School Administration Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Class Info

About this article
What will you learn in a school administration degree program? Read about school administration degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and PhD and potential careers.
View available schools

At a Glance Section: School Administration Degrees

Becoming a licensed teacher generally requires at least a bachelor's degree, combined with a certificate program that prepares students for state licensing requirements. For those looking to make the leap into administration, further schooling is often necessary. Both master's and doctoral degree programs are available that prepare prospective teachers to fulfill school administrator licensing requirements. This license is separate from the license for teaching, and programs are usually targeted at teachers who already have completed several years in the classroom. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for school administrators, such as high school principals, are expected to grow at about the same rate as other occupations from 2010-2020.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Teachers who are interested in moving from classroom positions into administration roles Teachers with master's degrees who seek to move into administration positions
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - School principal ($93,000)*
- School vice-principal ($77,000)*
- School superintendent ($141,000)*
- University professor of education ($59,000)**
Time to Completion 2-3 years full-time 4+ years
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 10-15 graduate-level courses
- Internship
- Approximately 20-25 graduate-level courses
- Dissertation proposal
- Dissertation
Prerequisites - Bachelor's or master's degree with teacher certification
- Teaching experience
- Master's degree with teacher certification
- Teaching experience
Online Availability Yes Some

Source: *Salary.com (June 2012), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in School Administration

For certified teachers who are looking to enter administration positions, a master's degree in school administration is a common requirement. Career opportunities are available as school vice-principals and principals, as well as higher-level administrators who are responsible not just for individual schools, but for decisions at the district level. These programs go hand-in-hand with licensing requirements for public school educational administrators, which are issued at the state level. However, in order to earn these higher-level positions, you will need to have several years of experience in teaching or education.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Many master's degree programs in educational administration are designed to concurrently fulfill state licensing requirements
  • These master's degrees allow a path of progression for teachers to move out of the classroom and into administration positions of greater responsibility
  • These programs are sometimes designed with working professionals in mind, as the people taking these courses are all licensed teachers, the schedules take into account employers' yearly schedule

Cons

  • Current teachers will be taking these courses concurrently with busy work schedules
  • Licensing structures may vary from state to state, so relocation can require additional coursework to fulfill local requirements
  • Completion of these degrees does not necessarily guarantee licensure, as some states require testing as well

Courses and Requirements

For completion of a master's degree, school administration programs require both coursework and supervised practical experience. Coursework might include such topics as:

  • Human resource in educational settings
  • Instructional leadership
  • Leadership in complex educational organizations
  • Leadership skill and professional development
  • Leadership, micro-politics and decision-making strategies
  • Managerial leadership for school operations
  • School leadership
  • Strategic leadership

Practical experience comes in the form of internships. These internships are an opportunity to put information and processes learned in the classroom into action, and as such, are a valuable source of both experience and possible recommendations when it comes time to look for administration positions.

Online Degree & Course Info

For teachers who are seeking an accredited online option for their master's degree program in school administration, there are some options available. Some programs are completely online, while others are hybrid programs with both online and face-to-face components. When researching programs that are online, two areas to focus on are accreditation and licensure. Be sure to make certain that any prospective school is accredited, and as licensure requirements vary from state to state, making certain that all requirements can be met either through the program or alternate avenues is the student's responsibility.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

As these programs are designed for people currently working as teachers, applicants can benefit from taking advantage of educational reimbursement policies within their school district. Required internships may provide opportunities for career networking and help develop relationships. Early and open communication with professors may yield opportunities for career growth, as long-term student success also benefits the program's reputation.

PhD in School Administration

For certified teachers who have already completed a master's degree and are seeking administration positions, a doctorate in school administration may give you a leg up on those who have earned a master's degree in this field. For those seeking to grow beyond managing individual schools, these programs provide the educational status that may increase their competitiveness in the job market. PhD programs, like master's degree programs, can prepare teachers for licensing as a school administrator. However, a PhD is not necessary to work as a school principal.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • For teachers who have already earned a master's degree, PhD programs provide a step to further their career opportunities
  • As the highest level of education available, these programs prepare candidates for teaching at universities
  • Doctoral programs open up opportunities in research and publication

Cons

  • Compared to the master's programs, PhD programs require a heavier commitment of both time and funds
  • For those who are using this degree for career development purposes, the longer time commitment means more time spent in preparation before advancing to administrative positions
  • Research requirements for doctoral programs may provide challenges for some candidates

Courses and Requirements

The topics covered in PhD programs are often more extensive than those in master's degree programs. In addition to readying candidates to step into leadership positions, these programs also develop research skills, preparing candidates for both original research and work at the postsecondary level. Courses and a dissertation are necessary for graduation.

  • Administrative research
  • Community relations
  • Cross-cultural leadership
  • Developing, implementing and reporting on school improvement plans and processes
  • Education and finance
  • Education and law
  • Educational administrative theory
  • Human resources for educational faculty and staff

Online Degree & Course Info

Though not common, PhD programs in school administration are available that are wholly online. Additionally, some schools offer hybrid programs that allow the completion of some coursework online while requiring other coursework to be completed in face-to-face formats. As candidates are generally mid-career working professionals, online formats can be useful in managing schedules.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Completing a dissertation is a different kind of schoolwork for many PhD candidates. Being able to combine your own experience as a mid-career professional with the research interests of your dissertation advisor may help to open up connections both with your advisor and his or her academic professional network. At the same time, candidates should consider working on a dissertation topic that is relevant to both the academic community and of interest to future employers, in order to keep options open for future employment.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. 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
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Education - Organizational Leadership
      • PhD - International Education
      • Ed.D. - Educational Leadership
      • PhD in Education - Higher Education Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    3. University of the Rockies

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Psychology - Educational Leadership
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Education
      • Ph.D. in Organizational Development & Leadership - Corporate Training & E-Learning
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Education - Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Private Sector Higher Education Leadership
  • Athens, GA

    University of Georgia

  • Coral Gables, FL

    University of Miami

  • Tuscaloosa, AL

    The University of Alabama

  • Evanston, IL

    Northwestern University

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Higher Education Leadership
  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership in - K-12 Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Organizational Leadership
  • PhD - International Education
  • Ed.D. - Educational Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

University of the Rockies

  • Doctor of Psychology - Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Education
  • Ph.D. in Organizational Development & Leadership - Corporate Training & E-Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Private Sector Higher Education Leadership

Are you a US citizen?