How to Become an Education Administrator: Career Roadmap

Find out how to become an education administrator. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in education administration

Should I Become an Education Administrator?

Education administrators, such as elementary, middle or high school principals, are educational professionals who work to organize, manage and set goals for public and private schools. These professionals work with teachers, parents, superintendents and political figures to manage school agendas and resources. Typically, an education administrator has had prior work experience as a teacher at the elementary, middle or high school level.

The job of education administrator comes with a great deal of responsibility and can at times be stressful. Elementary, middle and high school principals often don't get summer breaks since they must use the time to prepare for the coming school year. On the plus side, education administrators typically earn more than the national average.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Master's degree
Degree Field Education administration or educational leadership
Licensure In most states, licensure is required to work as an education administrator in a public school
Experience Multiple years of experience as a teacher
Key Skills Leadership, communication, problem-solving, critical-thinking, decision-making
Salary $91,780 (Annual mean salary for elementary and secondary education administrators)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), ONET Online

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most education administrators start their careers as teachers. To work as an elementary school teacher, an individual could earn a bachelor's degree in elementary education from an accredited institution. Such a program may include coursework in areas like curriculum design, student assessment and human relations, in addition to instructional methods in the fields of math, English, science and social studies. To work as a middle or high school teacher, an individual may need to earn a 4-year bachelor's degree in a specialized area of study, such as biology, English or mathematics, and complete training to be qualified for state licensure. In addition to educational experiences, all teachers typically complete field experiences and student teaching experiences.

Success Tip

  • Prepare to become a teacher at the most relevant level of education. Typically, an elementary school administrator has previous experience as an elementary school teacher. Likewise, middle and high school administrators have teaching experience at those levels. Work experience at the appropriate level of education can familiarize aspiring administrators with the issues that these positions commonly handle.

Step 2: Earn State Licensure

Licensure or certification requirements and categorizations vary by state, but all states require at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a minimum amount of teaching experience. In some states, teachers may earn licensure to teach grades 1-8, while in other states there are separate distinctions for teachers of grades 1-6 and those of grades 6-8. High school teachers are typically licensed to teach grades 7-12.

Step 3: Gain Experience as a Teacher

Before working as an administrator, education professionals should consider completing work experience in elementary, middle or high schools. This experience includes lesson planning, instruction, communicating with other teachers and parents, student evaluation and preparing students for standardized tests. Teachers may instruct students in large groups, small groups, or in one-on-one capacities. Depending on the level of education, teachers can work in multiple academic subjects or just one area of specialization.

Success Tips

  • Become familiar with administrative responsibilities. While working as teachers, aspiring education administrators can become familiar with the types of job tasks that principals carry out at their level of education. Prospective employers may prefer administrators who can demonstrate skills in areas like curriculum development, supervision, evaluation and instruction.
  • Learn to be a problem-solver. Educational administrators are commonly tasked with setting and meeting goals to solve issues within an educational institution. This commonly requires working with other administrators and educational professionals to develop and carry out action plans. Being able to demonstrate such abilities could help a prospective administrator find employment.

Step 4: Earn a Master's Degree

A master's degree in a field like educational administration or educational leadership is typically required both among employers and for state licensure as a public school principal. Coursework in educational administration or educational leadership programs could include subjects like educational law, communication, data analysis, organizational behavior, policy implementation and school finance. The new knowledge and skills learned in the master's degree program may help to advance your career and fatten your paycheck.

Success Tip

  • Prepare for state licensure. As part of a master's degree program, students may have the opportunity to participate in programs that prepare them to sit for state-required licensure or certification examinations. In states where such certification or licensure is required, this preparation would be useful to pass the exam.

Step 5: Consider Earning a Doctoral Degree

While not necessarily required, a doctoral degree may lead to new career opportunities, potentially as a superintendent. Doctoral preparation could also prepare students for administrative roles at the postsecondary level.

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