How Can I Become a School Administrator?

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in school administration. Read on to learn more about education requirements, licensure, salary and job outlook to see if this is the career for you. Schools offering College Administration & Leadership degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a School Administrator Do?

School administrators work at all education levels, from preschools to colleges. Some administrators, such as school directors and principals, are responsible for the day-to-day management of students and staff, while other administrators, such as curriculum directors and student services directors, oversee particular departments and functions of a school. Your responsibilities will vary largely depending on your particular job title as well as the size of the school and district in which you work. The following chart outlines the general requirements of several school administrator career options.

Preschool Director K-12 PrincipalsPostsecondary Administrator
Degree Required Bachelor's degree, master's degree preferred Master's degree Master's degree, doctoral degree for many jobs
Field of Study Early childhood education Educational leadership, educational administration Educational administration, management
Licensure Childhood Development Associate certification typically required State license required for jobs in public schools N/A
Average Salary (2015) $52,760* $92,940*$102,610*
Job Growth (2014-2024)7%* 6%* 9%*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Where Does a School Administrator Work?

School administrators are needed in preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges. If you worked in a preschool, it might be your job to manage early education curricula planning, strategic business planning, human resources and resource allocation.

You could also work as a principal in a high school, middle school or elementary school. In these settings, you may oversee curriculum development, set education standards and work toward the mission of a school.

You can also find employment at the postsecondary level. As a chief academic officer or a provost, you may be responsible for budgeting, tenure and other faculty decisions, teacher evaluations and class scheduling. You could work as a department chair and coordinate budgets, make personnel decisions, serve on committees and recruit new teachers for specific academic departments. Other administrator positions could put you in charge of student affairs, overseeing registration, recruitment, student records, financial aid or residential life.

What Education Do I Need?

You typically need at least a master's degree to find employment in this field, although top positions may require you to hold a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Commonly, a degree in education or education administration may be preferred. This may not be the case; however, with postsecondary administrative positions, in which professors with a Ph.D. in their field may be promoted from within their department.

In graduate degree programs in education administration, you could learn about curriculum development, the organization of school systems, education laws, school improvement and theories of supervision. You could also learn business principles, including accounting, resource allocation for schools, human resources management, finance and marketing. Master's degrees in this field can be completed in two years and can be earned online. Doctoral degrees take 3-5 years to complete.

What Are The Other Requirements?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you need a license to work as a school administrator at all levels except postsecondary schools ( Licensing requirements vary by state, but most require you to have a graduate-level education before you can take a licensing exam. Additionally, an increasing number of states require you to have completed a mentorship or other on-the-job training; for example, many education administrators have worked as teachers. Lastly, most education administrators have to take classes during their tenure to retain their license.

Will I Be Able to Get a Job?

The BLS reported that employment for education administrators in preschools was expected to increase by 7% between 2014 and 2024. Employment for elementary and secondary school principals is expected to increase by 6%, while jobs for administrators in colleges and other postsecondary institutions will increase by 9%. Growth will be driven by increases in the general population. Additionally, job prospects were expected to be good during that time period due to workers retiring.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Because school administrators can come from such a variety of academic backgrounds, the related careers will really depend on your educational experiences and personal interests. If you have a background in human resources, you could work as a human resources manager for a corporation or organization. These people are generally in charge of staffing for an organization, which includes recruitment, hiring, firing, and making sure each employee is satisfied. This position often requires only a bachelor's degree along with significant work experience, though a graduate degree can be helpful. If you're more interested in the mentoring or guidance aspects of school administration, you might consider becoming a school counselor. In this position, you'd work closely with students to determine career goals and address issues they may face at school or at home. These professionals typically need a master's degree and licensure.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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