Education administrators oversee schools and their activities. These professionals, who often assume titles like school principals or deans, typically supervise staff and communicate with parents and students.
As a leadership position, education administration offers excellent salary and growth potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 4% job growth from 2019-2029 for elementary, middle, and high school principals. The median annual salary for principals reaches $98,490, over $30,000 more than teachers.
Education administrators guide students and faculty. These leaders often head disciplinary actions, school activities, and performance benchmarks. Developing curriculum standards, reviewing student applications, and establishing security procedures may also fall under an education administrator's daily responsibilities.
Official duties for education administrators vary among facilities and grade levels. This page covers what an education administrator's typical day looks like.
What Is an Education Administrator?
Although this profession has roots in 17th-century education, administrators were not common in schools until the 19th century. Education's transition from religious and community studies to reading, writing, science, and other academic disciplines required more responsibility from teachers. The education administrator role was developed to relieve some duties from teachers and provide a firm foundation for school policies.
Education administrators manage several aspects of a school. Duties include choosing a curriculum, coordinating services and activities, and organizing professional development programs. Because the typical day for an education administrator heavily involves supervision, these leaders often hold a master's degree in education or a related field, plus a few years of teaching experience.
What an Education Administrator Does
Education administrators' primary roles include managing faculty and students, along with directing school operations. People in this position report to higher-level administrators, like superintendents. They also interact with administrative staff, teachers, parents, students, and service providers to coordinate activities, evaluations, and meetings.
This critical educational role takes some responsibilities off of teachers. Educators can focus on teaching rather than administrative tasks, curriculum development, and recording student performance data. These responsibilities fall on education administrators.
Because these leaders wear many different hats, multitasking and time management can prove challenging. Education administrators must ensure that teachers adhere to teaching and professional development standards and students adhere to school policies. Although a school's administrative staff covers paperwork and scheduling, education administrators oversee multiple administrative processes.
As education administrators gain experience in their roles, they can move on to more advanced positions, such as superintendent roles. Superintendents oversee school districts. Education administrators may also become college or university deans, education policymakers, and education consultants.
Main Responsibilities of Education Administrators
- Hire and Oversee Faculty: Education administrators set standards for hiring administrative staff, teachers, and other faculty. Administrators may review applications, set up interviews, and hire new staff. They also hold meetings with educators to ensure they have necessary resources to perform well.
- Plan Academic Calendars: Before the school year begins, education administrators — often school district superintendents — must plan the calendar that teachers and students follow. This calendar may include holidays and professional development days. Education administrators may also decide when schools must close and notify families and faculty of calendar changes.
- Create and Update School Policies: Schools have policies in place for faculty and students to adhere to. Depending on their position, education administrators may create district-wide or school-specific policies that govern issues like attendance, dress code, and academic and behavioral expectations. Administrators must also review and update policies as needed.
- Participate in Budget Planning: District and school administrators participate in budget planning. District education administrators focus on budget issues like transportation and food services. School administrators budget for school-specific expenses, like classroom supplies, school activities, and assemblies. Budget-planning typically happens before a school year, but administrators may need to make adjustments throughout the year.
- Oversee Class Rosters and Schedules: Before beginning the school year, education administrators sort teachers and students into their classes. School counselors usually create and modify middle and high school students' schedules to coordinate class-switching throughout the day. However, school administrators oversee the scheduling process for accuracy.
Nonstandard Duties for Education Administrators
- Manage School Admissions: The admission process for college administrators may entail reviewing applications, conducting interviews, and verifying documentation. Education administrators may also oversee or conduct new student orientations and coordinate services for new students.
- Oversee Higher Education Financial Aid: Some education administrators specialize in a specific aspect of education, like financial aid. Financial aid administrators work in colleges and universities to counsel students on financial aid options and help them plan for their studies. These professionals also coordinate financial aid packages and disburse money to the student and school.
- Hold Student Meetings: Education administrators mostly communicate with faculty, but school administrators sometimes hold private meetings with students and their families. These meetings may discuss disciplinary action, develop or update individualized education programs (IEPs), or set goals for students transitioning out of school.
- Give School Tours: Depending on the school, administrative staff or volunteer committees often coordinate and conduct school tours for prospective students. However, some smaller private schools and colleges with fewer faculty members may rely on education administrators to do the job. These administrators may speak with students before their tour.
- Oversee and Direct Events: Event and activity planning committees often consist of students, teachers, and other faculty members. These committees may need to seek approval for their plans from a school administrator. Some events may require further approval from a district administrator.
