BLS Salary and Wage Data

Education Administrator Careers

Are you a leader with strong interpersonal and communication skills? Do you have the administrative knowledge required to manage daily activities of schools? Then you might be ready for a career as an education administrator.

Via the BLS* ...

Nature of the Work

Successful operation of an educational institution requires competent administrators. Education administrators provide instructional leadership and manage the day-to-day activities in schools, preschools, day care centers, and colleges and universities. They also direct the educational programs of businesses, correctional institutions, museums, and job training and community service organizations. (College presidents and school superintendents are covered in the Handbook statement on general managers and top executives.)

Education administrators set educational standards and goals and establish the policies and procedures required to achieve them. They also supervise managers, support staff, teachers, counselors, librarians, coaches, and other employees. They develop academic programs, monitor students’ educational progress, train and motivate teachers and other staff, manage career counseling and other student services, administer recordkeeping, prepare budgets, and perform many other duties. They also handle relations with parents, prospective and current students, employers, and the community. In a smaller organization such as a small day care center, one administrator may handle all these functions. In universities or large school systems, responsibilities are divided among many administrators, each with a specific function.

Educational administrators who manage elementary, middle, and secondary schools are called principals. They set the academic tone and work actively with teachers to develop and maintain high curriculum standards, formulate mission statements, and establish performance goals and objectives. Principals confer with staff to advise, explain, or answer procedural questions. They hire and evaluate teachers and other staff. They visit classrooms, observe teaching methods, review instructional objectives, and examine learning materials. Principals must use clear, objective guidelines for teacher appraisals, because principals’ pay often is based on performance ratings.

Principals also meet with other administrators and students, parents, and representatives of community organizations. Decision-making authority increasingly has shifted from school district central offices to individual schools. School principals have greater flexibility in setting school policies and goals, but when making administrative decisions, they must pay attention to the concerns of parents, teachers, and other members of the community.

Principals also are responsible for preparing budgets and reports on various subjects, such as finances, attendance and student performance. As school budgets become tighter, many principals have become more involved in public relations and fundraising to secure financial support for their schools from local businesses and the community.

Principals ensure that students meet national, state, and local academic standards. Many principals develop partnerships with local businesses and school-to-work transition programs for students. Principals must be sensitive to the needs of a rising number of non-English-speaking students and a culturally diverse student body. In some areas, growing enrollments are a cause for concern, because they lead to overcrowding at many schools. When addressing problems of inadequate resources, administrators serve as advocates for the building of new schools or the repair of existing ones. During the summer months, principals are responsible for planning for the upcoming year, overseeing summer school, participating in workshops for teachers and administrators, supervising building repairs and improvements, and working to make sure that the school has adequate staff for the upcoming school year.

Work environment. Education administrators hold leadership positions with significant responsibility. Most find working with students extremely rewarding, but as the responsibilities of administrators have increased in recent years, so has the stress. Coordinating and interacting with faculty, parents, students, community members, business leaders, and State and local policymakers can be fast paced and stimulating, but also stressful and demanding. Principals and assistant principals, whose duties include disciplining students, may find working with difficult students challenging. They also are increasingly being held accountable for their schools meeting State and Federal guidelines for student performance and teacher qualifications.

About 35 percent of education administrators worked more than 40 hours a week in 2008; they often supervise school activities at night and on weekends. Most administrators work year round, although some work only during the academic year.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Most education administrators begin their careers as teachers and prepare for advancement into education administration by completing a master’s or doctoral degree. Because of the diversity of duties and levels of responsibility, educational backgrounds and experience vary considerably among these workers.

Education and training. Principals, assistant principals, central office administrators, academic deans, and preschool directors usually have held teaching positions before moving into administration. Some teachers move directly into principal positions; others first become assistant principals or gain experience in other administrative jobs at either the school or district level in positions such as department head, curriculum specialist, or subject matter advisor.

In most public schools, principals, assistant principals, and school district administrators need a master’s degree in education administration or educational leadership. Some principals and central office administrators have a doctorate or specialized degree in education administration. In private schools, some principals and assistant principals hold only a bachelor’s degree, but the majority of principals have a master’s or doctoral degree.

Educational requirements for administrators of preschools and child care centers vary with the setting of the program and the State of employment. Administrators who oversee preschool programs in public schools often are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Child care directors who supervise private programs typically are not required to have a degree; however, most States require a preschool education credential, which often includes some postsecondary coursework. 

College and university academic deans and chairpersons usually advance from professorships in their departments, for which they need a master’s or doctoral degree; further education is not typically necessary. Admissions, student affairs, and financial aid directors and registrars sometimes start in related staff jobs with bachelor’s degrees—any field usually is acceptable—and obtain advanced degrees in college student affairs, counseling, or higher education administration. A Ph.D. or Ed.D. usually is necessary for top student affairs positions. Computer literacy and a background in accounting or statistics may be assets in admissions, records, and financial work.

Advanced degrees in higher education administration, educational leadership, and college student affairs are offered in many colleges and universities. Education administration degree programs include courses in school leadership, school law, school finance and budgeting, curriculum development and evaluation, research design and data analysis, community relations, politics in education, and counseling. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) accredit programs designed for elementary and secondary school administrators. Although completion of an accredited program is not required, it may assist in fulfilling licensure requirements.

Licensure and certification. Most states require principals to be licensed as school administrators. License requirements vary by state, but nearly all states require either a master’s degree or some other graduate-level training. Some states also require candidates for licensure to pass a test. On-the-job training, often with a mentor, is increasingly required or recommended for new school leaders. Some states require administrators to take continuing education courses to keep their license, thus ensuring that administrators have the most up-to-date skills. The number and types of courses required to maintain licensure vary by state. Principals in private schools are not subject to State licensure requirements.

Nearly all states require child care and preschool center directors to be licensed. Licensing usually requires a number of years of experience or hours of coursework or both. Sometimes, it requires a college degree. Often, directors also are required to earn a general preschool education credential, such as the Child Development Associate credential (CDA) sponsored by the Council for Professional Recognition, or some other credential designed specifically for directors. One credential designed specifically for directors is the National Administration Credential, offered by the National Child Care Association. The credential requires experience and training in child care center management.

There usually are no licensing requirements for administrators at postsecondary institutions.

Other qualifications. To be considered for education administrator positions, workers must first prove themselves in their current jobs. In evaluating candidates, supervisors look for leadership, determination, confidence, innovativeness, and motivation. The ability to make sound decisions and to organize and coordinate work efficiently is essential. Because much of an administrator’s job involves interacting with others, a person in such a position must have strong interpersonal skills and be an effective communicator and motivator. Knowledge of leadership principles and practices, gained through work experience and formal education, is important. A familiarity with computer technology is a necessity for many of these workers as computers are used to perform their basic job duties and they may be responsible for coordinating technical resources for students, teachers, and classrooms.

Advancement. Education administrators advance through promotion to higher level administrative positions or by transferring to comparable positions at larger schools or systems. They also may become superintendents of school systems or presidents of educational institutions.

Employment

Education administrators held about 445,400 jobs in 2008. Of these, about 58,900 were held by preschool or child care administrators, about 230,600 by elementary or secondary school administrators, and 124,600 by postsecondary administrators. The great majority—more than 81 percent—worked in public or private educational institutions. Most of the remainder worked in child day care centers.

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If you’re interested in a career as an education administrator, fill out the form on the right — you’ll be contacted by an admissions counselor at a school that offers degrees related to education administration.

*The following information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Teachers—Postsecondary

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