Special Education Director: Career Info & Requirements

Special education directors oversee programs that provide assistance to children with mental, learning or physical disabilities. Read about the degree programs and professional experiences that can help you prepare for this position, along with the employment and salary prospects for special education directors.

Career Definition for Special Education Directors

Special education directors plan, administer, and assess the effectiveness of short-term and long-term services for learning or otherwise disabled students. Their responsibilities typically include developing budgets, implementing grants, and reviewing related legislation for compliance. Special education directors also analyze information obtained from needs assessments and research current trends in the field. Additional duties include supervising and providing professional development opportunities for special education teachers.

Education Graduate degree in special education
Job Duties Develop budgets, implement grants, review legislation
Median Salary (2015) $90,410 (all elementary and high school administrators)
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (all special education teachers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Special Education qualifies a graduate to work in the classroom, which is a prerequisite for most administrative positions. Aspiring directors can also pursue a Master of Education or a Master of Science in Special Education; individual employers may prefer candidates with a Doctor of Education. Some master's programs may take up to four years to complete and can include a combination of education, psychology and leadership courses.

Skills Required

Special education directors must be able to work collaboratively with staff members and teachers from other departments. Interpersonal skills are important, especially when communicating with parents. Special education directors must also be discrete in their use of confidential student information. Decision-making, good judgment, and public relations skills may also be helpful.

Employment and Earnings Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide employment and salary data specific to special education directors; however, statistics for special education teachers are available. According to the BLS, special education teachers will see a 6%, or fast as average, increase in employment opportunities nationwide from 2014 to 2024. A 9% increase in job openings is projected for special education preschool teachers during the same 10-year period. As of May 2015, preschool special education teachers earned a median wage of $53,990, with high school special education teachers earning $58,500 in the same month. Elementary and high school administrators in general who were employed in May 2015 enjoyed median yearly salaries of $90,410 (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options in this field include:

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers work with children between three and five years of age in daycare centers or schools, as well as for charitable organizations. In addition to care and supervision, they may also plan and implement literacy, science, and other lessons. Daycare centers may hire candidates with a high school diploma; those employed by Head Start programs and public schools typically have an associate or bachelor's degree in early childhood education. The BLS reports that preschool teachers can expect a 7%, or fast as average, growth in job openings nationwide from 2014-2024. Pre-K teachers - aside from those specializing in special education - working in the field in May 2015 were paid median yearly salaries of $28,570 (www.bls.gov).

Teacher Assistants

Teaching assistants are also referred to as teacher aides or paraprofessionals, and some of their duties may include working with special education or severely disabled students who need help with eating or hygiene. Minimum education requirements include a high school diploma; special education assistants may need to take a state skills test. Between 2014 and 2024, teacher assistants in general will see a fast as average increase of 6% in employment opportunities nationwide, according to the BLS. In May 2015, the median annual wage for a teacher assistant was $24,900 (www.bls.gov).


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