Behavioral support teachers are certified special education professionals who work directly with children who exhibit behavior problems primarily in PreK-12 schools. Disruptive behaviors experienced with co-existing disabilities or disturbances can greatly impact a child’s academic and social development. Behavioral support teachers are assigned to specific students to correct negative actions, such as aggression, stealing, defiance, hyperactivity, and loudness. Some may even qualify for DSM-IV diagnosis for Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or Conduct Disorder (CD). It’s important for schools to not simply ignore uncivil behaviors, but constant correction will divert the general education teacher’s energy away from learning. Therefore, behavioral support teachers are becoming essential staples in today’s school systems. It’s their duty to implement interventions that teach expected behaviors and reinforce them.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 450,700 special education jobs, including behavioral support teachers, provide a median yearly salary of $56,800. Pay for behavioral support teachers varies widely based on grade level. In elementary schools, positions garner a mean annual wage of $56,690, but average salary rises to $60,410 in secondary schools. Behavioral support teachers employed in individual and family services make $60,170 on average.
When first entering the classroom, behavioral support teachers typically land in the bottom 10th percentile of earnings with yearly income around $35,920. However, behavioral support teachers with 10+ years of experience can eventually bring home over $84,020 per year. Earning the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) credential could unlock salaries up to $91,500.
Behavioral support teachers have the primary responsibility of directing an inclusive behavior intervention program that trains students to adopt positive behaviors. They work one-on-one or in small groups with at-risk and behaviorally challenged youth. Behavioral support teachers will assess each student and review their problematic behaviors in the classroom. Then, they’ll create interventions with research-based strategies to increase appropriate behaviors. Each student will continually be evaluated and lesson plans modified to reach targeted goals. Behavioral support teachers collaborate closely with the child’s other educators to implement widespread changes that support improved performance. Rather than focus on curriculum, these teachers seek to develop tomorrow’s responsible, respectful citizens.
Being able to confront and modify behavioral challenges is a task requiring plenty of skill. It’s important for behavioral support teachers to know the latest intervention strategies to improve referred students’ conduct. Strong interpersonal skills are required to communicate frequently with teachers, special educators, parents, and other school staff. Leadership ability is crucial because many behavioral support teachers organize workshop training for other teachers. Behavioral support teachers must have analytical skills to accurately assess the antecedent for students’ problematic actions and pinpoint it. Organizational skills with attention to detail will help teachers keep meticulous records of each student’s progress. Behavioral support teachers should also be compassionate and flexible to adjust to obstacles positively.
Degree and Education Requirements
Landing a position as a behavioral support teacher will require graduating from an accredited college at the baccalaureate level or higher. Most hold bachelor’s degrees in special education, counseling, child development, psychology, or related fields. Teacher preparation programs often have specialized tracks or certificates for behavior intervention. Due to the complexity of behavioral issues, most principals will prefer hiring behavioral support teachers with graduate education. Earning a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in special education is suggested. Some universities like the University of Arizona specifically offer behavior support emphases. Going further to the doctoral level is wholly voluntary, but it could unlock administrative positions.
Pros and Cons of the Position
Becoming a behavioral support teacher is attractive to individuals seeking to blend psychology with special education, but the job has rewards and difficulties. On the sunny side, behavioral support teachers are able to work with students individually instead of managing an entire classroom. They reap intrinsic rewards from knowing their behavior interventions are helping the child, their family, and the school community. Behavioral support teachers are compensated with decent salaries and good benefits, including state retirement. There’s job security because demand in special education will continue holding steady. Behavioral support teachers also don’t get lost in routine because no two days are the same. However, it can be an exhausting job with long hours before and after school meeting with parents. Behavioral support teachers are always challenged to figure out ways to correct maladaptive behaviors. Some may need to find second jobs during the summer vacation. High education requirements means behavioral support teachers need to invest heavily in their training too.
Finding success will require more than simply studying behavioral sciences in college. Schools want to hire behavioral support teachers with extensive experience working with children. Starting in college, build your resume by taking internships, practicum placements, and service learning projects in the classroom. Consider working part-time as a special education teacher’s assistant to learn about behavioral disorders firsthand. At graduation, you’ll need to have satisfactory Praxis exam scores and pass a background check for state certification. Most then begin as special educators in inclusive or self-contained classrooms. At least three to five years of experience is expected of behavioral support teachers. During this time, you can attend graduate school either during evenings or online. A master’s will make you eligible for taking the exam and becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).
Overall job growth in special education is projected at 6 percent through 2024, which is on track for the average for all occupations. Demand for behavioral support teachers may be slightly higher though. One report from Burning Glass found that job postings for behavior intervention jobs doubled from 2012 to 2014. Although there’s national growth, the highest demand is present in California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Behavioral support teachers with BCBA credentials can expect sunniest job outlook. America’s childhood disability rate has jumped by 16 percent in the last decade to over 6.1 million. Behavioral support teachers can find positions in public or private schools as well as childcare centers, family services, counseling offices, and other educational institutions.
Behavioral support teachers play a critical role in maintaining a safe, successful school culture by addressing students’ disruptive behaviors. They consult with teachers to produce practical interventions that encourage healthy maturity and improved classroom manners. Working towards becoming a behavioral support teacher will give you the gratification of helping students achieve their IEP or 504 plan goals with positive behavior changes.