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

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A master's degree and a PhD in elementary administration can lead to careers in elementary school management. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree in elementary administration.
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Study Elementary Administration: Degrees at a Glance

If you're interested in a job as a principal, vice principal, instructional coordinator, or any other management positions at the elementary school level, then master's degree and PhD programs in elementary administration are worth looking into. As an elementary school administrator, you'll usually be responsible for managing the curriculum, budget and teaching staff. Many of these positions are difficult to get and require extensive experience and expertise.

According to projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings for elementary, middle and high school administrators are expected to increase by 10% between 2010 and 2020. This is about an average growth when compared to jobs across all fields. Growth for postsecondary teachers is set to be at 17% within the same time frame.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in becoming elementary school administrators People who want to work as postsecondary professors or academic researchers in the private or public sector
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Elementary school administrator ($90,000)*
- Religious learning organization administrator ($60,000)*
- University professor ($72,000)*
- Junior college professor ($78,000)*
- Elementary education researcher (varying pay)
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 3-5 years full-time after the master's
Common Graduation Requirements - Usually approximately 6-8 graduate courses
- Research paper/master's thesis
- Master's exams
In addition to all or most of the master's degree requirements:
- 4-6 graduate courses
- PhD qualifier exams
- Dissertation prospectus/proposal
- Dissertation
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in elementary education or a related field Bachelor's or master's degree in elementary education or a related field
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Elementary Administration

A master's degree in elementary administration, or education administration with a focus on K-12, is typically what you'll need to begin your career as an administrator. You'll study educational strategies, organizational development, planning, problem solving, managerial skill application and leadership techniques. If you want to get your certification or licensure in academic administration, it can help to enroll in a program that's aligned with the state and national core education standards. In addition to your master's degree, you'll also probably need years of experience as a teacher to qualify for many administrative jobs.

Pros and Cons


  • If you're already working as a teacher or a low-level administrator, earning your master's degree in elementary administration may help you move up in position and command a larger salary
  • A master's degree is required for almost all administrative positions
  • With your master's degree, you'll be qualified and prepared to work in most elementary schools


  • A master's degree is not typically enough for an administrative position; experience as a teacher is typically required in addition to a master's degree
  • Because aid is sometimes reserved for PhD candidates, it can be difficult to secure funding for a terminal master's degree program
  • If you ever want to be an administrator at a level above elementary, you might find this degree to be limiting

Courses and Requirements

There are many similar courses that you'll probably take regardless of the master's degree program you enter. However, electives can vary widely depending on your chosen area of expertise. A few courses that you may encounter are:

  • Educational foundations
  • Multicultural education theories
  • Management and finance
  • Technology and data analysis
  • Urban education
  • International education
  • Education law
  • Statistics
  • Research design and methods
  • Community relations

In addition to your coursework, you'll usually be required to complete exams. Your elective courses should you set you up to complete the research for your master's thesis.

Online Degree Options

Although online degree options are somewhat limited for this field, they do exist and can be helpful if you're currently working. Although most distance-learning elementary administration master's degree programs offer the bulk of the coursework online, you may also need to visit a campus at least a few times.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

What you accomplish while earning your master's degree can influence your ability to secure a job as an administrator and increase your attractiveness to potential employers. For example, learning a foreign language can be helpful if you plan on applying for jobs at an international school, or simply schools in other countries that have bilingual programs. There are international job fairs held in the United States where you can go to interview for positions while you're still earning your master's degree.

Whether or not it's part of your program's curriculum, stay abreast of the latest in education technology. A thorough knowledge of current classroom and management technologies will not only help you stand out in the job market now, but perhaps keep you from falling behind in the future.

PhD in Elementary Administration

Earning your PhD in elementary administration, or education administration with a focus on K-12, will not only enable you to get a job in this field, but also give you opportunities to become a postsecondary professor or researcher. You'll typically work closely with your professors on your chosen area of expertise. Getting into a PhD program is often competitive and requires a very high GPA and a proven level of academic excellence.

Pros and Cons


  • A PhD in elementary administration will help open the door to an academic career at the postsecondary level
  • You can apply for fellowships and grants that will fund and help you complete your dissertation and research
  • As a PhD-holding postsecondary teacher or researcher in any capacity, you'll most likely have many opportunities for travel and professional development


  • Getting into a PhD program and eventually starting a career in academia are difficult and intensely competitive processes
  • Getting fellowships and grants can also be quite difficult
  • Because job searches in academia and research are almost always nationwide, there's a fair chance that you'll be required to move

Courses and Requirements

Many of the courses that you'll take while earning your PhD will relate to your area of specialization. A few general PhD-level courses and areas of specialization you might choose from are:

  • Special education management
  • Analyzing educational policy
  • Closing achievement gaps
  • Evaluating and supervising teachers
  • K-12 educational politics
  • Superintendency
  • Business administration in schools
  • Integrating technology into schools

Online Degree Options

As of July 2012, there are few if any PhD programs in this field that are exclusively online. However, there are programs that allow you to complete most of the coursework online. In this type of program, you'll often be required to also complete residencies, sometimes over four-day weekends.

Stand Out With This Degree

As you earn your PhD, there are a number of strides you can take to stand out when you enter the job market.

  • Your area of expertise can help you find a job after graduation. For example, specializing in how to manage a school for children with special needs can help distinguish your set of skills.
  • Getting your dissertation or other writings and research published in a peer-reviewed academic journal will look good on your resume.
  • As is the case in a master's degree program, gaining a mastery of classroom and management technologies will often be very helpful when it comes time to find a job.

Degree Alternatives

Depending on the career you want, there are alternatives to a degree in elementary administration that may be a better fit. For example, if you're interested in working at a middle school or high school level, or at least having that option, a degree in education administration may be more appropriate. If you wish to teach and work directly with students, then a degree in elementary education may be what you're looking for.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

      • Education Specialist in Teaching and Learning
      • Education Specialist in Teaching and Learning
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    2. Northcentral University

    Program Options

      • Ed.D. - Early Childhood Education
      • PhD in Education - Early Childhood Education
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    3. Walden University

    Program Options

      • Doctor of Education (EdD) - Community College Leadership
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      • Doctor of Education (EdD) - Educational Administration & Leadership (Non-Licensure)
      • Doctor of Education (EdD) - Higher Education Leadership & Management
      • PhD in Education - Early Childhood Leadership & Advocacy
      • PhD in Education - Education Policy, Leadership & Management
  • Mississippi State, MS

    Mississippi State University

  • Stanford, CA

    Stanford University

  • Cambridge, MA

    Harvard University

  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

  • Tuscaloosa, AL

    The University of Alabama

  • Durham, NC

    Duke University

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • Education Specialist in Teaching and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Ed.D. - Early Childhood Education
  • PhD in Education - Early Childhood Education
  • Ed.D. - Educational Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Walden University

  • Doctor of Education (EdD) - Community College Leadership
  • Doctor of Education (EdD) - Educational Administration & Leadership (For Administrators)
  • Doctor of Education (EdD) - Educational Administration & Leadership (Non-Licensure)

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