Education administrators work in managerial and leadership roles in public and private preK-12 schools, school districts, postsecondary institutions, and other educational settings.
Job duties vary with workplace size, location, and role. Common responsibilities include directing student affairs, overseeing regulatory compliance, and supervising the admissions process. Individuals drawn to education administration are often passionate about both education and leadership, making this career path ideal.
Many education administration roles earn strong salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported median annual earnings of $66,970 for instructional coordinators and $98,490 for K-12 school principals as of 2020.
Most states require preK-12 school administrators to hold a master’s degree, supervised experience in the field, and a state-issued educational leadership certificate or license. To qualify for certification, prospective administrators may need to complete additional training.
In this guide, we explore the job prospects, typical responsibilities, and required education and certification for education administrators at the preK-12 school level.
History of Education Administrator
Education administration traces back to the mid-19th century when state boards began hiring superintendents to help run local schools.
Superintendents initially performed similar tasks to today’s administrative assistants. But the role changed in the early 20th century with the introduction of a standard public school curriculum. Superintendents became responsible for implementing the common curriculum.
Over the following years, the superintendent positions transitioned to the chief school administrator role. Local school administrators took over the day-to-day responsibilities of running schools.
Another major shift in education administration took place following the publication of the U.S. National Commission on Excellence in Education’s landmark 1983 report A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. The report concluded that America’s schools needed a major overhaul.
The publication sparked a school reform movement, increasing the need for education administrators who could oversee compliance with federal, state, and local requirements on student achievement and testing.
Similar Specializations and Career Paths
Education administrators enjoy many advancement opportunities. Individuals in entry-level leadership roles may progress to mid-level roles and then to top-level roles. Qualifying for top-level roles at preK-12 schools usually requires a master’s degree in educational leadership, certification or licensure, and several years of experience.
Titles and roles for education administrators vary with organizational type and size. Mid-level managerial roles include associate admissions director, assistant principal, and assistant superintendent. Financial director, human resources director, principal, and superintendent exemplify top-level leadership roles.
Earning a business degree may boost your promotion chances to similar top-level positions in education, such as finance director. But on-the-job training can often compensate for a lack of business school credentials.
Advancing to a top-level educational leadership position can entail a substantial salary boost. For example, the BLS reports a median annual salary of $121,220 for human resources directors, $97,500 for postsecondary education administrators, and $134,180 for financial managers as of 2020.
Degree-seekers considering a career in education administration may also want to look at similar occupations in preK-12 schools, postsecondary institutions, and private industry. The table below highlights some related opportunities.
|Career||Description||Required Education||Required Experience||Median Annual Salary|
|Postsecondary Education Administrators||Postsecondary education administrators manage day-to-day activities at colleges and universities.||Typically a master’s degree||Supervised work experience in a postsecondary administrative role preferred||$97,500|
|K-5 Teacher||K-5 teachers instruct students in subject areas like English, mathematics, or physical education.||Bachelor’s degree||Student teaching or postgraduate teacher preparation||$60,660|
|School and Career Counselors||School and career counselors work with students to improve their academic and social skills, and guide them in their future career choices.||Master’s degree||Practicum, internship, or state licensure||$58,120|
|Training and Development Managers||Training and development managers direct professional training programs for an organization’s employees.||Bachelor’s or master’s, depending on the post||Relevant professional experience||$115,640|
What Does an Education Administrator Do?
Most education administrators manage the day-to-day activities in schools and educational programs. In public preK-12 schools, the principal reports to the superintendent — the chief executive officer to the school district.
The typical job duties of preK-12 school administrators include recruiting and training staff, and assessing curriculum and teaching methodologies. They also oversee compliance with local, state and federal testing requirements, plus meet with superintendents, school boards, and government agencies.
The typical job duties of preK-12 school administrators include recruiting and training staff, and assessing curriculum and teaching methodologies.
An education administration career can be highly rewarding, but it also comes with its unique challenges. In school districts with limited access to funding, school administrators may encounter difficulties recruiting and retaining teachers, plus problems with student attendance.
Below, we list some characteristics and hard skills that can help education administrators overcome challenges and succeed in their jobs.
Key Soft Skills
- Reframing: Reframing is the ability to view difficult situations from different angles to gain a fuller picture of what is at stake and how to deal with it. This skill can help school administrators handle interpersonal conflicts and make confident decisions in their schools.
- Bias Awareness: Bias awareness involves a keen sense of how unconscious biases and microaggressions contribute to racial, gender, socioeconomic, and LGBTQ+ disparities. This characteristic can help school administrators maintain equity in their schools.
- Divergent Thinking: Divergent thinking is the capacity to leverage your imagination and creativity to devise new solutions to problems. This characteristic can help education administrators overcome obstacles, streamline operations, and devise new objectives.
- Active Listening: Active listening is the ability to listen to and process what others are saying. This characteristic can help school administrators succeed, as it encourages other teachers, students, and other administrators to confide in them and solicit their advice.
