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Special Education Teachers - Middle School

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Special Education Teachers - Middle School Overview

Middle school special education teachers should enjoy excellent job opportunities due to a reported shortage of qualified teachers and the growing enrollments of special education students. In every state, special education teachers at the middle school level must be licensed. Some states require a masters degree, but most require a bachelor’s degree and the completion of special education teacher training. For college graduates with no education training, some states offer an alternative license program. Special education teachers must be patient, organized, good motivators, accepting of differences and understanding of special needs.

Nature of the Work for Special Education Teachers - Middle School

Special Education Teachers - Middle School

Special education teachers in middle school work with students with a variety of disabilities. Only a small number of these teachers work with students who have severe physical, emotional or cognitive disabilities. They help with basic literacy and life skills. More commonly, middle school special education teachers work with students who have mild to moderate disabilities. They help to modify general education curriculum to meet each child’s needs and provide remedial instruction.

A variety of disabilities are found in special education programs including emotional disturbance, mental retardation, autism, hearing impairments, visual impairments, combined blindness and deafness, orthopedic impairments, speech or language impairments, specific learning disabilities or traumatic brain injury. Early identification of these specific categories is important, as early intervention is essential for special education.

Various teaching techniques are used in special education depending on the student’s needs including problem-solving assignments, intensive individualized instruction and small-group work. Special education teachers are also responsible for providing special accommodations when needed to take a test or learn general curriculum such as reading material orally or lengthening test time.

For each student, special education teachers help develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which sets personalized goals and is tailored to each student’s needs and abilities. The program may also include a transitional plan to prepare students for high school. The IEP is then reviewed with parents, school administrators and general education teachers. Special education teachers work closely with parents to update them on progress and suggest other home learning activities.

Special education teachers at the middle school level design and teach appropriate curricula geared toward each student’s needs and they grade schoolwork. Beyond their academic lives, special education teachers must also help students develop emotionally and learn to effectively interact in social situations. They may also help students prepare for life after graduation by teaching life skills or providing career counseling.

Special education is increasingly becoming more integrated with general education and thus teachers from both fields tend to work together. To meet the needs of special education students they may help general educators adapt teaching techniques and material. They must also coordinate with several people including therapists, social workers, teacher assistants and teachers to meet the individualized needs of students within inclusive programs. Communicating and coordinating with others in a child’s life is an important part of the job to keep parents, school psychologists, school administrators, teachers and social workers up to date.

Special education teachers work in a variety of settings. They may teach alongside general education teachers in classes of mixed students, others provide individualized help to students in general education classes as a resource and other have their own classrooms and teach only special education students. Some middle school special education teachers work in a resource room, separate from general education classrooms. A small number also work in hospitals or in homes and other residential facilities.

As technology becomes increasingly important in the field, special education teachers can use interactive educational software, synthesized speech and audiotapes.

Working with special education students can be challenging, but also highly rewarding and it can lead to meaningful relationships. That said, the work can also be physically and emotionally demanding, which sometimes causes teachers to leave the field. Heavy workloads and administrative tasks can also add stress to a special education teacher's job. New legislations should alleviate some of the paperwork required to combat the threat of litigation however.

While some schools provide year round education, most middle school special education teachers work a traditional 10-month school year.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Special Education Teachers - Middle School

In every state, special education teachers at the middle school level must be licensed, which usually requires the completion of a special education teaching program and a bachelor’s degree. A masters degree is required in some states. And most states have alternative methods to get started in the career for those with no education background.

Many colleges and universities offer special education programs at the bachelor’s degree, masters degree and doctoral degree level. Special education teachers usually spend more time in training that general education teachers. Most programs last four years and include both general education and special education training. A fifth year is increasingly being required. A specialization is part of some programs, but others offer generalized special education degrees. Student teaching under a certified special education teacher is usually completed during the final year of the program

Each state’s board of education grants licenses to special education teachers, though they vary from state to state. Special education teachers typically receive a general education credential for teaching kindergartners through 12th graders. Then, they train in behavioral or learning disabilities or another specialty. Some states offer a general special education license, but others break the credentials down by specialty.

