School Administrator Careers | TheBestSchools
Updated May 23, 2023
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A school administrator is responsible for daily activities and operations in colleges, universities, or K-12 schools.
|Median Annual Salary||$94,340|
|Employment Growth Forecast from 2018-2028||7%|
|Number of New Jobs from 2018-2028||192,600|
|Average Entry-Level Education Requirements||Master's Degree|
|Annual Salary of the Highest 10%||$182,750|
|Annual Salary of the Lowest 10%||$54,680|
|Median Annual Salary||$95,310|
|Employment Growth Forecast from 2018-2028||4%|
|Number of New Jobs from 2018-2028||275,400|
|Average Entry-Level Education Requirements||Master's Degree|
|Annual Salary of the Highest 10%||$144,950|
|Annual Salary of the Lowest 10%||$61,490|
What Is a School Administrator?
A school administrator is responsible for daily activities and operations in colleges, universities, or K-12 schools. In elementary and secondary schools, school principals oversee teachers and promote productive learning environments. In higher education, college administrators, deans, and provosts oversee student services and the institution's academic and research agendas.
The average school administrator salary exceeds $94,000 per year.
Many school administration jobs require a master's degree or higher. The average school administrator salary exceeds $94,000 per year. This page introduces school administrator careers, including common job duties, degree requirements, and career advancement opportunities.
Alternate job titles for school administrators:
- Higher Education Administrator
- Department Head
- School Principal
- Instructional Coordinator
What Does a School Administrator Do?
School administrators help schools run smoothly. Their duties vary depending on the job environment. K-12 school administrators oversee school operations and activities as principals and superintendents. Principals hire and evaluate teachers and staff, implement curriculum standards, and manage school budgets. At the district level, superintendents coordinate between schools and set standards.
School administrators help schools run smoothly. Their duties vary depending on the job environment. K-12 school administrators oversee school operations and activities as principals and superintendents.
Higher education administrators oversee student services and academic affairs at colleges and universities. They may work in the admissions office, setting enrollment numbers and evaluating applications, or in the registrar's office, scheduling courses and overseeing student registration. In student affairs, school administrators advise students on academic issues and manage programs to support students.
Academic deans and provosts are school administrators that manage academic and research affairs. They often possess a postsecondary teaching background and a doctorate.
Regardless of the setting, school administrators need strong organizational and leadership skills. Overseeing a school or department also requires problem-solving and communication skills.
Become a School Administrator
School administrators can earn a degree in education administration or educational leadership. Some programs offer a concentration or degree in higher education administration with specialized coursework for college administrators. In addition to a master's degree, school administrators often need professional experience. Most principals, for example, teach for several years before moving into an administrative role.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
A bachelor's degree gives school administrators foundational skills in education, management, and communications. While colleges and universities typically do not offer a school administrator bachelor's degree, several majors build the skills required for graduate programs in school administration. For example, a bachelor's degree in education or teaching prepares graduates to pursue a teaching license and work as an educator, a common professional experience requirement for school administrators.
Many social science majors also give students valuable skills for school administration careers, like the ability to make evidence-based arguments, read critically, and communicate effectively. A bachelor's degree in public administration or management also prepares undergraduates to pursue a master's degree in school administration.
A bachelor's degree generally takes four years of full-time study to complete. Students complete general education requirements that build critical thinking and writing skills. Learners also take major courses and electives. Graduates can apply to master's programs in areas like education administration, higher education administration, or educational leadership.
Master's Degree Programs
A master's degree represents the entry-level education requirement for most school administration jobs, such as principal, college administrator, superintendent, and provost. Many of these positions also require work experience, which graduate students begin building through practicums and internships.
During a master's in education administration or educational leadership, students take research-based courses that build analytical and problem-solving skills. These courses train students to analyze educational data and reach conclusions based on their analysis. School principal programs incorporate courses on curriculum development, teacher and student assessment, and leadership in the education system. A higher education administration degree incorporates classes on governance in higher education, the profession of student affairs, and higher education policy.
Most master's programs take two years of full-time study to complete. Some accelerated programs may offer a shorter timeline. An online master's in education administration may appeal to working teachers. The flexibility of an online learning environment helps professionals complete coursework around their work schedule.
Doctoral Degree Programs
A doctorate in education administration prepares graduates for the most advanced education administration roles. Students take courses on topics like research methods, qualitative analysis, and quantitative research design. After meeting coursework requirements, doctoral students must pass comprehensive examinations and research and write a dissertation. Students must successfully defend their dissertation before faculty members to earn the degree.
In lieu of a doctorate in education administration, some higher education administrators hold a doctorate in a different discipline. For example, deans and provosts might hold a doctorate in humanities, business, or another academic discipline. This path to school administrator jobs can take a decade or longer as it requires earning a doctorate and gaining experience as a professor before becoming an administrator.
Many doctoral programs in higher education administration take 3-5 years to complete. Graduates can pursue roles such as superintendent, provost, or college president.
In many states, school administrators must hold a professional license to practice. For example, public school principals in most states need a school administrator license. Superintendents, instructional coordinators, and other K-12 school administrators also often need a license to work in a public school.
Licensure requirements vary by state. In most states, candidates must hold a master's degree in an area like education administration or educational leadership. After completing education requirements, candidates often must pass an exam and a background check. In some states, principals need a specialized license, known as a principal license, while other school administrators hold a school administrator license. Some states also require a superintendent license.
Higher education school administrators typically do not need a professional license. A master's degree and related work experience often meet the requirements for higher education administration jobs. Similarly, school administrators working in private K-12 schools often do not need a school administrator license, though some charter schools require it. Prospective school administrators should research the licensure requirements and process in their state.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a school administrator do?
A school administrator manages student affairs, oversees staff, and sets long-term goals for their department or school.
How do I become a school administrator?
Most school administration jobs require a master's degree or higher. A school principal typically earns a master's in education administration, while college administrators often hold a master's in higher education administration.
What degree do you need to be a school administrator?
School administrators generally need a master's degree in education administration, educational leadership, or a related area.
Is a principal an administrator?
Yes; principals act as school administrators. They oversee school operations, including daily activities.
Who is considered a school administrator?
School administrators include school principals, superintendents, and instructional coordinators at the K-12 level. In colleges and universities, deans, directors, and provosts act as school administrators.
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