How to Become a School Administrator

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be. Rosalynn Carter

A school administrator can hold a couple of different positions within a school. A school administrator is a term used to describe leaders in a school, such as a principal, vice principal, or other school leaders in an official capacity.

Qualities of a School Administrator

A school administrator needs to be a leader, organized, and committed to the job. A school administrator may be responsible for setting a curriculum, organizing professional development, creating master schedules, observing and mentoring staff, as well as completing office or clerical tasks as needed.

A school administrator is a leader, one who can delegate as needed, but keeps things organized and calm in the case of emergency. The administrator needs to be a boss, disciplinarian, organizer, and leader.

Job Growth

The job prospective for a school administrator are positive with a Bureau of Labor Statistics projected growth of six percent through the year 2028. This is comparable to school principals as the jobs very similar.

What are the Requirements for Becoming a School Administrator?

Becoming a certified school administrator often begins much like becoming a teacher.

Teaching Certificate

School administrators in public schools, and most private or charter schools, must hold a teaching credential and at least a Bachelor's Degree. To gain a teaching degree and certification, you must attend a college or university that has been certified and accredited. Education classes are both general and specific depending on the certification you seek. All education majors will be required to take developmental classes, classroom management classes, and basic teaching courses, but subject and grade specific courses can also be required based on the desired area of certification.

Master's Degree

In most cases, a candidate who desires to become a school administrator must also earn a Master's Degree in educational leadership, school administration, or another form of leadership. A Ph.D or Ed.D in the field may also be desires. In addition, there may be extra classes and requirements you must fulfill if an administrative credential is also requires.

Many School Administrators earn a degree in Educational Administration.

Teaching Experience

Most states will require experience in teaching between 1 and 5 years and a form of shadowing with a principal during master's level courses.

Tests to Pass for Becoming a School Administrator

In addition to the tests needed to earn a teaching certificate, states also require the passing of an administration exam at the level in which you hope to lead. Most states will honor the PRAXIS Educational Leadership: Administration and Supervision exam. However, some states may have their own required exam.

Scores for all proficiency exams can vary from state to state or even between districts, so check cutoff scores for the district you plan to work in. This will allow you to set your standards appropriately prior to the test.

Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State

Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.

School Administrator by Degree Level

The tables and charts below break down the education level obtained as averaged across the U.S.

Degree LevelPercent (%)
Less Than High School Diploma0.7%
High School Diploma5.1%
Some College9.0%
Associate Degree5.0%
Bachelors Degree22.0%
Masters Degree44.7%
Doctorate Degree13.5%

Data taken from BLS Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2010-11 (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_111.htm)

What Does A School Administrator Do?

A school administrator completes administrative duties at a school, depending on his/her actual title. This can be as a principal, vice principal, instructional supervisor, or any other position the school deems necessary.

The school administrator may be in charge of discipline, overall school order, master schedules, teacher hiring, firing, and evaluation. A school administrator is in place as an organizational leader and must be professional. The administrator will be expected to attend numerous school events, meetings, and classes, but will also need to attend professional development and school board level meetings as needed. A school administrator must be organized and well-versed in school matters. A school administrator must also be understanding, yet diplomatic when dealing with parents, teachers, and students.

Your office is typically located in or near the main office of the school, though schools each have a unique design. However, you will likely be near the school entrance so you are easily accessible at all times. Becoming a school administrator is a noble task. The job can be stressful and time consuming, but the rewards will be felt for generations. Imagine being able to influence not only students, but current and future educators

School Administrator Jobs & Job Description

School administrator is a title that has different meanings depending on where the job is posted. Regardless, the title refers to a senior or ‘management' style of position suitable to those who have advanced degrees and a full professional history. Sometimes principal and sometimes district-level manager, a school administrator's list of job responsibilities often looks like this. School administrators:

  • Have or are seeking experience as superintendent or other central district office leadership role
  • Develop, lead and advocate for innovation in education, including curriculum and finances
  • Generate ideas and solutions to problems and issues
  • Lead in a collaborative and motivating manner to peers, colleagues, community stakeholders, subordinates, and most of all, students
  • Communicate effectively with all constituencies
  • Effectively and economically manage school and district financial steering and current budgetary needs
  • Have extensive personnel management and leadership experience
  • Negotiate and manage collective bargaining agreements
  • Have strategic and operational leadership with an emphasis on strategic alignment to the post-secondary journey
  • Develop and endorse a culture of evidence-based practice, and ongoing evaluation to measure effectiveness, impact on student learning, success and financial return-on-investment of various methodologies
  • Engage in ongoing quality assurance and assessment which includes student and stakeholder feedback
  • Become an educated stakeholder in all aspects of the labour market in order to determine work integrated learning opportunities as well as post-secondary pathways
  • Partner with and provide leadership, guidance and direction to staff while maximizing staff and department performance.
  • Develop and implement budgets at the district and school level; provide data and input for budget and financial concerns at the state level
  • Other duties as assigned by fellow officers, trustees and Director
  • Strategic planning, development, implementation, and evaluation, as well as operational management, staffing and administration
  • Work closely with staff and stakeholders to ensure that education-administration roles are accountable and current to the needs of the district
  • Endorse the partnership of academic departments, schools, consultants and colleagues with other key stakeholders
  • Provide daily support and mentorship to employees
  • Foster innovation and productivity as well as excellence in curriculum
  • Create synergy and cohesion of staff across departmental and school boundaries in order to facilitate professional development, as well as maximize capacity and impact on students.
  • Resolve workplace issues and challenges to policy
  • Maintain regular communication and idea exchange with key stakeholders at the school, district, and post-secondary levels
  • Serve as an ambassador of the district to the immediate community, employer community, councils, and other external stakeholders forging productive relationships at all levels
  • Function as a last point of reference and leadership for community or family-school dispute resolution
  • Liaise with district trustees, student trustees and other stakeholders for steering strategic plans to shape district vision and goals over time

School administrators can take advantage of a number of employment avenues. Read on to learn more.

Where Can Certified School Administrators Work?

A school administrator can work as a principal, vice principal, instructional supervisor, or school administrator in any area in which he or she is certified and has received passing scores on necessary exams. This means jobs could be available at the elementary, middle, or high school levels. The schools may be public, private, or charter schools. Choosing a school will in great part depend on the type of certification that you have received, but there are other aspects you may wish to consider.

Public School

A school administrator in a public school must make sure the state curriculum is being taught in an appropriate manner. Though the students are more diverse, it is highly likely that more students will attend any public school. This is due to public school being free for all attendees. The burden of meeting state requirements for public schools also often falls to the school administrator.

Private Schools and Charter Schools

Private schools and charter schools are more likely to have someone in a position that is titled "school administrator", but many of the requirements will be the same as a public school principal. However, there are differences in a private versus charter school. Both schools are usually smaller than public schools, but the private school charges tuition. Both schools have the option to be strict on who attends, teaches, and runs each school. Private schools may also require affiliation with a particular religion or group in order to be hired. Both a private and public schools have more control over curriculum than a public school, but state standards must still be met each year. However, if standards are not met, the school will not lose funding because it is not publicly funded.

School Administrator Organizations & Associations

What is the Salary of a School Administrator?

On average, school administrators in the public sector earn between $70,348 (Payscale.com) and $71,533 (Glassdoor.com) a year. The average salary does not include the almost unparalleled health and retirement benefits. Administrators may be principals, vice-principals, specialists, coordinators, head teachers, among others. Like other teaching roles, private school administrators earn considerably less. Administrators with more education and experience may be able to negotiate a higher salary.

Salary (2016) and Job Outlook (2012 to 2020) by State

According to the published BLS data from 2016, the national average salary for Education Administrators, Preschool and Childcare Center/Program is $52,150, with an estimated 48,530 being employed nationwide. Also, the job outlook growth projection from 2012 to 2020 is expected to increase by 17%.

StateEmployedAvg Salary
Alabama230$61,290
Alaska130$51,060
Arizona920$41,670
Arkansas640$48,080
California7,070$59,290
Colorado680$47,880
Connecticut960$51,740
Delaware160$46,740
Florida390$63,590
Georgia1,710$50,940
Hawaii330$48,450
Idaho120$42,910
Illinois2,040$52,180
Indiana810$43,690
Iowa710$39,360
Kansas320$48,310
Kentucky280$41,540
Louisiana260$44,600
Maine210$42,520
Maryland870$50,030
Massachusetts2,120$57,670
Michigan1,270$54,730
Minnesota1,160$48,180
Mississippi380$45,590
Missouri770$41,810
Montana130$44,390
Nebraska100$47,380
Nevada260$42,660
New Hampshire270$46,720
New Jersey1,770$67,590
New Mexico320$52,430
New York4,270$66,910
North Carolina1,820$45,630
North Dakota110$39,870
Ohio2,540$44,910
Oklahoma830$36,870
Oregon680$45,960
Pennsylvania2,090$45,090
Rhode Island130$67,540
South Carolina570$49,900
South Dakota70$49,120
Tennessee1,040$38,110
Texas2,230$46,370
Utah210$48,680
Vermont250$46,000
Virginia980$53,940
Washington1,010$44,630
Washington, DC400$53,550
West Virginia150$39,390
Wisconsin720$50,050
Wyoming90$45,940