To fulfill the state licensure requirement, candidates typically need a bachelor’s degree, the completion of a special education training program, a particular number of credits and student teaching experience. Some states require a masters degree as well, which includes another year of schooling plus a specialization. A professional assessment is required in most states as well. Often, states accept the transfer of another states license, but sometimes a new license is required to work in a new state.

To attract teachers who don’t have traditional education background, most states offer alternative methods to enter the career. Candidates typically need a bachelor’s degree, though some programs are designed for working professionals or recent college graduates. A supervised preparation and instruction must be completed with a partner college or university along with the passing of an exam and student teaching.

Patience, organization and motivation skills and an understanding and acceptance of student’s special needs are required for middle school special education teachers. Different teaching methods must be applied creatively to overcome learning difficulties. And cooperation and communication skills are essential for working with other teachers, administrators, parents and school faculty.

To advance, special education teachers may move up to supervisor or administrator posts. Others earn advanced degrees and go on to teach special education teaching at the college level. Some school systems may also look to experienced special education teachers to mentor less experienced teachers.

Top 10 Most Popular Special Education and Teaching Schools

1. Touro College, New York (New York, New York)
2. Grand Canyon University (Multiple Campus Locations)
3. Saint Josephs College, Long Island (Patchogue, New York)
4. California State University, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
5. Illinois State University (Normal, Illinois)
6. George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia)
7. New Jersey City University (Jersey City, New Jersey)
8. Grand Valley State University (Allendale, Michigan)
9. Dowling College (Oakdale, New York)
10. Dowling College (Dekalb, Illinois)

See All Special Education and Teaching Schools

Most Popular Online Special Education and Teaching Schools

1. Saint Leo University Online
2. University of Phoenix - Online School
3. University of Arizona Global Campus
4. Walden University - Online School
5. University of Florida - Online School
6. Capella University - Online School
7. Winston-Salem State University - Online School
8. Grand Canyon University
9. Western Governors University

Employment and Job Outlook for Special Education Teachers - Middle School

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).

About 473,00 special education teachers are working, mostly in public and private educational institutions. A few special education teachers – middle school worked for residential facilities, social assistance agencies or hospitals.

Experts predict faster than average job growth. Employment prospects should be excellent as many school districts are unable to find enough licensed special education teachers – middle school.

The number of special education teachers – middle school should grow about 17 percent over the next decade. Student enrollments are growing across the board, including more special education students requiring special education teachers – middle school.

The number of special education students has grown recently due to improvements in the ability to diagnose learning disabilities at a younger age. Changes in legislation that focus on training, employment and education of those with disabilities, along with educational reforms have created more demand for special education teachers – middle school as well. Foreign-born special education students are increasing as well as teachers are now better able to detect learning disabilities in them. Plus, parents are increasingly demanding special services for children that can’t meet the now higher standards expected of students.

Many special education teachers – middle school will find jobs as a result of special education teachers who move to general education, another career or retire. Many school districts have trouble finding qualified teachers, so special education teachers – middle school should have excellent job prospects.

Geographic area and specialty changes the job outlook. Finding a job in a wealthy urban area or suburban area will likely be more difficult than in inner cities and rural areas. The South and West should see greater increases in student populations and thus a greater demand for middle school special education teachers. Job opportunities for teachers who work with students with multiple disabilities or severe autism for example may find more job opportunities as enrollment in education focused on these categories is growing in popularity. Bilingual middle school special education teachers and those with multicultural experience will be valuable as student populations grow in diversity.

Earnings and Salary for Special Education Teachers - Middle School

Median annual wages for middle school special education teachers teachers were $51,970. The highest 10 percent earned above $79,820, the lowest 10 percent earned under $35,690 and the middle 50 percent earned between $42,690 and $64,740.

Over half of all middle school special education teachers belonged to unions or were covered by union contracts. Teachers typically can earn more by coaching sports, leading extracurricular activities or working during the summer.

Annual Salary for Special Education Teachers - Middle School

On average, Special Education Teachers - Middle School earn $51,970 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $35,690/yr $42,690/yr $64,740/yr $79,820/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook