What Does a Career in School Administration Entail?
A career in School Administration entails many years of hard work to complete your education. First you will need to attain a bachelor's degree in teaching or education. From there, you will need to acquire several years’ experience in the trenches, teaching students and learning about the profession. As you teach, strive to go above and beyond the requirements of a teacher. If you take extra leadership roles in student clubs, coach a team, or spearhead a unique student project, you will find it easier to find a position in administration.
While each school district sets its own standards, you will probably need a master's degree in Education, if not a doctoral degree, to land a position in administration. On top of formal education, you will need to pursue Continuing Education opportunities such as seminars, conferences, or webinars that confer a certificate of completion. In fact, your local board of education will have standards for professional development and your teaching credential will thus depend on your completing a certain quota of CEU hours annually.
Education Degrees & Career Paths
Components of A Successful Career In School Administration
There are many components to determine what a successful career as a School Administrator looks like and varies significantly depending on your position and title within the organization. An administrator at a school is a term used to describe a leader or staff member in a school; positions like: teacher, principal, vice principal, school nurse and office staff are a few examples. All members of the school administration need to be leaders, but also need to work as a team to produce an effective learning environment for their students.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, you may have some of the following functions as a school administrator (depending on your title and role):
- Curriculum Planning
- Policy and planning
- Recruiting, hiring, and supervision of faculty and staff
- Student events and services
- Parent, teacher, staff, student, and community relations
- Quality assurance
- Budgeting and purchasing
- Interpretation and implementation of regulations
- Implementing Safety Protocols and Procedures
How to Become a School Administrator
To become a school administrator, you will first need to attain a full teaching credential for your jurisdiction. These days, there are a number of alternative routes available for those changing careers, ex-military personnel, and other career-changers. However, if you are working on your first degree, it’s advised to study Education and proceed along the traditional route. You'll need several years of experience, depending on your school board's requirements, before you can apply for a job in administration. You might also need to attain a master's degree and pass a qualifying examination. At a minimum, you will need the following:
- Bachelor's degree
- Teaching certificate
- ~5 years’ experience
Typical School Administration Degree Requirements
To become a School Administrator, you will certainly need to meet the minimum standard of a bachelor's degree in Education, a teaching credential, and several years of experience. Your job opportunities will expand greatly if you have a master's degree in education, or a Master of Arts in Teaching. However, you can start your Education career with an associate degree in Education which might qualify you to work as a ParaPro, or a teacher's assistant. Check with your local school board for specific requirements.
To complete each level of education, you must satisfy these credit-hour requirements:
- Associates Degree: 60 semester hours
- Bachelor’s Degree: 120 semester hours
- Master's Degree: 30-40 semester hours, depending on your program
Typical School Administration Certifications Needed
Typically, principals and other school administrators need a school administration certification. To attain this credential, you will likely need a master's degree and approximately 50 school months in teaching or administration. Some states, such as California, require that administrators attain a five-year provisional certification which allows them time to train and gain experience in the field prior to earning their permanent certification.
Academic Standards for a School Administration Degree
To become a school administrator, you will need a minimum of a bachelor's degree and a teaching certification. While the specific requirements will vary depending on your state or local school board, you should count on needing a master's degree in Education and at least a provisional certificate in school administration. Even if the job does not require a graduate degree, assume that your competition has at least a master's degree.
Exam/Experience Needed for a School Administration Degree
To attain a school administration degree/certification, you will need to combine experience and qualifying examination scores. Standards for the experience requirement might vary from state to state, so check with the local rules. However, you should consider 50 classroom months as a benchmark for qualifying applicants.
States might require that you pass Praxis I and II, which you will need to pass for your teaching certificate. You will also need to pass the School Leader's Licensure Assessment Test. Note that not all states require this test, such as Georgia, Oregon, New Hampshire, New York, and others.
Important Questions to Ask
How long does it take to earn a School Administration bachelor's degree online?
To earn your initial Education degree, you will need a bachelor's degree. This degree is typically thought to take four years. However, these days the standard for completing a four-year degree has expanded to six years. According to government standards, your chances of graduating within six years increase according to the relative competitiveness of your college or university.
Try to discipline yourself and keep your eyes on the prize so that you can graduate within four to six years. In fact, if you work extra hard, you might be able to complete an undergraduate degree in three-four years. Keep in mind that most education/teaching programs will require you to complete a student-teaching internship.
How much does a School Administration bachelor’s degree cost?
