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What Is School Administration?

Those wondering 'what is a school administrator?' or 'what is school administration?' can learn about these terms here. We also further discuss a career as a school administrator, including salary, educational requirements and job duties.

School Administrator Definition

School administration involves the management of all school operations, from creating a safe learning environment to managing the school budget. To further define school administration, one needs to consider the different areas of school administration and who performs these school administrative duties.

School administrators are the professionals who, as a whole, carry out these different administrative tasks that keep a school running smoothly. At elementary, middle, and high schools, school administration is typically led by a principal and, depending on the school, may also include assistant principals, instructional coordinators, athletic directors, and other support staff. School administrators could also be superintendents, who help oversee multiple schools in a district.

Higher Education Administration Definition

School administration at the postsecondary level becomes a little more intricate as colleges and universities are typically much larger and are organized differently than primary and secondary schools. Higher education may split school administration duties into areas like admissions, student affairs, the registrar's office, and academic areas that are overseen by deans or provosts. Each of these areas has its own set of administrative duties that are needed to serve students and keep the school running. For example, postsecondary education administrators in admissions help determine which students should be admitted, while administrators in student affairs help advise students and plan programs for students once they arrive on campus.

How to Work in School Administration

The requirements for becoming a school administrator also vary by job title and the level of education that one plans to work at. At primary and secondary schools, most principals need teaching experience, a master's degree, and school administration certification.

Typically, school principals need a master's degree in educational leadership or educational administration. These degree programs are commonly available in online formats and may be offered as Master of Science (MS), Master of Education (MEd), or Master of Science in Education (MSEd) degree programs. These programs help prepare aspiring principals for licensure, but some programs may include a non-licensure track. Many of these programs also include hands-on learning experiences through internships.

Students wondering how to get school administration certification usually need to find out the specific requirements for their state. Most principals in public schools are required to pass an exam and background check to earn a state license.

At the postsecondary level, most postsecondary education administrators also need a master's degree, but some positions may only require a bachelor's degree. Experience working in a postsecondary administrative office is also beneficial. Other positions, such as provosts and deans, usually require a doctoral degree. These positions are commonly held by professors to have advanced to the position.

School Administrator Job Description

As we have seen, the job duties for a school administrator vary by position, but in general, all school administrators work full-time to help provide a safe and high-quality learning environment and educational experience for students. At the elementary, middle, and high school levels, this work is demonstrated best by school principals, who may be responsible for duties such as:

  • Overseeing teachers and support staff
  • Disciplining students
  • Implementing curriculum standards
  • Creating class schedules
  • Setting rules and security procedures
  • Monitoring student achievement data
  • Handling the school budget
  • Communicating with parents as needed

School Administrator Salary and Job Growth

In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that elementary, middle and high school principals made a median annual salary of $95,310. At the postsecondary level, education administrators made a median annual salary of $94,340 in the same year. Job growth for elementary, middle and high school principals and postsecondary education administrators was projected to be 4% and 7%, respectively, between 2018 and 2028.