Becoming a School Administrator: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a school administrator? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a school administrator is right for you.
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School Administrator Career: Pros and Cons

A career as a school administrator can cover the entire span of the educational experience, from childcare center director to university president. Take a look at the pros and cons of this broad occupation to decide if there's a place for you.

Pros of a Career as a School Administrator
Variety of work environments (daycare centers, public schools, college campuses)*
Some occupations, such as childcare center director, growing rapidly (a predicted growth of 17% from 2012-2022)*
New options, such as online schools, creating more job opportunities*
Opportunity to improve education for students*

Cons of a Career as a School Administrator
Economy may slow job growth due to budget cuts in local governments and school districts*
Some positions, such as college president and school superintendent, require doctorate*
Some jobs, including childcare center director and school principal, require licensing*
Can be stressful due to responsibilities to manage staff, parents, and children*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Career Options and Job Descriptions

Your duties as a school administrator depend on the type of school where you're employed, but in every case, the job entails leading staff, overseeing operations and developing plans and budgets. For example, a childcare center director must ensure that the facilities, curriculum and staff meet state regulations, and that the building and grounds are clean and safe. A school principal's duties include reviewing test scores and other data to assess the students' academic progress. While the principal is responsible for only one school, the school superintendent oversees every school in a district and makes recommendations to the school board while carrying out their wishes.

Postsecondary administrators work in colleges or universities. Administrators may work in the admissions office, determining who should get into the school, or in the registrar's office, keeping records of students and classes. A provost, or academic dean, is in charge of the operation of a particular college or school, such as the journalism school.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that job prospects vary for school administrators. The BLS predicted that employment of childcare center directors would grow by 17% from 2012-2022, faster than average for other occupations. Postsecondary administrators can expect 15% job growth during this period, the BLS predicted, due to increases in enrollment, especially at online colleges and universities.

Conversely, the BLS predicted that employment of high-level elementary and secondary education administrators and superintendents would grow three to seven percent from 2012-2022 because, regardless of enrollment increases, a school only needs one chief executive officer. Employment of school principals was expected to grow six percent, slower than the national average, during that same 10-year period.

Salary Info

Like the specific duties of each administrative job, salaries for school administrators depend upon the position. According to Salary.com, the median annual salary for a school superintendent was approximately $147,000 as of May 2014, while the BLS said a childcare center director earned a median salary of about $45,000 as of 2014. The BLS reported the 2014 median salaries of a school principal and a college administrator at approximately $89,540 and $88,390, respectively.

Training and Licensing Requirements

Education

Since the jobs are diverse, so are the educational requirements for school administrators. Most principals, university presidents, academic deans and school superintendents began their careers as teachers. School superintendents and university presidents generally hold doctoral degrees in the subjects they originally taught or in education administration. Childcare center directors may have only high school diplomas or GED certificates, although some states require associate's or bachelor's degrees in early childhood education. Public school principals usually have master's degrees in education administration or leadership.

You can get an entry-level job in postsecondary administration with a bachelor's degree in nearly any subject, but in order to advance you'll want to earn a master's or doctorate. Deans usually have a Ph.D. in the subject they taught, but some hold doctorates in higher education.

Licensure and Certification

Most states require that principals, childcare directors and school superintendents hold licenses or certifications that are earned by meeting educational and experience requirements and passing a test. Many must take continuing education classes to renew the licenses. Some states mandate that childcare center directors earn nationally recognized certification from a professional association.

Useful Skills

Although the workplaces are very different, the skills necessary to succeed as a school administrator are quite similar in all settings. School administrators must be:

  • Decisive
  • Excellent communicators
  • Personable
  • Organized

What Employers Are Seeking

In addition to listing education and experience requirements, many job postings for school administrators state the organization's goals and the wish for someone who can contribute to meeting them. Here is a sampling of what real employers were seeking in job postings from May 2012:

  • A college in Washington was looking for a dean of education who could lead students toward personal and professional growth. The individual must have a master's degree, 5 years experience in adult education and experience working with vendors and employers. Superior computer skills in Microsoft Office Suite were mandatory.
  • In Massachusetts, a university was looking for an assistant dean of students with a master's degree in liberal arts, education, student personnel or a related field. This person must be able to analyze situations and manage crises.
  • A school system in Delaware sought a superintendent with a Delaware School Leader II Certification. He or she must have a documented record of improving student achievement.
  • In Iowa, a school system was looking for an experienced elementary school principal with data-driven decision making skills. The posting also mentions having the ability to develop professional relationships.