A Typical Day for an Education Administrator
Education administrators' responsibilities may differ depending on educational level. A preschool administrator's typical day may look different from that of a college or district administrator. Still, education administrators at all levels have similar roles.
Meeting with parents and caregivers, faculty, and other administrators are integral to administrative positions. These meetings may cover issues like school policies, budgeting, and activity planning. Education administrators might also use meetings to offer professional development activities and lectures to faculty. Sometimes, meetings with students occur to discuss academic goals and disciplinary actions.
Activity management is another daily responsibility for education administrators. Potential duties include planning student recess, planning staff breaks, welcoming volunteers, and coordinating services for school events. Administrators might also show guests around the school and introduce speakers at assemblies.
Education administrators must also hire and interview faculty, plus update class schedules or rosters. These leaders also collect and record student academic progress and school demographic data to help teachers plan their lessons based on their students' needs.
Additionally, education administrators oversee school operations and faculty to ensure compliance and efficiency. Evaluating teacher performance, reviewing school policies, and supervising administrative tasks are ongoing duties throughout the school year.
Professional Spotlight: Mark Jacobs, Dean of Students
What previous experience(s) did you have in this (or a related) field (professionally, as a volunteer, etc.), if any, and what prompted your journey to become an education administrator?
With a Ph.D. in biology, I was a professor of biology at a liberal arts college at the start of my career, and I found I was slightly impatient in academic meetings in which folks were talking a lot but not moving toward solutions they had convened to address. When a psychology student did a study of our department while learning how to administer a Meyers-Briggs personality test, I thought I would end up categorized as an educator or scientist, but I tested out as “field marshall.” This made me realize that perhaps I was good at getting meetings and groups of people to move ahead toward their goals, and I got slowly into administration, first as a department chair, then as an associate provost of the college. I was head-hunted by a search firm for my current position as dean.
For whom do you think this career is a good fit? Why?
I think being an academic administrator is a good fit for positive people who are optimists, since one has to not only be good at framing goals for large groups, but also good at encouraging the group to strive to achieve them. One must be a good communicator, and one must want to bring about change on a larger scale than just a personal office or laboratory. One must also value reaching a consensus and compromising to do so.
What educational path did you take to become an education administrator? Did you pursue additional education at any point? What was your educational experience like?
I liked being a professor, and I loved working with college students in class and outside with their projects and activities. I just began to feel that I could help more students gain a good education if I could operate at a higher level to administer entire good programs for them instead of only coaching them one-on-one. I volunteered for administrative positions at first — assistant chair of the department, administrator of a large grant from a national agency given to the college — and then was appointed to them as people noticed that I was good at running programs. I never went through a certification process or additional education to be a dean; the learning happened “on the jobs” as I progressed through them. There is no “school for deans” or master's program for deans, just serving people well and rising to a rank at which you are satisfied with the influence you are having over students’ success.
What certifications or tests did you need to pass, if any, to enter the field and/or progress in your career?
No certification was necessary except on-the-job experience. At each stage there is some sort of selection committee that interviews you, and that group usually asks a broad set of questions about your previous experience and how you handled particular situations in your past that they feel are relevant to the current position.
What's a typical day like for you?
The day is often comprised of six or seven straight one-hour meetings. Students I talk to about this often say “that sounds horrible,” but the key is that the meetings are all important, making decisions about the allocation of thousands of dollars or the futures of several faculty members, whether promoting them or hiring them. The meetings have big consequences, and consequences for the education of bright students, so they are actually all interesting. Large parts of other days are taken up with college activities, such as parents' weekend, homecoming, award festivities, meeting with prospective students or guest speaker introductions and speeches.
What's your favorite part of being an education administrator? The most challenging part?
My favorite part is interacting with students: in class, at activities around campus, in my office discussing their future plans and their applications to graduate schools, special scholarships and summer internships.
The most challenging part is the commitment you must have to helping faculty, staff, and students face and overcome barriers to their plans and dreams. You cannot be a good leader without putting in the energy to keep your team intact and happy, and that takes a lot of time… worthwhile time, but a challenge nonetheless.
What advice do you have for individuals considering becoming an education administrator?
Be sure you like people and delight in their diversity. Be very good at communicating with people. Be approachable, and have a thick skin and a short memory, because people make mistakes — even in what they say to you — and then change for the better, so dealing with them at a later stage makes it important that you can forgive and forget.
What do you wish you'd known before becoming an education administrator?
