Elementary School Administrator Careers: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of an elementary school administrator career? Get real job descriptions and career outlook and salary information to see if becoming an elementary school administrator is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being an Elementary School Administrator

As an elementary school administrator, or principal, you would manage an elementary school, overseeing the work of teachers, other staff members and students. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming an elementary school administrator is right for you.

Pros of Being an Elementary School Administrator
Well-paying career (median annual salary of $88,380 as of 2013)*
Potential employers include traditional public schools, magnet schools, charter schools and various private schools*
Opportunity to further the lives and academic successes of students*
Ability to be creative and inspire children*

Cons of Being an Elementary School Administrator
Jobs may decline in school districts with budget deficits*
Pressure to make sure children perform well academically*
Responsible for students, teachers, counselors and office workers*
Long schedule that goes beyond the school day*
Might work full-time during summer breaks*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Info

Job Description

Elementary school administrators generally work with lead teachers and assistant principals to set goals for students and formulate ways to make sure those goals are met. Principals often tour classrooms and meet with teachers to come up with ways to help struggling students and nurture students who are ahead in their studies. They may also have a hand in placing teachers in classrooms and disciplining teachers who are underperforming. Especially in public schools, a principal ensures that his or her school is meeting state and federal academic standards.

Elementary school administrators also manage a school's finances and oversee the purchase of supplies. They commonly meet with parents during special school events, individual meetings and community outreach programs. Administrators also monitor the social and emotional development of children and might create measures to help kids succeed in their personal lives.

Job Growth and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for elementary school administrators was projected to grow 6% between 2012 and 2022. Student enrollment was expected to be highest in the southern and western U.S., so jobs in these regions could grow at a faster rate. Additionally, the BLS expects enrollment to remain steady in the Midwest, but to decline in the Northeast. Elementary school administrators earned a median salary of approximately $88,380 as of May 2013, according to the BLS.

Education Requirements

Elementary school administrators typically need a master's degree. Many principals, especially in public schools, start out as teachers before working their way up to becoming administrators. You could start by completing a bachelor's degree program in early childhood education, followed by a master's degree program in educational leadership or education administration. Master's degree programs include courses in policy, research trends in education, human resources, employee management and leadership. Many colleges also give you the opportunity to take part in internships and clinical studies to gain real-world skills and work experience. Your undergraduate program will take about four years to finish, and most graduate programs take 2-3 years to complete.

Licensure and Credentials

Teachers and administrators in public schools are required to be licensed. Individual states dictate licensing requirements, and most require public school administrators to hold a master's degree and have professional experience, which could be acquired through an internship or practicum during graduate school.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Many employers require candidates to have a master's degree along with professional experience in a classroom. The following is a sample of job opportunities posted by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) in March 2012:

  • A school district in California sought a full-time principal who could manage a public elementary school. Candidates needed a master's degree, 3-5 years of professional experience and knowledge of instructional technology.
  • An elementary school in Alaska was looking for a principal who could oversee the school and improve student learning. Candidates needed experience in the classroom and had to meet standards for educators in Alaska.
  • A private Catholic school in Virginia was looking for a principal who could manage and lead a K-8 school. Candidates needed a strong devotion to the Catholic faith and experience working in a private school setting. They also needed a master's degree and five years of experience in school administration.

How To Get an Edge in the Field

Organizations such as NAESP regularly organize conferences and workshops that allow current and future principals to learn more about the industry, trends and ways to get ahead. It also might serve as a good networking opportunity for you to meet fellow principals and school administrators. Another option is to earn a doctoral degree in educational leadership. A Doctor of Educational Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program could build on your experience as a school administrator and teach you about education policy and research.

Alternative Career Paths

Teacher

If you aren't ready to become an elementary school administrator, you might consider becoming a teacher. Elementary school teachers are based in the classroom and focused on making sure kids learn and develop. Teachers in the U.S. need at least a bachelor's degree to earn the licensure needed to teach in public schools. The BLS reported that the teaching field could grow at the average rate for all occupations between 2010 and 2020, and teachers who specialize in the sciences and math could have an edge over teachers of other subjects. The BLS also reported that elementary teachers earned a median salary of approximately $53,000 as of 2011.

School Counselor

Another option is to become a school counselor. You won't be based in the classroom, but you'll still help students develop academically, socially and emotionally. The job outlook for counselors was expected to be favorable from 2010-2020, with a projected 19% increase in positions between 2010 and 2020. School counselors earned a median salary of around $54,000 as of 2011, according to the BLS. School counselors typically need at least a master's degree, and all states require some form of credentialing for this career.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. Full Sail University

    Program Options

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

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. - Early Childhood Education
      • PhD in Education - Early Childhood Education
      • Ed.D. - Educational Leadership
      • PhD in Education - Instructional Leadership
    Master's
      • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
      • M.Ed. - Instructional Leadership
      • Master of Education in Educational Leadership
      • MEd - Corporate Wellness
      • MAT - Curriculum and Teaching
      • MAT - E-Learning
    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
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Literacy
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
      • Ph.D in Literacy: Literacy
  • Online Programs Available
    4. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Master of Education - Elementary Education
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Educational Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Private Sector Higher Education Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    8. University of the Southwest

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSEd: Educational Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    9. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics
  • Online Programs Available
    10. 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

Featured Schools

Full Sail University

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

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Northcentral University

  • Ed.D. - Early Childhood Education
  • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
  • Education Specialist - Instructional Leadership

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Saint John's University

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

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American InterContinental University

  • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
  • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
  • Master of Education - Elementary Education

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Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

  • Master of Arts in Educational Leadership

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Private Sector Higher Education Leadership

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University of the Southwest

  • MSEd: Educational Admin

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