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for Education Administrators, Preschool and Childcare Center/Program (SOC Code: 11-9031)

Salary (2016) By Largest Metropolitan Areas

AreaEmployedAvg Salary
Boston, Cambridge, Newton930$63,700
Washington, Arlington, Alexandria930$53,940
Oakland, Hayward, Berkeley900$52,470
Houston, The Woodlands, Sugar Land820$51,140
Nassau County, Suffolk County750$69,720
San Francisco, Redwood City, South San Francisco640$55,790
San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara630$60,350
Cincinnati570$42,790
Montgomery County, Bucks County, Chester County560$44,690
Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale560$39,790
Columbus530$40,710
Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington530$56,990
Philadelphia510$52,770
Seattle, Bellevue, Everett500$50,030
Baltimore, Columbia, Towson490$58,440
Portland, Vancouver, Hillsboro470$43,410
San Diego, Carlsbad470$52,820
Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine460$55,580
Dallas, Plano, Irving450$44,540
Newark450$62,320

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for Education Administrators, Preschool and Childcare Center/Program (SOC Code: 11-9031)

Salary (2016) and Job Outlook (2012 to 2020) by State

According to the published BLS data from 2016, the national average salary for Education Administrators, Elementary, Middle, and High School is $95,390, with an estimated 242,970 being employed nationwide. Also, the job outlook growth projection from 2012 to 2020 is expected to increase by 5.7%.

StateEmployedAvg Salary
Alabama3,140$77,880
Alaska600$97,950
Arizona4,120$73,620
Arkansas2,250$76,910
California20,390$102,090
Colorado4,060$82,300
Connecticut2,950$117,420
Delaware730$108,180
Florida4,740$89,530
Georgia7,170$85,340
Hawaii990$84,560
Idaho1,160$77,060
Illinois13,260$99,640
Indiana4,020$81,890
Iowa2,250$86,850
Kansas2,210$81,020
Kentucky3,900$81,810
Louisiana3,540$73,170
Maine1,350$73,820
Maryland5,580$103,640
Massachusetts6,320$97,510
Michigan6,730$89,130
Minnesota2,870$97,690
Mississippi2,360$72,410
Missouri4,390$88,640
Montana790$74,860
Nebraska1,540$88,710
Nevada1,460$89,950
New Hampshire1,240$81,070
New Jersey8,520$124,040
New Mexico1,440$77,540
New York18,080$111,790
North Carolina7,570$67,850
North Dakota570$81,670
Ohio8,470$82,820
Oklahoma2,840$70,780
Oregon2,620$95,350
Pennsylvania7,860$98,150
Rhode Island870$97,790
South Carolina3,600$80,190
South Dakota570$73,550
Tennessee5,080$74,000
Texas22,320$76,020
Utah1,640$82,470
Vermont840$83,140
Virginia6,410$86,720
Washington4,160$102,030
Washington, DC770$86,590
West Virginia1,920$65,050
Wisconsin4,100$94,690
Wyoming420$92,870

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for Education Administrators, Elementary, Middle, and High School (SOC Code: 11-9032)

Salary (2016) By Largest Metropolitan Areas

AreaEmployedAvg Salary
Richmond980$86,420
Oklahoma City970$72,700
Grand Rapids, Wyoming900$88,870
McAllen, Edinburg, Mission870$84,280
Springfield860$94,880
San Francisco, Redwood City, South San Francisco850$114,560
Omaha, Council Bluffs840$96,440
Fresno790$113,210
Salt Lake City750$88,690
Tulsa750$73,620
Tucson740$69,590
Colorado Springs710$85,990
Columbia690$84,260
Birmingham, Hoover690$82,560
Knoxville680$79,250
Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater680$89,970
Urban Honolulu670$91,920
Worcester670$108,030
Des Moines, West Des Moines660$100,230
Akron650$89,260

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for Education Administrators, Elementary, Middle, and High School (SOC Code: 11-9032)