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
School administrator talks to a student

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.

Other Students Requested Program Information From:

Job Growth

The job prospective for a school administrator are positive with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected growth of 4% through the year 2029, which is the same as the growth projections for school principals.

What are the Requirements for Becoming a School Administrator?

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

Teaching Certificate to Become a School Administrator

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 to Become a School Administrator

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.

Most school administrators earn a master's degree in educational administration.

Teaching Experience

Most states will require experience in teaching between one and five 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.

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 (

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

Jobs for School Administrators

School administrator is a title that has different meanings depending on where the job is posted. Regardless, the title refers to a senior or executive leadership 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
  • Lead in a collaborative and motivating manner to peers, colleagues, community stakeholders, subordinates, students and other stakeholders
  • 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
  • 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
  • Lead strategic planning, development, implementation, and evaluation, as well as operational management, staffing and administration
  • Endorse the partnership of academic departments, schools, consultants and colleagues with other key stakeholders
  • 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.
  • Function as a last point of reference and leadership for community or family-school dispute resolution

School administrators can take advantage of a number of employment avenues. Keep reading to learn more.

Other Students Requested Program Information From:

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 Schools

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

AASPA - American Association of School Personnel Administrators: AASPA is a professional organization that fosters high-quality professional development for HR leaders in schools, providing services, resources and information vital to successful school HR practices in the interest of students.

AFSA - American Foundation of School Administrators: The American Federation of School Administrators is the exclusive national labor union for administrators, professionals and supervisors advocating for excellence and equity in all schools, workplaces and communities.

What is the Salary of a School Administrator?

On average, school administrators in the public sector earn an average annual salary of $100,340 from kindergarten through grade 12, according to 2019 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. 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 data for educational administrators reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2019. Figures represent state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Information accessed March 2021.)

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
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
Rhode Island130$67,540
South Carolina570$49,900
South Dakota70$49,120
Washington, DC400$53,550
West Virginia150$39,390

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

Salary (2016) By Largest Metropolitan Areas

AreaEmployedAvg Salary

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics ( 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
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
Rhode Island870$97,790
South Carolina3,600$80,190
South Dakota570$73,550
Washington, DC770$86,590
West Virginia1,920$65,050

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics ( for Education Administrators, Elementary, Middle, and High School (SOC Code: 11-9032)

Salary (2016) By Largest Metropolitan Areas

AreaEmployedAvg Salary

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics ( for Education Administrators, Elementary, Middle, and High School (SOC Code: 11-9032)


Get the latest news for teachers.