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Director of Special Education: Job Description, Salary & Qualifications

Explore what it takes to be a director of special education. Get information about job duties, education requirements, employment outlook and average salary. Then decide if this is the right career for you.

Career Information at a Glance

Special education directors organize and lead education for children (K-12) with learning difficulties such as dyslexia (trouble with reading), attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (trouble focusing and organizing work) or dysgraphia (trouble writing). Directors coordinate programs according to state, federal and district laws to ensure that children with learning difficulties have the same access to education as their peers.

Degree Required Bachelor's and Master's Degree
Education field of study Special Education
Training required Completion of a teacher preparation program and supervised experience in teaching may be required
Licensure/Certification State licensure and certification may be required for public school positions
Job growth (2018-2028) 6%* (instructional coordinators)
Median salary (2019) $72,878**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Will I Do as a Special Education Director?

As a special education director, you will oversee special education programs and devise methods for assessing and implementing such programs. You'll also need to stay on top of special education issues, changes in state and federal laws, and methods of educating students who have learning difficulties. You will be an advocate for students who learn differently, bringing your understanding of legal, social and educational responsibilities to the district in which you work to ensure inclusive learning by working with school district principals, teachers and the school board.

If you are a special education director, you will have teaching and/or administration experience relevant to students with learning differences as well as expertise developing special education curriculum and working with teams of educators. You'll have great people skills, as you'll be talking with parents, educators, school psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, and other school personnel.

What are the Qualifications?

First, you'll need to get a bachelor's degree in special education or a related field such as child psychology. In a four-year program, you'll learn methods of teaching and examine early childhood, elementary, middle and secondary education; you'll also do student-teaching in a relevant setting.

A special education director needs a master's degree as well as several of years of work experience. In a master's degree program, you will prepare to teach or administrate students with a range of disabilities. Many master's programs include licensing, but usually just for the state in which you receive your degree. If you want to be licensed in another state, you will need to check with the appropriate state board of education.

What is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), between 2018 and 2028, the growth rate for all types of instructional coordinators will be 6% and faster than average for other educational occupations. As more children are identified as learning disabled, special education directors can develop more cohesive and inclusive curriculum to help schools adhere to the law and boost student achievement.

How Much Can I Earn?

As of February 2019, PayScale.com reported that special education directors earned a median of $72,878 a year, with the range between roughly $49,000 to $106,000 a year. The BLS reports that most instructional coordinators are employed in state, local or private elementary and secondary schools. The BLS also reported that the federal government pays a median annual wage of $76,970 for instructional coordinators but only accounts for 7% of the jobs.

What Are Some Related Careers?

Training and development specialists help design, plan, and conduct courses for businesses that train employees and improve their skills and knowledge. Education for this job varies, but training and development specialists have a bachelor's degree in human resources, education or instructional design. School principals also coordinate curricula, oversee teachers and other school staff, and ensure students are in safe and productive learning environments. Typically, a principal has a master's degree in education leadership, education administration, or school counseling.