How to Become a High School Administrator: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 05, 2020

Learn how to become a high school administrator. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in educational administration.

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Should I Become a High School Administrator?

School administrators, such as principals, assistant principals, and superintendents, are in charge of the day-to-day running of schools and school districts. Typical job duties include managing budgets, as well as maintaining state and federal education requirements and curriculum.

The many tasks that high school administrators must oversee can oftentimes be stressful. In addition to normal full-time work, administrators might also need to attend school functions on the weekends and evenings. Unlike high school teachers, they may not get summers off, since they must spend time preparing for the upcoming school year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an annual mean wage of $98,880 for elementary and secondary school administrators working in schools in May 2018.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Master's degree; some positions may require a doctoral degree
Degree Field Educational administration, educational leadership
Licensure and/or Certification State licensure required for public school teachers; principals typically require licensure
Experience Typically require prior work experience as a teacher
Key Skills Problem-solving, leadership, and communication skills
Mean Salary (2018) $98,880 (for elementary and secondary school administrators working in schools)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONET Online

To become a high school administrator, you'll need a master's degree in educational administration or educational leadership, but some positions require a doctoral degree. Public school teachers are required to earn state licensure in all states and principals are typically required to earn licensure as well. Positions typically require prior work experience as a teacher. You'll also need problem-solving, leadership, and communication skills.

Steps to Become a High School Administrator

To become a high school administrator, you'll need to follow these steps.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most school administrators start out as teachers and then complete master's degree programs in education administration before pursuing advancement into school administration positions. To become a teacher, a student must complete the appropriate 4-year program for the level at which they wish to teach, complete the necessary teaching certification requirements and gain state licensure. A variety of educational options exist for aspiring public school teachers, who can work at either the elementary, middle, or high school levels. Coursework is determined according to the grade levels and subjects that one is planning to teach. Most education degree programs include classes in educational philosophy, classroom management and working with diverse students.

Become qualified to teach in the most relevant setting. Individuals who want to work in elementary school administration would most likely benefit from first working as an elementary teacher. Those who want to become administrators within high schools would similarly gain useful experience from teaching at that level. Elementary school teachers typically major in elementary education, while middle and high school teachers typically major in a subject of study, such as English or chemistry, and then complete a teaching education program to become qualified to earn state licensure.

Step 2: Gain Teaching Licensure

After completing a 4-year program, complete with the necessary educational courses and teaching experiences, a bachelor's degree holder can gain state licensure to work as a public school teacher. In addition to meeting minimum coursework and experience requirements, states typically require the successful completion of an examination that tests competency in the aspiring teacher's area of study. Continuing education, including earning a master's degree within a minimum number of years after certification, may be necessary in order to maintain licensure.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

Through working as a teacher, an aspiring school administrator can become familiar with the duties of administration and learn about the roles played by various groups in the public school system, including parent-teacher organizations and school boards. School administrators often spend several years as educators before taking the next step in their career. The years of experience required vary by state, so individuals will want to check with the state where they wish to work.

Step 4: Complete a Master's Degree

In order to become a school administrator, candidates must typically complete a master's degree in educational administration or educational leadership. Such degree programs provide the conceptual framework for developing administrative skills. Master's degree programs in education administration typically take two years to complete and may require students to hold teaching licenses prior to enrolling.

Step 5: Pursue an Administrator License

Most states require principals to earn licensure in order to have a position in a school district. Certification requirements vary by state, but most require candidates to satisfy education requirements and take a test to demonstrate knowledge of state-specific topics, such as state laws and standards for curriculum and teacher training. Candidates are often expected to sit for a state licensing exam and may be required to complete work experience under the supervision of a mentor. One is obligated to possess a state license to practice as an administrator in public schools in most states.

Step 6: Obtain Administrative Experience

While working as an educator, a teacher can become familiar with administrative tasks that are relevant to his or her level of education. While working as a teacher, an aspiring administrator can take on administrative responsibility within a school to gain the skills necessary to advance into that role.

To become a high school administrator, you'll first have to earn a bachelor's degree, get licensed, and work as a teacher. Then you need to earn a master's degree and get licensed as an administrator.

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