Careers in Educational Leadership
Within educational leadership, you have a wide range of career options. These include preschool director; elementary, middle or high school principal; and postsecondary academic administrator. Here they are, at a glance:
|Preschool Director||Principal||Postsecondary Academic Administrator|
|Career Overview||Preschool directors manage the staff, budget and daily affairs of a preschool||Principals set goals, gauge progress and manage the daily activities of an elementary, middle or secondary school||Postsecondary academic administrators manage admissions, registration, student affairs, research and academics at colleges, universities, technical schools and community colleges|
|Education Requirements||Associate's degree or bachelor's degree||Master's degree||Master's degree for most positions; doctorate for provost or dean positions|
|Program Length||1-2 years for an associate's degree; about 4 years for a bachelor's degree||1-2 years for a master's degree||1-2 years for a master's; 3-4 years after the master's for a doctoral degree|
|Certification and Licensing||Licensing as school director and certification as child care or development professional is required in some states||Licensing as school administrator is required in most states||Licensure is rarely an issue at this level|
|Experience Required||Varies widely; 1-3 years of administrative experience and teaching experience with young children are often required||About 5-8 years of experience, often a combination of teaching and administration||Varies depending on type of administration job; some admissions jobs are entry-level; registrar and provost or dean jobs may require around 2-5 years of experience|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||7%*||6% (for all elementary and secondary education administrators)*||9%*|
|Mean Annual Salary (2014)||About $52,190*||About $91,780 (for all elementary and secondary education administrators)*||About $101,910*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Preschool directors typically manage staff and teachers, plan budgets, monitor daily activities and communicate with parents. These activities occur in schools, child care facilities, Head Start programs and other institutions, both in the private and public sectors of early childhood education. The duties of a preschool director depend largely on the workplace. Is it a locally owned, private business or a national franchise? If the preschool is public, then as the director, you'll be expected to meet federal budget and education standards.
Though a high school diploma or GED plus experience may sometimes be sufficient, in most cases, you'll need to acquire an associate's or bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a similar field. These programs instruct you on how children develop physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially and creatively, so that you can help kids appropriately learn and develop. Many programs teach you how to become a head teacher, which will not only help you work with preschool kids, but also manage classrooms across all relevant age groups. Preschool directors typically need to meet licensure requirements, which include proper training and background checks. Earning a certification, like the Child Development Associate (CDA) or the Child Care Professional (CCP), is commonly requested.
An October 2012 search of online job postings for preschool directors revealed what some employers were seeking:
- An employer in Maryland was seeking a preschool administrator with a 4-year degree, preferably in early childhood education, plus management work experience. This school has four separate preschool programs for kids as young as six weeks through pre-kindergarten age.
- A preschool in Pennsylvania was looking for a director. A bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a similar field and experience in a licensed preschool facility were required. Children at this institution are encouraged to learn at their own speed and develop a genuine interest in learning. This school, not uncommonly, has its own set of guidelines and principles that administrators would be required to learn and utilize.
- At least an associate's degree in early childhood education, one year of teaching experience and three years in business and education administration were required for a preschool administrator job in South Carolina. A bachelor's degree was highly favored. Sales and marketing experience was also a valued asset for this position.
Having previous management experience can help you stand out from other job candidates, even if it isn't related to education. However, management in a licensed child care facility may be preferred. While earning your degree, you could work part-time in a child care center and eventually become responsible for certain managerial duties. A positive history with kids can be just as important, however.
In addition to this, computer literacy is often highly valued by employers in the field. Mastery of software like Microsoft Excel and Word can be useful when applying for preschool administrator jobs.
Elementary, middle and high school principals are responsible for a wide variety of administrative duties. These include managing faculty and staff, setting goals and determining how well the daily operations of a school are moving towards these goals. As a principal, you may also be in charge of keeping your school's budget in compliance with state and federal regulations.
Although a bachelor's degree is occasionally acceptable, you'll usually need to earn your master's in educational leadership or administration for a position in this field. Courses you make take include school culture, multicultural education, K-12 curriculum design, school finances and school organization. Years of experience as a teacher are typically needed. It can be a solid plan to begin at a certain school and eventually work your way up, earning that school's required credentials as you go.
A few online job postings from October of 2012 included the following information:
- A principal position at an elementary school in Georgia required at least a master's degree and three years of experience as a lead teacher in a K-12 school. Professional state certifications in teaching and educational leadership were also necessary.
- A middle school in Texas advertised for a principal. A bachelor's degree was required, though a master's was preferred. Prior experience working as a principal or other school leadership job was necessary. Fluency in Spanish was desired.
- A high school in Nevada sought a principal to fulfill a contract position. A master's degree in school administration or a relevant field, at least five years of teaching experience and a minimum of two years of principal experience or equivalent training were required.
Being bilingual can open up considerable career opportunities in K-12 administration. For example, if a school has a large number of Spanish-speaking students, you'll be a far more viable job candidate if you can speak and write Spanish fluently. Another solid way to give your resume a boost is by earning your ESL (English as a Second Language) certification from the American TESOL Institute so that you can help students who speak foreign native languages learn in an English-speaking setting.
Postsecondary Academic Administrator
Educational administrators at the postsecondary level may choose among several paths. You could work in admissions, speaking with prospective students about the school's offerings and considering applicants' potential. Another option is working in a registrar's office to coordinate class scheduling and ensure that students meet graduation requirements. There are also several areas of student affairs, such as athletics, student organizations and housing, that require the leadership of an educational administrator. Finally, you have the option of becoming an academic dean or provost and overseeing departmental decisions, like academic opportunities for students and hiring decisions regarding professors. Some deans preside over certain departments or schools within a university.
Although in certain instances a bachelor's degree may suffice for student affairs or admissions positions, you'll usually need to complete a master's degree program to qualify for postsecondary educational leadership jobs. For many dean and provost positions, however, a doctorate in higher education administration is often necessary. Furthermore, some dean and provost jobs require a degree in a specific field, such as biology or computer science, in order to preside over a certain academic department. Higher education degree programs teach principles like postsecondary systems, college laws, pedagogy, college student affairs and ethics.
In October 2012, a few colleges and universities were seeking academic administrators; the following summaries help give you a snapshot of what employers were seeking:
- A 2-year college in New York seeking a dean of academic affairs required applicants to have three years of educational leadership experience in the state of New York and at least a master's degree. Applicants would need strong team-building abilities.
- For a dean of graduate college position at a Texas university, requirements included a doctorate and a strong background in tangible, professorial accomplishments.
- Five years of experience as an academic dean and two years of teaching work were required for a position as a campus manager and academic dean at a for-profit school in California.
To become an academic administrator, in particular a dean, you'll usually need to demonstrate management and communication skills. Before becoming a dean, you could serve as a professor or even department chair to build these skills and accumulate work experience. These jobs can teach you to address the needs of students and faculty, negotiate and manage budgets. There are also workshops and courses that can help you hone administrative fiscal practices as well as student and teacher recruitment abilities.