Read about the job duties of a special education administrator. Check the educational and licensure requirements for this position, and explore degree programs in special education administration.
Administrators of special education programs are generally responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of special education departments, schools or programs. Administrators may be responsible for setting program goals, hiring and managing professional staff, ensuring compliance with special education laws, meeting budgets and evaluating student progress.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), educational administrators at the elementary or secondary level earned a median wage of $88,380 as of May 2013. Job opportunities were predicted to increase by 6% between 2012 and 2022, which is slower than the average.
Most administrator jobs require you to have taught special education, which requires an undergraduate degree in special education. These degree programs generally take at least four years to complete. Five-year programs are required in some states, and students graduate with a combined bachelor's and master's degree. Special education courses will cover teaching methods for literacy and math, the history of special education and the legal aspects of special education. You would also need to complete a student teaching practicum and pass a basic skills exam.
Educational administrators also generally need to have a master's degree in educational administration or leadership. Degree programs in special education administration are typically earned while you are teaching and are often available at least partially online. You would need to complete 30 to 35 hours of coursework and pass a comprehensive exam to earn a master's degree in educational leadership. Master's degrees normally take two or three years to complete.
Many administrators go on to earn doctoral degrees in special education or in educational administration. Special education doctoral degree programs would allow you to specialize in topics such as early interventions, transition services, or low-incidence disabilities. A doctoral degree would also prepare you to run larger institutions, work in research or teach at a university.
Most certificate programs will include classes in special education administration and supervision, leadership and legal issues, professional collaboration and managing resources for special education programs. Required continuing education will allow you to remain up-to-date on new technologies and therapies as well as changes in legal requirements governing special education programs.
As an educational administrator in special education, you would need to have excellent interpersonal, leadership, organizational and motivational skills. You would need to be able to communicate clearly with students, staff, parents and outside agencies. You would also need to understand the issues and challenges that your students face, and keep up-to-date with regulations affecting special education at the federal and state levels.
An undergraduate degree program in special education will help meet the requirements for certification to teach either grades K-12 or a specific age group and disability; state licensing and certification requirements for employment vary. In most states, you will need to have a specific administrator's certificate or license, too, for employment as an educational administrator, which is usually earned as part of a master's or doctoral degree program.