Education Management Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Oct 25, 2019

Essential Information

A master's degree in education administration or leadership is the minimum requirement for licensing as a school administrator in most states. Applicants for licensing usually must pass a competency exam as well. There are two types of master's degree programs in educational management; one focuses on practical work, the other on academic research.

Doctoral programs in educational management also have a version for those intending to go into academia and another one for those intending to go for management positions. In both cases, the programs are research-focused, with students choosing an area of specialization in which to concentrate.

Entry into a master's degree program requires a bachelor's degree as well as a teaching certification and at least one year of teaching experience. Doctoral programs call for a bachelor's or master's degree in education or a related field, plus coursework in educational leadership, curriculum design, teaching methods and educational research.

Master's Degree in Educational Management

A Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Educational Administration and a Master of Science (M.S.) in Educational Leadership are frequently encountered educational management graduate degree programs. The M.Ed. program focuses more on practical work in a school, while the M.S. program is aimed at students who are interested in academic research. The coursework and degree requirements are generally similar.

Prospective principals and superintendents are typically required to complete internships for licensure in addition to taking the following representative coursework:

  • School finance
  • School law
  • Community relations
  • Counseling
  • Research methods

Doctoral Degree in Educational Management

The two most common terminal degrees in educational management are the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). The Ed.D. program is the more practice-focused of the two, with the Ph.D. directed more toward academic research-oriented candidates. In typical programs, both degree programs incorporate development of scholarship within a specialized area of educational leadership or administration as well as professional work experience.

Doctoral-level coursework is highly specialized and includes more research-related courses than at the master's level. The following courses are drawn from curricula for superintendents and principals:

  • Educational statistics
  • Human resources management
  • School district improvement
  • Program planning and evaluation
  • School administration politics

Popular Career Options

Master's programs in educational administration or leadership prepare graduates for a variety of leadership roles in schools and school districts, including:

  • Principal
  • Assistant principal
  • Superintendent
  • Department chair
  • Director of special education

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,, elementary, middle school and high school principals could expect job growth of 4 percent--about the same as the average for all occupations--from 2018-2028. As of May 2018, the BLS reported education administrators at elementary and secondary schools earned a median annual salary of $95,310. All other education administrators earned a median annual salary of $82,850 as of May 2018, the BLS noted.

Continuing Education Information

Earning an advanced certificate in educational management is another option. Certificate programs in educational administration or leadership are typically post-master's programs that lead to licensure as school principals or district superintendents. Required coursework and amount of semester hours generally parallel master's degree programs. Teachers with a master's degree in education as well as administrators with an MBA may be candidates for an advanced certificate in educational management.

With prior experience as a teacher, master's degree programs in educational management help prepare students for careers in school administration on the elementary and secondary level. Certificate programs as well as doctorates provide the extra training and experience required for higher-level positions as district superintendents or department chairs.

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