School Administrator: Educational Requirements

School administrator positions usually require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

School administrators work in every level of education. They might direct programming, hire and supervise staff, manage budgets and make decisions that affect the academic community. They are also in charge of developing a direction and mission for the facility at which they work.

Completion of a master's degree is generally required for school administrators, with preschools and some private schools requiring less education. Administrators also frequently earn a doctorate. In addition, licensure or certification is necessary for many positions. The profession often requires training.

Career Preschool and Childcare Center Administrator Elementary and Secondary School Administrator Postsecondary Administrator
Required Education Varies from high school diploma to bachelor's degree Master's degree or higher typically required Master's degree or higher typically required
Other Requirements Related work experience; some states require national certification Teaching experience; some positions, such as principal, typically require state licensure Related work experience
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 17%* 6%* 15%*
Median Annual Salary (2013) $44,890* $88,380* $87,410*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

Prospective preschool and childcare center administrators generally need no more than a bachelor's degree. However, on the elementary, secondary and postsecondary levels, most educational professionals with a desire to rise in the hierarchy get a master's or doctoral degree in education.

Graduate Programs

Degree programs for prospective elementary, secondary and postsecondary administrators are offered at various levels and under different titles, including Master of School Administration, Master of Education in Administration, Master of Arts in Education Administration and Doctor of Education in Education Administration. In combination with these programs, or as separate options, students might complete postbaccalaureate or post-master's certificate programs in school administration.

Admission to graduate programs generally requires that the applicant has a few years of experience in the school system in addition to an undergraduate degree from an accredited university. Once accepted, students frequently have a choice of specialization in areas such as K-12, higher education, non-school setting and public education leadership.

Typical coursework in these programs can include strategic planning, teacher recruitment, school laws, instructional leadership, school finance, organizational theory and school-community relations. Fieldwork experiences are also part of most graduate programs, and these experiences might result in a portfolio documenting that work.

Other Requirements

While postsecondary administrators don't need licensing, some administrative positions on the elementary and secondary levels, such as public school principal, do require licensure through the state. Additionally, many administrators receive on-the-job training with a mentor.

Once employed, school administrators have many ethical obligations. These education professionals are responsible for reporting suspected abuse as well as reaching out to students with physical, psychological or emotional issues.

Occupational Outlook and Salary

Job opportunities for elementary, middle and secondary school administrators are expected to grow slower than average at about 6% from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. For the same decade, growth for preschool administrators was estimated at 17%, and postsecondary administrator job growth was predicted to be 15%.

Statistics from the BLS indicated that preschool and childcare center administrators earned a median annual salary of $44,890 in 2013, while elementary and secondary school administrators earned a median annual salary of $88,380. Postsecondary education administrators earned a median annual salary of $87,410 the same year.

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