Tribal Administrator: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 17, 2019

Tribal administrators require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and training requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Tribal administrators work within Native American tribal governments to coordinate their various offices and components. A college education and background familiarity with tribal history and governance are required for this career.

Essential Information

Similar to a manager at a nonprofit organization, a tribal administrator is a high-level business management official who works in the government of a Native American tribe. They coordinate the different offices of tribal government, execute government projects, and manage the day-to-day operations of the tribe. Administrators may also act as supervisors for the many employees of the tribal government, which can include those in the social services, education, public works and accounting departments. A strong familiarity with tribe history and Native American governance regulations are required for this position. Likewise, candidates typically require bachelor's or master's degrees in public administration or business, as well as years of related experience.

Required Education Bachelor's or master's degree
Other Requirements Knowledge of the tribe; familiarity with tribal law and federal laws about Native Americans; previous experience in a related field.
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* +7% for all general and operations managers
Median Salary (2018)* $100,930 for all general and operations managers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Duties

An administrator's exact duties vary from tribe to tribe. In addition to general management duties, the administrator is frequently responsible for finding and managing tribal funds, which involves the planning and writing of federal and state grants and grant applications. He or she is also responsible for establishing and maintaining communication between the tribal government and the tribal community, other tribal governments or the U.S. federal and state governments.

The tribal administrator is also required to perform traditional business management duties, including:

  • Preparing audits
  • Coordinating schedules
  • Providing monthly and annual tribal budgets
  • Funds planning and accounting
  • Coordinating and leading committees

Education and Job Requirements

Most federally recognized tribes prefer administrators to have some formal education, either a bachelor's or master's degree, in business or public administration. Significant professional experience may also suffice. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that a common educational background for the managers of nonprofit organizations includes a bachelor's degree in finance or accounting, and many of these professionals also have postsecondary training in business administration.

Besides academic training, aspiring tribal administrators will need a strong familiarity with the tribe they seek to represent. Likewise, applicants require a thorough understanding of Native American governance issues. Ample experience writing grants and proposals is also highly preferred, as is some knowledge of environmental protection laws and practices.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

The BLS does not provide job outlook statistics specifically for tribal administrators, but there is data for related career fields. According to the BLS, general and operations managers are professionals who are responsible for day-to-day administrative tasks within organizations, which is very similar to a tribal administrator's duties. As of May 2018, the BLS stated that these professionals earned a median annual salary of $100,930. Also according to the BLS, all general and operations managers are expected to see a growth in employment of 7% from 2018-2028.

Tribal administrators oversee the day-to-day operations of Native American tribal governments. Most have degrees related to business or public administration. Knowledge of environmental law may also be useful along with professional experience and grant and proposal writing skills.

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