A School Administration bachelor's degree is not cheap. However, you can try to contain costs by attending lower-cost, public schools. Some online degrees also cost less than their on-campus equivalents. At the least, you may be able to attend an out-of-state public school for the same price as an in-state student if you take your degree online. Every state university system approaches online courses differently, so please research the cost.
That said, if you attend your first two years at a community college and then finish at a state university, your total cost can be as low as $30,000. On the other hand, if you attend an elite private university, your total educational costs can rise as high as $300,000.
Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?
If you feel the calling to pursue a career in School Administration, you need to start out with the appropriate bachelor's degree. Undergraduate programs are typically focused on teaching, which you will need to do prior to moving up into administration. Thus, make sure that your school has a major program that grooms you for a teaching credential. Note that some Education departments focus on primary (elementary through middle school) or secondary education, and some offer the full spectrum. The credentials are similar, but distinct, for each. Make sure you are certain of which age groups you wish to work with and that your school will support your goals.
How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?
When you talk to an admissions counselor, ask about their attrition rates and how many students graduate on time. Attrition rates will tell you the percentage of students who leave the school without completing a degree. Then, when you know how many graduate in a timely fashion, you’ll have a good assessment of the success of the school's student body.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
Accreditation is of vital importance for any degree program, but if your program's credentials don't meet certain standards, your education career might not gain traction. That is, the state Board of Education might deem that non-accredited degrees don’t meet their standards for licensure.
Look for accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and your state's Board of Education. When you are in the process of researching and applying to schools, make sure their graduates aren't having trouble attaining a teaching license.
While there is no specific technology requirement for teachers, your specific subject area might require a technology component. For instance, if you intend to teach high school computer science, you will probably need a working knowledge of computer languages.
As you work through your degree program, you will surely acquire teaching skills through various classroom projects and exercises.
Then, you'll undergo every teacher's rite of passage: student teaching. Once you've completed all of the requirements for your degree, your teaching skills should have prepared you for your first year in the classroom.
You can start a brilliant education career with an associate degree. Many jurisdictions require an associate degree to work as a ParaPro, or teacher's assistant. This is a great way to start building experience in the classroom. Since a community college can likely facilitate your AA degree for under $10,000, this is a great way to attain a degree without a huge financial commitment.
As a ParaPro, you might be able to provide one-on-one assistance to special needs students, or simply to students who are engaged with more challenging projects. You'll find that this is invaluable experience as you work towards a career in school administration. While you work towards an AA in Education, you might take courses such as:
- Principles of Education
- Learning Theory
- Developmental Psychology
In some jurisdictions, all you need is a bachelor's degree to go from the classroom to a position in school administration. A four-year degree will prepare you for your teaching credentials and give you the skills and knowledge you need to lead a classroom. With a little planning, your bachelor's degree can cost as little as $30,000.
When you apply, you should be prepared to specialize in primary, secondary, or special education for your degree focus. Some schools offer either primary or secondary training, so be careful that you choose the program that offers what you need. Your studies will surely include, but won't be limited to
- Exceptional Children
- Classroom Management
- Introduction to Education
- Educational Psychology
Once you have a graduate or doctoral degree in Educational Administration, you will be qualified to work in School Administration. Not all school boards require an advanced degree for their administrators, but you will likely compete against people who have completed a graduate program. With a master's degree, your paycheck will receive a bonus, thus offsetting the $20,000-$50,000 you might pay for your M.Ed.
Check with your state Board to determine exactly what the requirements are, as you might also need to qualify for licensure. As you study for a master's degree, you might take courses similar to
- Fundamentals of Leadership
- School and Community Relations
- Curriculum Management
- School Law
- Instructional Leadership
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Digital Learning
- Special Education
- Teacher Leadership
- Gifted and Talented Education
Earning Potential for School Administration Degree Fields and Occupations
The field of education highly values the education of its working professionals. As your degree level rises, so will your pay and responsibility. Just as important is your experience, which can make a difference when you apply for teaching or administration jobs. To get started, you will need a minimum of an associate degree.
With a two-year associate degree, you can start working in classrooms as a ParaPro, also known as a teaching assistant. This position is among the lower-paid in the teaching world, but the job s rewarding in non-financial ways. This can be a valuable step towards a career in School Administration, as you will gain experience that should stand out on your resume.
With a Bachelor's degree in education, your pay will rise substantially from that of a ParaPro, and you can qualify for a full teaching license. Your undergraduate program should be able to help you along with the steps required for that credential. In fact, some state or local Boards of Education might allow you to work in administration with only a four-year degree.
Once you complete a M. Ed., your earnings and responsibilities will take off. A master's degree in School Administration will surely qualify you to work in the principal's office, or elsewhere in school administration. You will also see your salary reach the top of what is possible for state workers.
