Career Information for a Degree in Educational Leadership

Oct 03, 2019

Master's and doctoral degree programs in educational leadership train students to take on management and leadership roles in elementary, secondary and post-secondary school settings. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for educational leadership graduates.

There are multiple levels of educational leadership positions, all of which require at least a master's degree. As an admission requirement, some programs may mandate that you hold state licensure as a teacher or administrator. Responsibilities can range from curriculum development and hiring and firing to overall supervision of and responsibility for an entire school system.

Essential Information

Graduate programs in educational leadership are intended for professionals who are interested in enhancing leadership and management skills to provide a better educational environment for students, teachers and staff. Such programs combine research methods, theory and important topics in education to instruct academic leaders in communication and problem-solving skills, which will allow graduates to implement best practices in schools or school systems. Some degree programs include state teacher or administrator licensing as an admission requirement, while others offer licensing and certification as part of the degree. Programs often provide flexibility for working school professionals pursuing a degree mid-career.

Career Instructional Coordinator Principal School Superintendent
Education Master's Degree
Doctoral Degree
Master's Degree
Doctoral Degree
Master's Degree
Doctoral Degree
Projected Job Growth from 2018-2028* 6% 4% -5%
Mean Salary 2018* $67,490 $98,750 $200,140

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Programs often provide flexibility for working school professionals pursuing a degree mid-career. Upon graduation, students may consider a number of careers in educational leadership positions. A brief review of three popular professions is included below.

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators, also known as curriculum specialists or directors, use their expertise in curriculum development and instruction to design and implement changes to educational programs, school technology, teaching methods and academic policies. An instructional coordinator observes and evaluates teaching and administrative staff to improve the quality of education a school offers. Some may focus on teaching programs and materials, including textbooks, computers and software. They also ensure compliance with academic standards and regulations at the local, state and national levels.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected excellent employment opportunities for instructional coordinators, with job growth of 6% for the 2018-2028 decade. Growth can be attributed to an increased emphasis on raising academic standards, improving education and greater accountability, the BLS said. As of May 2018, the BLS reported mean annual salaries of $67,490 for instructional coordinators.


Principals supervise the daily operations of an individual school, serving as a manager for school staff, visible authority figure for students and a point of contact for parents and community members. In addition to overseeing the hiring and evaluation of teachers and support staff, principals work with educators and administrators to assess the needs of the school and establish policies, programs and standards. Principals monitor disciplinary or attendance problems, addressing students and their parents to resolve issues. They may also perform administrative duties related to long-term planning and setting budgets for the school.

The BLS predicted nearly-average job growth between 2018 and 2028 for elementary, middle and high school principals, due to advances in student enrollment numbers which create a need for more schools and principals. According to the BLS, fluctuations in state and local government funding can limit growth in this field, however. Principals and other elementary and secondary educational administrators earned a mean annual salary of $98,750 per year in 2018, the BLS reported.

School Superintendent

School superintendents are top administrators for school districts and are responsible for the administration of one or more schools in that system. Working with school boards or educational committees, superintendents guide the budget, policies and goals of the schools they oversee. They are immediate supervisors to assistant superintendents and school principals, and they exercise ultimate authority over the hiring and firing of school personnel. As administrators, school superintendents are highly visible and interact with parents, community organizations and the media to inform the public about the school district's activities. The BLS reported chief executives employed in elementary and secondary schools earned a mean annual salary of $144,200 in 2018.

If you're interested in becoming an educational administrator in the public school system, you'd be well advised to set your sights on a master's degree. You should also become licensed or certified by your state as a teacher or school administrator. Employment prospects for educational administrators are expected to increase about as fast as the national average for all occupations in the 2018-2028 decade.

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