Steps to Advance Into an Educational Leadership Career

educational leader standing in corridor with students
educational leader standing in corridor with students

If you are an experienced teacher, you may be wondering what it would be like to take on new responsibilities and enter the educational leadership career field in your school or district.

With many education leaders retiring now and in the near future, there are opportunities for teachers to advance their careers in educational leadership.

But because these leadership roles often require extensive education, certification and experience, you need to be prepared when an opportunity arises.

What is an Educational Leadership Career?

Educational leaders are the experienced faculty members in an educational institution that direct departments, lead boards and committees, and provide accountability and leadership to the school’s other teachers. They are distinct from educational administrators, who hold positions such as school principal, vice-principal or superintendent; education leaders often continue in teaching positions while administering their leadership capacities.

Educational leadership careers are available at all levels of educational instruction, from preschools to universities. The smaller the institution, the fewer paid leadership opportunities will exist. However, taking on pro-bono leadership responsibilities in these smaller schools can help you gain experience that will enable you to move into a recognized educational leadership role in the future. Some common roles include the following:

  • college or university department chair
  • high school department director
  • special education department director
  • university academic dean
  • college department chair
  • athletic director

What You’ll Do

As an education leader you will help teachers work better individually and as part of a team, and improve the quality of education in our schools and universities.

As a department director, chair or dean, you will be responsible for the organizational and practical operations of your department or school, and you will answer to a higher-level educational administrator, such as a principal, president or superintendent. Good education leaders understand the ins and outs of the educational world and its processes and are able to balance the needs of teachers, students and other faculty. They act as representatives of the teachers, professors or coaches in their department during school or district planning, fulfill budgeting and fund raising goals and continually review and improve programs and curricula.

How Do I Become an Educational Leader?

If you are interested in becoming a department chair or the director of your school’s math, science, special education or language arts department, you’ll need a graduate degree through an educational leadership program at an accredited college or university. Some states and institutions require doctorate level work for educational leaders; however, most require a master’s degree in educational leadership or instructional leadership, teaching and leadership experience, and successful completion of aptitude tests.

If you enroll in an educational leadership degree program, you can expect to focus on issues such as the following:

  • team building
  • improvement of school effectiveness
  • structuring of educational institutions
  • comparative international study of education reform
  • policy analysis and development at the local, state and national level

Ready to Get Started?