School Administration Fields of Study Median Salaries
- Primary Education: Focuses on teaching students in grades Kindergarten through middle school, depending on your state's standards. This degree will teach the best known, evidence-backed pedagogical methods for teaching primary/middle school students. To qualify for a full teaching certificate, you will need to complete your states requirements for semester hours, pass Praxis I & II, and have the recommendation of licensed educational professionals.
- Secondary Education: Focuses on high school education. Your program might require a double major, or at least a minor, in the area you intend to teach. Towards the end of your academic career, you will need to complete a student teaching apprenticeship. Your student teaching experience will require that you create a portfolio that details your teaching methods and materials.
- Special Education: This specialty focuses on students who have a wide range of developmental, cognitive, or behavioral barriers to education. SPED teachers are generally paid a bit more than others, but they also have far greater challenges in their classrooms. Some SPED teachers specialize in deaf education, autism, or learning disabilities such as dyslexia. As you study this field, you'll cover the range of behaviors but also how to create an Individual Education Plan, among other special skills.
- School Counseling: This is a subset of psychology and may also be covered by Social Work. The field addresses issues students have with the goal of helping students maximize their potential in school and life.
- Social Work: This field covers how to best distribute state and other resources to individuals in need. The field can include distributing services related to foster care, education issues, poverty, race relations, family issues, and gender. Social workers also intervene when alerted to problems by schools or others in the community.
- Gifted and Talented Education: With this degree, you can specialize in teaching children who have an exceptional IQ. You will learn to identify special areas of interest and help students create projects that provide the challenges they need.
- Psychology: The science and practice of psychology can take one of two routes – research or clinical work. If you choose the clinical side, you can work with students inside and outside of school. You will need a master's degree to take many jobs/responsibilities in the field, but some states do allow those with a bachelor's degree to work as counselors in some fields, provided you meet certain criteria.
- Sociology: This degree studies trends and phenomena in society. Sociologists are steeped in statistics and research methods as preparation for their work. Even with a bachelor's degree, you might work to study the impact of certain educational methods and practices in schools. For instance, you might study how school uniforms impact student outcomes.
- Public Policy: This degree specifically looks at how governmental policies impact society. You'll study how governmental agencies work and develop their positions regarding the institutions in their purview. For instance, with this degree you might work on crafting effective policies related to your local school district.
- Marriage and Family Counseling: This specific degree is under the auspices of a counseling psychology degree. However, there are specific issues related to helping couples overcome their communication problems.
Field of Study Average Salary by Degree Level
|Field of Study||Associate Salary||Bachelor Salary||Master Salary|
|Gifted and Talented Teaching||n/a||$49,000||$56,000|
|Marriage and Family Counseling||n/a||$45,500||$51,000|
School Administration Salaries by Occupation
School Administration Occupations
Special Education Teacher
These educational professionals work with students who face any number of barriers to pursuing an education. They might work with deaf students, dyslexic kids, or children with profound cognitive or developmental disabilities.
Elementary Education Teacher
This job finds you in a classroom, teaching children from Kindergarten to 8th grade. As you study primary education, you will discover the age range that calls to you more than the others. However, you can also change the relative developmental level of your classroom without adding a new certificate. For instance, moving from a Kindergarten classroom to a room full of 5th graders constitutes a major change.
Secondary Education Teacher
High School teachers tend to have specific academic focuses and their degrees reflect this. Some colleges require a double major so that when you graduate you have a mastery of both pedagogy as well as the actual subject you intend to teach.
When kids exhibit difficulties in school, they often talk with the school counselor. In fact, if teachers suspect that a student is the victim of abuse at home, they send the student to speak with the counselor. Counselors can help students effectively manage the trials and tribulations of growing up.
Gifted and Talented Teacher
These instructors usually meet with students apart from their regular school day to pursue advanced, challenging projects. Gifted teachers also consult with teachers to see that the needs of high-IQ students are met.
Elementary School Principal
These school administrators manage the day-to-day workings of the school. When you reach this point in your career, you will have the knowledge and experience to work effectively with students and teachers alike. You will help guide curriculum, the daily schedule, and the other nuts and bolts of education.
Elementary School Vice-Principal
In this job, you will assist your Principal in the implementation of School Board policies, including curriculum issues. Vice Principals are often in charge of managing disciplinary issues as well as working with teachers' pedagogical methods and best practices.
High School Principal
Professionals at this level often are managing school populations of thousands of students who all need the best possible educational experience. When you become a principal, you will help implement curriculum, hire teachers, and oversee the daily schedule of your school.
