How to Become a

Special Education Director

The complete career guide to be a Special Education Director: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $92,940
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 5.8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • High Income Potential
    Career Attribute

Special education directors oversee programs that serve students with special needs at daycares, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. They’re responsible for the overall administration of their programs and strive to help special needs students achieve academic and social success.

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What is a Special Education Director?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in special education director roles:

  • Recruit, hire and train staff members and special education instructors
  • Ensure special education programs adhere to all federal, state, and local regulations
  • Establish curriculums, programs, and classes that benefit special needs students and meet program goals
  • Manage program budget, set class and staff schedules, and oversee program operations

A Day in the Life

Special education directors can perform tasks for a number of facilities. They may oversee special education programs at daycares/preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, or high schools, or they may oversee special education programs for an entire school district. The primary responsibility of a special education director working in any of these facilities or roles is to ensure learning programs provided for special needs students enable students to achieve academic and social success in school.

To enable student success, special education directors perform a number of tasks. They help establish learning curriculums, set program goals, and work with special education teachers to form lesson plans and class syllabi. They recruit, hire, and orient special education teachers to ensure their programs feature talented educators that are specialized in teaching students with special needs. They also work with students with conditions like ADHD, Autism, blindness, deafness, and other behavior or developmental disabilities to ensure they receive a quality education while enrolled in school programs.

Beyond enabling academic success for special needs students, special education directors also perform a variety of administrative tasks. They generally manage the budgets for their programs and determine how to allocate funds each school year. They set the schedules for teachers and staff members in their programs. They may also oversee busing for special needs students if separate busing is in place. In essence, special needs directors are ultimately accountable for all aspects of their program’s success.

Typical Work Schedule

The job of special education director is a full-time position. Unlike teaching positions that allow for summers off, most special education directors work 12 months out of the year and spend summers planning and preparing for the upcoming school year.

Special Education Director Specializations

  • Preschool special education directors manage educational programs and oversee the administration of daycare and/or preschool programs that serve special needs students.
  • Elementary, middle, and high school special education directors are the overall leaders of the special education programs in these institutions and are accountable for all educational and administrative aspects of the school’s special needs program.
  • District special needs directors oversee the special needs programs at multiple elementary, middle, and high schools within a single school district and may work closely with a school superintendent and/or school board.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Special Education Teacher
  • Mid-Career: Special Education Administrator
  • Late Career: Special Education Director

Typical Employers

Public and private preschools, elementary, middle, and high schools, and school districts each employ special education directors to oversee administration of their special education programs.

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How To Become a Special Education Director

Generally, special education directors start their careers as special education teachers. To become a special education teacher, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in special education, and you’ll also need to become licensed to work as a special education teacher in your state. After earning the required degree and state licensure, you’ll be qualified to teach special education courses at preschools, elementary, middle, or high schools, and you’ll need several years of teaching experience to progress in your career.

However, a bachelor’s degree and special education teaching experience is just the first step. To move into administrative positions for special education programs, you’ll also need a master’s degree in special education or educational administration. These programs provide instruction on topics you’ll need to know as an administrator, such as state and federal regulations that govern special education programs in schools. With a master’s degree, you may qualify for higher-level administrator positions.

For senior-level administrative positions like special education director, you may also need a doctoral degree—either a Ph.D. or Ed.D.—but the requirements are not standard for all positions. While a doctoral degree may be preferred, most employers will be more focused on finding candidates with a history of success as special education teachers and administrators.

Special Education Director Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Special Education Director salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Special Education Director's can make an average annual salary of $92,940, or --- per hour. On the lower end, they can make $72,380 or --- per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #88 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Special Education Director. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Special Education Directors

  • 13.2%   Doctorate
  • 44.8%   Masters
  • 23.5%   Bachelors
  • 5%   Associates
  • 8%   College
  • 4.6%   High School
  • 0.7%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Special Education Director job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 14,000 jobs for a total of 254,000 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 5.8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #390 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Special Education Directors

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Elementary and secondary schools; local 187,400 11,000 11%
Elementary and secondary schools; private 37,500 2,300 2%
Self-employed workers 5,100 200 0%

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