The overriding importance of money and budgets. Very little can get done in education administration without financial support.
Mark Jacobs is the dean of Barrett Honors College and a professor in the School of Life Sciences at ASU. He came to ASU in the fall of 2003 from Swarthmore College, where he held an endowed chair in biology and had been both chair of the biology department and the associate provost of the college. He received his BA magna cum laude from Harvard in biology and earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University in biological sciences. A Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, Jacobs is the author of more than 50 publications on the physiological and molecular control of plant development. For 12 years, he was the associate editor in chief of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, an international plant science journal. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania; Cambridge University; the University of California, Santa Cruz; and Universitat Freiburg in Germany, where he held a NATO postdoctoral fellowship. He also teaches an honors seminar on the history and evolution of human food.
Where Education Administrators Work
Education administrators work in preschools, grade schools, and colleges and universities across the United States. Texas, California, and New York employed the most kindergarten through secondary school administrators as of May 2020. Postsecondary education administrators saw the most employment opportunities in Massachusetts, Texas, and New York.
Most school communities need these leaders, so rural and metropolitan areas both offer relevant positions. However, more populated areas typically have higher employment needs to fill positions in multiple districts and schools.
Location may also affect education administrators' salaries. BLS data notes that New York pays kindergarten through secondary administrators a median annual wage of $141,020 in 2020. However, the median yearly wage for the same position in Idaho is $81,490. Similarly, New York pays postsecondary administrators the country's highest median annual salary of 1163,010. New Mexico offers one of the lowest median salaries for this postsecondary administrators at $83,900.
Individuals should consider which school setting and position best suits their needs. Postsecondary administrators typically earn higher average salaries than kindergarten through secondary school administrators. However, positions beyond the school building, like superintendent and special education supervisor, may also come with higher salaries or more advanced job duties.
Should You Become an Education Administrator?
Those with leadership skills seeking education careers might pursue education administrator jobs. Learners must complete a bachelor's degree, obtain teaching licensure, and gain teaching experience.
The process may take longer if a district requires education administrators to hold master's degrees. However, some school districts or colleges may allow experienced teachers to move into administrative roles without first earning a master's.
An education administration career is not for everyone. The following table explores some potential pros and cons.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Working in Education Administration
- Excellent salary potential
- Work with diverse students and families
- Make a difference in students' academics and lives
- Career advancement potential
- Varied and exciting job duties
- A challenging schedule
- Several daily responsibilities and tasks to complete
- Average job growth potential
- Some districts may require an advanced degree in education
How to Prepare for a Career in Education Administration
Education administrators kick off their careers with a bachelor's degree in education or a related field. Education administrators typically start as teachers before gaining on-the-job experience or advanced degrees to transition to school leadership.
Most states require these leaders to obtain school administrator licensure. Prerequisites often include a teaching license in good standing for several years, plus a relevant master's degree. Educators can contact their state's board of education to learn specific licensing requirements.
Juggling a demanding teaching career with a master's program can prove challenging. Learners might consider an online master's degree in educational administration for more flexibility.
Teachers may also receive financial assistance through federal aid programs or their school districts. For example, some teachers qualify for up to $17,500 of student loan forgiveness.
Learn More About Education Administrators
What Is an Education Administrator?
Education administrators play an indispensable role in all grade levels. Learn about the typical duties and responsibilities for education administrators.
How to Become an Education Administrator
Education administration requires a degree in an education-related field. Learn how to advance in this career, and understand prerequisites for becoming an education administrator.
Salary and Career Outlook for Education Administrators
Explore up-to-date salary information for education administrators based on data from the BLS and other agencies. Additionally, learn what the future of education administration looks like based on its growth potential over the next few years.
Online Master's Degrees in Education Administration
An online master's degree in education administration can advance leaders' careers and strengthen their skill sets. Browse some of the best master's options to earn a flexible online degree.
Frequently Asked Questions
The typical day for an education administrator is busy and varied. These leaders face a new set of challenges each day, working to provide the best solutions for a school, faculty, and students.
Education administrators oversee schools' operations, policies, teachers, and students. These professionals also work with families and communities to provide learning tools, activities, and beneficial procedures to schools and students.
According to The School Superintendent Administration, school administrators generally work more days than teachers. A typical school year lasts 160-180 days, but school administrators may work more than 200 days per year.
School principals welcome students and staff, complete administrative tasks, and oversee school functions daily. They also visit classrooms, attend meetings, and plan the school budget and events. Principals sometimes meet with students and families to discuss IEPs and goals.
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