High School Vice-Principal
When you become a Vice-Principal of a high school, you will probably be tasked with managing the disciplinary policies and procedures in the school. You might also look at implementing policies that will help avoid or eliminate behavior problems, such as referring more students to counseling or encouraging more physical activity.
This profession works with children, adolescents, and adults to help them access services related to housing, school, and employment. You can also work as a counselor, providing psychotherapy to individuals, couples, and whole families. Your work is vital the overall functioning of a community.
Annual Salary by Occupation
|Occupations||Entry Level Salary Range||Mid-Career Salary Range||Late Career Salary Range|
|Special Education Teacher||$42,000||$48,500||$63,000|
|Elementary Education Teacher||$38,720||$44,000||$55,880|
|Secondary Education Teacher||$38,720||$44,000||$55,880|
|Gifted and Talented Teacher||$38,720||$44,000||$55,880|
|Elementary School Principal||$74,400||$78,400||$83,200|
|Elementary School Vice-Principal||$64,610||$68,160||$75,970|
|High School Principal||$74,400||$78,400||$83,200|
|High School Vice-Principal||$64,610||$68,160||$75,970|
School Administration Scholarships
Graduate students in Public School Administration are welcome to apply for this prestigious scholarship. You must be recommended by the current chair of your department, and only one application per department is allowed. Note that your ultimate goal should be to work as a School Superintendent.
This scholarship is awarded by the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance, which selects top Massachusetts undergraduate students currently studying early childhood education. The fund takes into account financial need, academic merit, and is open to both students enrolled in bachelor's and associate degree programs.
The Association of Texas Professional Educators Foundation awards students enrolled in educator-prep programs nationwide. Your application must include transcripts and a personal essay. Both undergraduate and graduate students may apply.
The Association of Texas Professional Educators Foundation awards this scholarship to outstanding juniors, seniors, and graduate students of education. Along with your transcripts, be prepared to submit a personal philosophy of education, as well as a personal essay describing what motivated you to pursue education as a profession.
Professional School Administration Organizations
National Education Association
This is perhaps one of the largest associations for educators in the nation. The NEA provides grants for educators of all sorts. Members include classroom teachers, educational support professionals, substitute educators, and school administrators, among others. The NEA focuses on human and civil rights, college affordability, and achievement gaps among various demographic groups. Their advocacy supports the entire profession.
Association of American Educators
The AAE gives back to its members in terms of insurance programs, scholarships, and professional resources. They do not support collective bargaining practices, however, as the organization feels that this practice harms service to students. In fact, a core value of the AAE is that education be student-focused.
National Association of Secondary School Principals
The NAASP will support your career once you become a principal in a high school. They offer online CEU credits, informative publications, and they advocate for educators at the state and national levels.
Choosing an Accredited College
It is vital that you find an accredited college for your education. Just as you will want to provide the very best education for your students, so you will want to receive the best education for yourself. Further, if your degree is not from an accredited institution, it’s unlikely that you will be able to use your hard-earned credits towards your teaching certification. When you are researching programs, be sure to affirm that they are indeed preparing students to be bona fide educators in public schools. Even if you intend on teaching for a private or charter school, your hiring principal will want to see a degree from an accredited teacher-prep program.
Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid
There are more and more online education programs these days, which provides you with lots of options. For instance, your local colleges might not have the specific program you are looking for, such as SPED or a focus on gifted and talented students. You are sure to find the precise program you're looking for online.
However, on-campus education is still far more popular than online. Though on-campus programs have more students, you will be asked to adhere to a rigid schedule. On the other hand, you will have face-to-face interactions with your instructors and fellow students. You will need to decide what works best for you.
As students puzzle over whether to study School Administration online or on-campus, hybrid programs have arisen to meet everyone's needs. These programs ask that students come to campus periodically, or just once, during a term. These campus visits allow students to meet one another, and their instructors, too. This way, everyone has a real-world reference when their peers respond to discussion posts or they work on group projects from a distance.
Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?
When you study education, you need to know that your program will support your eventual job search. One of the key ingredients of that search will be their accreditation, which will pave the way to a professional credential. You might also ask how well the instructors support their graduates with letters of recommendation.
Why You Need to Consider the Overall National Rankings of the College and The Effects on Your Career or Salary
When you are close to graduation, your college's ranking and status will mean more and more. You want your resume to reflect the highest quality education possible, not to mention top academic achievements on your part. That's because the school boards who can hire you will want the very best candidates. They’ll determine that, at least in part, by the ranking or reputation of the program you attend to earn your degree.