School Administration Career Paths
Harness the best of your experience and networking to land the school administration job of your dreams.
Great teachers are vital to our future, and although seeing students succeed can be its own reward, many of the four million teachers in the U.S. are looking for ways to grow professionally without losing the satisfaction of influencing young minds. School administration is one such path. Like teachers, school administrators are also essential to the success of their schools and districts, and they never lose sight of the goal: providing the best education to their students.
Typical Career Path Into School Administration
Becoming a School Principal
With nearly half a million school administrators in the country, job diversity within the field is vast.
For instance, you might start out as a teacher and study for a Master of Arts degree in Education online or at night. This education, along with completion of your state teacher certification process, will allow you to move into a position as a school principal in an elementary, middle or secondary school.
As a school principal, you will have a wide variety of responsibilities:
- Providing overall leadership in setting goals and objectives for your school
- Developing and maintaining curriculum standards
- Advising staff
- Hiring, evaluating and improving the skills of your teachers
Moving to the District Level
School principals often move on to become district-wide school administration specialists. These school administrators work with subject-area programs such as English, music, vocational education, special education or math to set curriculum and evaluate teaching techniques.
As a department director, you will work broadly across all of the schools in a district to set common standards and provide departmental support.
Instructional Leadership: The Sky is the Limit
From district level positions, you can move into instructional leadership opportunities that include jobs in education law, finance and budgeting, curriculum development and evaluation, research design, data analysis, community relations and politics in education.
These district and state level jobs are often available at colleges, universities, private firms or research entities, and often require more advanced education, such as a doctorate of education in school administration.
Chief academic officers, school deans or provosts work with faculty and school presidents to make faculty appointments, provide instructional leadership, develop budgets and establish academic programs.
If the sky is your limit and you are after some of the most prestigious roles in school administration, try becoming a school dean and working your way up to the top of the heap as a university president.
Typical Education Levels in School Administration
Many students starting out in the area of school administration already have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in an area such as teaching, community development or social work, but want to expand their opportunities in education administration, leadership and policy.
If you want to have a positive impact on the direction of public schools, private institutions, or institutes of higher learning, additional training is usually required. Advanced education, such as education specialist and doctoral degrees, are becoming more common for practitioners in these roles.
However, there are also training programs and certificates in specific areas of school administration that can help you gain the qualifications you need to advance.
The Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) is a shorter program (one or two years, depending on the institution) for teachers who want to continue a career in school administration in a chosen field—administration, policy, leadership, etc.—but don’t want to complete a doctoral degree.
One thing to keep in mind when pursuing advanced positions in school administration is that, as in any field, experience and education give you the skills, but networking gets you the job. Professional organizations can be instrumental in helping you hear about positions, meet colleagues and find the right professional fit.
Large organizations, such as the American Association for Adult & Continuing Education (AAACE) or the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) have events and forums that will help you find more information about your field.
Smaller organizations, such as alumni clubs, or other specific groups such as the American Association of University Women (AAUW), are often active in their communities with meetings and events where you can connect with colleagues and share information.
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