How to Stand out

Joining a professional association can help you secure a position as a school administrator. Organizations such as the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) give you the opportunity to meet and network with educational leaders in your area at conferences and meetings that are held throughout the year. You'll also have access to online courses and workshops throughout the country that can help you build your expertise in increasing student achievement, an area that employers focus on when they look for job candidates.

A professional association can also help you obtain certification, which will help to distinguish you from other job candidates. The National Association of Child Care Professionals (NACCP) offers coursework that helps childcare center directors obtain a Child Development Associate (CDA) certification from the Council for Professional Recognition. You can additionally take advantage of a professional association's continuing education courses in order to stay on top of issues that affect your industry, such as pending legislation and changes in regulations.

Other Career Options

Teacher

If you'd rather skip the bureaucracy of being an administrator and teach students directly, there are many options open to you as a teacher. As a teacher, you can work with students ranging from preschoolers to adults. You'll create lesson plans, teach classes, grade papers and meet with students, administrators and, depending on the grade level, parents. In many cases, you'll get summers off. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to teach in grades K-12, while it generally takes a doctoral degree to teach in college.

Elementary through high school teachers made a median salary of around $54,000 as of May 2011, the BLS reported, while the salary of college teachers varied depending on their subject. Education teachers, for example, had a median salary of about $59,000, according to the BLS, while economics teachers made a median salary of about $85,000.

Instructional Coordinator

Enjoy the educational process, but don't want to deal with students or the public? Consider becoming an instructional coordinator, someone who supervises the curriculum and teaching standards in a subject, such as social studies or math, for a school district. As an instructional coordinator, you'll work with administrators and teachers to implement new methods and make sure academic standards are upheld. You'll need a master's degree in curriculum and instruction or a similar field and possibly a master's in the subject in which you specialize. Some districts require teaching or administration experience. You may need a teaching license or an administrator's license; state requirements vary.

The BLS predicted that employment of instructional coordinators would increase by 20% from 2010-2020, faster than average for all occupations, due to an increasing emphasis on teaching effectiveness. The BLS reported that the median annual salary for an instructional coordinator was $59,000 in May 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
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  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Higher Education Leadership
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership in - K-12 Leadership
      • EdS in K-12 Leadership
    Master's
      • M.Ed. in Educational Administration
      • M.Ed. in Educational Leadership
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
      • M.Ed. in Elementary Education
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Educational Studies (Does Not Lead to Teacher Licensure)
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Christian Education
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Education - Organizational Leadership
      • PhD - International Education
      • Ed.D. - Educational Leadership
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      • M.Ed. - Organizational Leadership
      • M.Ed. - Higher Education Leadership
      • M.Ed. - International Education
      • Master of Education in Educational Leadership
      • M.Ed. - Corporate Wellness
      • M.Ed. - Adult Learning and Workforce Education
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Instructional Leadership
      • Education Specialist - Educational Leadership
      • Education Specialist - Leadership in Higher Education
      • Education Specialist - Global Training and Development
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Education Specialist - E-Learning
  • Campus and Online Programs
    4. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Instructional Design and Technology
    Certificate
      • Cert - Instructional Design and Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    5. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Higher Education - College Admin./Leadership
      • Master: Higher Education - Student Affairs
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    7. City University of Seattle

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. Leadership
    Bachelor's
      • B.A. Education
    Certificate
      • Executive Leadership: Superintendent Certification
      • Contemporary School Leadership
      • Transformational School Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Literacy
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
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  • Online Programs Available
    9. Lewis University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA in Organizational Leadership - Higher Education - Student Services
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Education - Special Education and Wilson Reading System Certification
      • MS in Organizational Development and Leadership

Featured Schools

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
  • M.Ed. in Educational Administration
  • B.S. in Educational Studies (Does Not Lead to Teacher Licensure)

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Organizational Leadership
  • M.Ed. - Organizational Leadership
  • Education Specialist - Instructional Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • MS - Instructional Design and Technology
  • Cert - Instructional Design and Technology

What is your highest level of education?

American University

  • Master of Science in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master: Higher Education - College Admin./Leadership
  • Master: Higher Education - Student Affairs
  • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)

Which subject are you interested in?

City University of Seattle

  • Ed.D. Leadership
  • B.A. Education
  • Executive Leadership: Superintendent Certification

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint John's University

  • Ph.D. in Literacy
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education

What is your highest level of education?