7 steps to becoming a school administrator
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in administration, such as becoming a principal or superintendent, it’s important to understand necessary steps. Let’s dive into the education, credentials, skills and experience necessary for this role.
1. Learn about your duties
School administrators work with teachers, families, students and the school’s leadership to ensure that their institution is providing quality education to their students. Some of the duties of a school administrator are:
- Managing staff, including recruiting, interviewing and disciplining
- Supporting teaching staff
- Handling the school’s budget and other financial matters
- Handling other important administration logistics, such as keeping the property presentable and up to code and planning school-related events
- Representing the school at events
- Implementing education programs and ensuring compliance with state and national requirements
School administrators must be responsible and organized and have strong communication and leadership skills. Understanding the duties you will be expected to perform will help you develop the skills necessary to succeed in this type of leadership position.
Based on your location and the size of your school, college or university, your duties as a school administrator may differ from what is listed above. For example, a larger institution may have several administrators, department chairs or similar leaders to whom the head administrator may delegate tasks.
2. Obtain the required degree
To become a school administrator or principal, you typically must first earn a bachelor’s degree in education; next, a master’s degree in education, such as a Master of Arts in Education/Administration and Supervision, will equip you with skills to succeed in educational leadership and administration roles.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a master’s degree is typically required for many administrator roles at universities. High school principals and superintendents also need a master’s degree. However, school administrators at smaller colleges may only need a bachelor’s degree. There are additional degrees that can help school administrators further develop their skills and find more job opportunities.
Post-master’s certificates in educational leadership or higher education administration, or a Doctor of Education degree, can help open new doors for a school administrator. To be hired in leadership positions such as provost or dean, a doctoral degree is typically needed.
It is possible to earn the required degree to enter a leadership position by taking courses online while continuing to work in a school and gaining teaching experience.
3. Obtain the required certification
Becoming certified by your state as a school administrator, if it is required, is a vital part of starting your career, especially if you shift from working in university leadership to working in the public school system. While the requirements differ depending on local and state laws, some of the common requirements are:
- A valid and current teaching license in the state where you are applying for your school administrator certification
- State-specific professional teaching experience
Know the state-specific requirements in your area as you begin to pursue a career in school administration, especially if you are shifting from primary or secondary to postsecondary education.
If you are interested in working in the postsecondary field, when applying to colleges and universities, a list of certification requirements is typically in the job posting.
As you grow in your career, you may choose to look into superintendent state certification or endorsement for working in leadership in the public school system.
4. Complete required experience
While some states require five years of teaching experience before you become a school administrator, others might not. It can be very helpful to work in a school environment before applying to become a school administrator. Working as a teacher or professor can help you develop the skills to:
- Communicate effectively with students and families
- Develop strong curriculum and lesson plans
- Understand the university system and how to work within it
- Use new skills from continuing education and staff training to improve your leadership and administrative skills
Teaching for several years before becoming a school administrator will also help you to understand, from personal experience, what the day-to-day life of a teacher or professor is like. This can help you to make more empathetic and informed decisions as a school administrator.