School Administrator: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for school administrators. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering College Administration & Leadership degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a School Administrator?

Whether the school is at the elementary, middle or postsecondary level, the administrator is responsible for managerial oversight of all aspects of the physical operation of the institution and the effective delivery of an education to the students. Principals, vice principals and directors are all forms of administrators. The specific responsibilities of an administrator are likely to vary depending on the size and the type of school they work in. The chart below can show you some details about the career.

Degree RequiredMaster's degree
Education Field of StudyEducation leadership or education administration
LicensureMost states require public school administrators to be licensed. Private school requirements vary.
Job Growth (2014-2024)6% (for all elementary, middle, and high school school principals)*
Median Salary (2015)$90,410 (for all elementary and secondary school administrators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a School Administrator Do?

School administrators, education supervisors, principals, deans and directors provide the high-level management and oversight of a school, department or district. As a school administrator, you'll supervise staff and policies of a day care center, elementary school, high school or postsecondary institution. You'll manage and govern school regulations for teacher and student activities, admissions, payroll, staffing and curricula. You'll delegate day-to-day tasks, though you'll need to be aware of major issues regarding the school. In many instances, you'll be the primary representative of your school, district and teachers.

What Education and License Will I Need?

In order to become a school administrator at any level, you need to earn a bachelor's degree, preferably in education or a related field. Many states also require that you earn a master's or doctorate degree in education administration. In these graduate programs, you'll usually choose the academic level you'd want to focus on, taking courses and conducting research specific to your interest. Possible options include elementary or secondary principal, special education administrator or adult education director.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most school administrators are teachers first, and those that work in public schools below the college level require a state-issued teaching license (www.bls.gov). In some states, you might be able to advance into a principal or director position at an elementary or high school with a teacher's certification; however, you'll usually need to either acquire an administrator endorsement or earn a license specific to school administrators. Requirements vary by state, but you might need a graduate degree, teaching experience and a qualifying score on a state or national examination. College and universities don't require licensure, though you should have a master's or doctorate degree and sufficient experience with administration requirements at the postsecondary level.

What's the Job Market Like?

The BLS reported that the number of jobs available for school administrators was expected to grow six percent for all academic levels between 2014-2024. Demand for preschool and child care center administrators was projected to increase 7% due to more working families enrolling children in daytime programs. Although elementary and high school principal, vice principal and other administrative jobs were only expected to see a six percent growth, the BLS anticipated more jobs would be needed as schools assumed greater responsibility for student performance. A 9% rise in available college and university administrative positions was foreseen, and student enrollment was expected to increase as more adults returned to school for retraining.

What Salary Can I Expect To Earn?

Your anticipated salary depends on the type of school you wish to supervise, your education, years of experience and location. According to the BLS in May 2015, school administrators at preschools and child care centers made a median annual wage of $45,670, with the highest paid working in Washington D.C. and Rhode Island. Elementary and secondary school administrators earned a median salary of $90,410, though those employed by schools often earned more than day care and educational support providers. At the college level, the median annual wage was $88,580; however, administrators from several states, including Delaware, New Jersey, Hawaii and Florida, made over $120,000 per year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You may also be interested in a career in teaching, which would only require a bachelor's in education, if you wanted to work more closely with students. If curriculum is of particular interest to you, you could also pursue a career as an instructional coordinator. These professionals design and deliver various curricula to schools and help them in the implementation process. A master's degree in an education field is also likely to be required for this job.

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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