Key Hard Skills
- Knowledge of preK-12 Education: Education administrators’ responsibilities include working with teachers to improve student outcomes and address the unique challenges they face. To succeed at this task, these professionals must possess extensive knowledge of learning and assessment policies.
- Strategic Planning Skills: Education administrators need strong strategic planning skills to create and implement a vision for their school’s future. This ability is pivotal to the success of school leadership positions, such as principals, assistant principals, and superintendents.
- Leadership Skills: Successful education administrators possess robust leadership skills in management, conflict resolution, team building, and regulatory compliance. Professionals with these abilities can help improve school quality, student success, and teacher retention.
- Team Management: Educational leaders need strong team management skills to successfully oversee teachers and school staff in-person and remotely. This skillset is helpful for school administrators, especially in districts that regularly require staff to move online.
A Day in the Life of an Education Administrator
Education administrators’ job duties vary across school types, school sizes, and administrative roles. But common responsibilities include preparing class schedules, coordinating admissions, and overseeing compliance with school policies and legislation.
Education Administrator Salary and Career Outlook
Education administration offers various career opportunities. Available roles include instructional coordinator, director of academic advancement, dean of student affairs, and school principal. Professionals in this field enjoy opportunities to excel as leaders in their field and advocate for social causes like education equity.
The BLS projects 4% growth for principals and 6% growth for instructional coordinators from 2019-29.
Education administration also provides solid employment prospects. The BLS projects 4% growth for principals and 6% growth for instructional coordinators from 2019-29. These projected growth rates meet or exceed the average for all jobs.
Salaries for educational administrators vary depending on specialization, location, industry, experience and education. For example, the median annual salaries are $66,970 for instructional coordinators and $98,490 for K-12 school principals as of 2020, according to the BLS.
Annual Average Salary
How to Become an Education Administrator
PreK-12 school administrators must typically hold a master’s degree from an accredited school and state-issued license or certification. Many states also require 1-2 years of experience in a supervised education administration role.
A master’s degree takes approximately 1-2 years of full-time study, depending on the specialty area. The time commitment for certification varies across states, but satisfying the postgraduate prerequisites normally takes at least 1-2 years.
To learn more about the typical steps required to become an education administration, you can review the pages linked below.
Steps to Becoming an Education Administrator
This page reviews the steps involved in earning education administrator credentials, education and experience requirements, and the certification process.
Master's in Education Administration Degree Programs
On this page, you can explore typical coursework, available concentrations, and certification requirements for master’s in education administration programs.
Online Master's in Higher Education Administration
This overview details the application process, required coursework, and typical education costs for online master’s programs in higher education administration.
General Education and Teaching Degree Programs
In this guide, you can find information about the different types of general education and teaching degrees, job outlook and salary expectations, and career opportunities at different degree levels.
Resources for Education Administrators
Professional Organizations for Education Administrators
Association of Educational Service Agencies
AESA promotes the interests of educational service agencies and provides a variety of opportunities for members, including professional development, legislative advocacy, and funding for research projects. AESA members comprise school administrators and other staff, educational service agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
The School Superintendents Association
Founded in 1865, AASA provides support to more than 13,000 educational administrators across the globe, including prospective school system leaders, faculty, top-level education administrators, superintendents, and cabinet members. The association also advocates for schools in underfunded districts, and underrepresented K-12 students.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
A membership organization for teachers and school administrators, ASCD provides a variety of services for its members, such as webinars, conferences, networking events, and informational materials. They also publish a magazine titled Educational Leaders.
Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents
ALAS seeks to identify and promote Latino/a school administrators and improve the academic achievements of Latino/a preK-12 students. The association offers a wealth of resources for its members, including workshops, networking events, newsletters, and job postings.
Learn More About Education Administrators
How to Become an Education Administrator
This overview details the academic credentials, certifications/licensure, and professional experience needed to become an education administrator.
Salary and Career Outlook for Education Administrators
This page reviews the job prospects and salary expectations, the top-paying and top-employing locations, and opportunities for upward mobility for education administrations.
Day in the Life of an Education Administrator
This guide offers insights into career opportunities, frequent responsibilities, and the top job locations of education administrators.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is education administration?
Educational administration is a broad occupational field, comprising a variety of roles, including instructional coordinators, deans of student affairs, athletic directors, principals, and superintendents.
What degree do you need to work in education administration?
To work in education administration, you typically need a master’s degree from an accredited school and educational leadership certification or licensure. If you do not hold a master’s in educational leadership, you may also need to complete a leadership program.
What degree do you need to become a principal?
To become a principal, you must typically hold a master’s degree and certification or licensure in education administration. You may also need to complete state-approved leadership training. Some states also require preK-12 teaching experience.
Why become an education administrator?
Education administrators enjoy opportunities to advance in their field and make meaningful contributions to the educational system.
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