Chicago

4.7%

Chaminade University of Honolulu

4.7%

Jones International University

4.7%

State University of New York College at Plattsburgh

4.7%

University of Phoenix

4.7%

Angelo State University

4.7%

Hampton University

4.7%

Western Michigan University

4.7%

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

4.7%

Thomas College

4.7%

Cambridge College

4.7%
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Majors

Special Education

25.2%

Education

19.7%

Elementary Education

8.8%

Educational Leadership

7.5%

English

6.1%

Business

4.8%

School Counseling

3.4%

Curriculum And Instruction

3.4%

History

2.7%

Criminal Justice

2.7%

Nursing

2.0%

Theatre

2.0%

Liberal Arts

2.0%

Psychology

1.4%

Teaching Assistants/Aides

1.4%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.4%

Human Resources Management

1.4%

Human Development

1.4%

Interdisciplinary Studies

1.4%

Kinesiology

1.4%
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Degrees

Masters

56.0%

Bachelors

25.1%

Other

9.7%

Certificate

3.4%

Doctorate

3.4%

Associate

1.7%

License

0.6%
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