How to Become a

Special Education Professor

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

Why We Love It

  • $68,200
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 9%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Flexible Hours
    Career Attribute

Special education professors teach aspiring special education teachers. Special education teachers educate special-needs students in grades K-12, and special education professors teach those students about best practices and effective pedagogies for educating students with learning or other disabilities.

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What is a Special Education Professor?

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

  • Teach undergraduate and graduate college courses on topics related to special education pedagogy
  • Expand college special education programs by suggesting new curriculums and classes
  • Engage in ongoing field research and publish findings in scholarly publications
  • Create course syllabi, assign and grade course assignments, and conduct lectures
  • Participate in department initiatives and assist in activities designed to grow enrollments

A Day in the Life

The role of a special education professor is split into five major responsibilities: teaching, planning, grading, professional development, and administration. Teaching is the primary responsibility and consists of educating existing or aspiring K-12 special education teachers on proven pedagogies for special-needs students. This may include instruction on teaching students with autism-spectrum disorders, attention-deficit disorders, and other behavioral, learning, or emotional disabilities.

Outside of the classroom, special education professors spend a lot of time forming syllabi, preparing for classes, distributing reading materials, and grading coursework. They generally hold office hours regularly to allow students to drop in and ask questions or discuss coursework. Time spent grading may include reviewing long papers or checking answers on tests. Grades are inputted into a system that allocates weights across assignment types to calculate a student’s final term grade.

Additionally, to earn tenured positions or advance from assistant/associate professorships into full professor roles, special education professors may be required to conduct research and publish in scholarly publications over the course of their careers. They will also likely have administrative responsibilities for managing their departments, growing enrollment for their programs, or organizing activities for students enrolled in their programs.

Typical Work Schedule

Tenured special education professors generally have the ability to set their own schedules, as long as department coverage supports offering courses to students with different working schedules. Undergraduate courses may be offered during weekday, daytime hours, but graduate courses may be offered in the evenings or on weekends. Special education professors may opt to teach summer classes to earn additional money, or they may take summers off.

Projected Job Growth

A rise in special-needs students has increased the demand for special education teachers in grades K-12, and as more special education teachers are needed, more special education professors will be needed to educate and train teachers.

Special Education Professor Specializations

  • Special education teachers teach elementary, middle, and high school special-needs students.
  • Adjunct instructors support collegiate special education programs by teaching entry-level special education courses as an independent contractor.
  • Associate/Assistant professors are junior-level tenured instructors that teach special education courses at a college or university and assist with course development and department administration.
  • Professors are senior-level tenured positions offered to instructors who have taught at an institution for many years, helped develop department programs and curriculums, and have engaged in innovative research and publication across their careers.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Special Education Teacher, Adjunct Special Education Instructor
  • Mid-Career: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor
  • Late Career: Professor, Dean

Typical Employers

Special education professors are hired by colleges and universities that offer programs in special education pedagogy.

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How To Become a Special Education Professor

Most special education professors start their careers as special education teachers in grade schools or secondary schools. To teach special-needs students in grades K-12, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in education with a focus on special education. Once earning a bachelor’s degree and getting the appropriate state teaching license, you’ll be qualified to work as a special education teacher. In general, you’ll need to gain several years of K-12 teaching experience to qualify for college professorships.

The next step in becoming a special education professor will be to earn a master’s degree in education with a special-education focus. With a master’s degree and teaching experience, you may be able to acquire adjunct instructor positions that will enable you to gain experience teaching in a postsecondary institution.

While it’s possible to earn a role as an assistant or associate professor with only a master’s degree, it is unlikely. Most institutions want special education professors that have earned either a Ph.D. or Ed.D. With one of these doctoral degrees in hand, you’ll be qualified to pursue tenure-track positions that could lead to tenured faculty positions after a few years of successful service to the school and a record of successful research and scholarly publications.

Special Education Professor 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

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Special Education Professor salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Special Education Professor's can make an average annual salary of $68,200, or --- per hour. On the lower end, they can make $44,640 or --- per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #213 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

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

Highest Education Among Special Education Professors

  • 43.3%   Doctorate
  • 35.7%   Masters
  • 16.2%   Bachelors
  • 2%   Associates
  • 2.4%   College
  • 0.2%   High School
  • 0.2%   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 Professor job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 6,800 jobs for a total of 82,500 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 9% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #242 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Special Education Professors

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state 33,300 1,400 1%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; private 31,800 4,300 4%
Junior colleges; local 5,300 800 1%

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