Careers, courses and degree options for teachers aspiring to be leaders
From ensuring elementary school curricula is engaging to managing university admissions, a degree in education administration can help professionals start careers leading fellow educators and supporting student academics. Teaching professionals and prospective students can use this guide to get expert advice and learn more about their options for education administration degrees and careers. Meet the Expert
Best Education Administration Degree
Education administrators play an important role in directing the future, so choosing a quality degree program is an important first step. A good school will not only provide students with the training needed to become successful education administrators, but it will also provide dedicated peers, accessible faculty and multiple program options. Check out which education administration schools topped our list for 2017.
2 - Year Colleges
4 - Year Colleges
Pathways to an Education Administration Degree
Teachers and educators with an interest in the inner workings of the education system may be good candidates for an education administration degree. Most education administers earn master’s degrees, doctoral degrees or both. In general, master’s degrees provide an introduction to administrative roles, theories and practices while doctorates allow experienced educators to deepen their knowledge of specialized topics and the education system at large. Undergraduate degrees in education administration are generally not offered, although other related majors can prepare students for graduate work and set them on the right professional path.
Undergraduate Education and Work Experience
Because most education administrators start their careers in the field as teachers and work their way up to leadership positions, one is unlikely to find undergraduate degrees in education administration specifically. At the same time, holding a bachelor’s degree is almost always a requirement for admission to master’s and doctorate programs. In addition, many master’s and doctorate degree programs in education administration will require applicants to have a certain number of years as a teacher before they will be considered for admission. For these reasons, undergraduate students interested in the field should not be discouraged, however: a little patience and research can help one make informed decisions that support their long-term goals.
Suggested Majors and Courses
It can be difficult for new undergraduate students to consider the many factors that go into becoming an education administrator. Work experience, licensure, exams and GPA all eventually come into play, and planning for them early on can streamline the progression toward more advanced education administration degrees. While it is important for undergraduates to maintain a good GPA and prepare for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), a common criterion for graduate school admissions, it is just as vital that they choose majors relevant to education administration.
The following undergraduate majors provide a solid foundation for education administration master’s degree programs:
Specific coursework can also help prepare students for education administration careers and degree programs. The following classes can prepare students for master’s degrees and doctorates in the field: Teaching as a Career
Explore the challenges and practices surrounding skilled public school teaching. Topics include learning as a part of development and the purpose of education. Intro to Education and Society
Learn the significance of schools as social institutions and means of cultural transmission, and how these factors influence administrative decision-making. Organizational Design and Change
Study technology in relation to organizational structure, processes and design, and how to establish innovative and dynamic environments within multi-level institutions. Contemporary Leadership Issues
Examine the issues and management paradigms that shape effective leadership in contemporary education. Principles of Communication
Explore an array of perspectives and concepts that promote effective communication among educators of all types.
It is a good idea for students to get their licenses as soon as possible as many master's and doctoral degree programs in education administration only admit applicants with formal teaching experience. Most education-focused bachelor’s programs prepare students for national teacher certification or state licensure; some even include these exams in their curricula.
Learn more about an education teaching credential
While admissions requisites vary by institution, many doctoral programs require applicants to have three to five years of professional experience in addition to a master’s degree. The following tables go into more detail about what students can expect from graduate-level degrees in education administration.
If one has a passion for a leadership role in education, a degree in education administration is a must. Dr. Richard C. Horowitz
Education Administration Master’s Degrees (MAEd/ADM)
Type of Schools:
Four-year colleges and universities
Time to Complete:
One to two years, full-time
Three to five years, part-time
Principal, District Superintendent, Education Researcher, Academic Advisor, Instructional Coordinator
Students who want to strengthen their teaching careers or move into administrative roles often pursue master’s degrees in education administration. Some programs require or give preference to students who have their teaching licenses while others provide the option to earn a teaching license while pursuing an administration license. Through courses on pedagogy, leadership, education law and other decision-making forces within the education system, graduates of master’s programs may find administrative careers in all levels of education.
Master’s-level education administration degree programs have room for specialization, but students can also expect to take core courses fundamental to the field. Education Law
Study the legal principles, issues and ethical considerations that affect educational policy-making and success. Student will explore student and teacher rights, policy, equity and influential legal cases. Governance and Administration of Colleges and Universities
Examine the functions and organization of higher learning institutions, including administrative roles and practices. Students will learn about policy-making in relation to students, administrators, governing boards and faculty members. Using Data for School Improvement
Become acquainted with different types of data and how they might improve education planning, visioning and decision-making. Students will collect, analyze and report data in this class. Curriculum Construction
Study contemporary methods and theories surrounding effective curricular design. Students will develop curricula that address strategies for diverse learners, design perspectives and the politics of curriculum implementation.
Education Administration Doctorate Degrees (PhD/EdD)
Type of Schools:
Four-year colleges & universities
Time to Complete:
Three to six years, part-time
Professional Development Specialist, University Dean of Student Affairs, Community College President, Education Policy Specialist
Doctoral education administration students gain both high-level knowledge of the field and a specialized area of interest, like educational psychology, leadership in urban school settings or teacher education in multicultural societies. Students can pursue PhDs, which are generally more research-oriented, or EdDs, which tend to focus on methods and theories that can be directly applied in the workplace.
Most programs require a master’s degree, a valid teaching license and practical teaching experience as a requirement for admission. Doctoral education administration programs are typically designed for working professionals: degrees can be completed part-time and classes are often scheduled on weekends or in the evening.
While doctorate-level classes can vary greatly depending on concentration or specialization, prospective students can learn what to expect from a program by reviewing its coursework. The following table highlights examples of real education administration courses.
Examine current leadership theories, elements of leadership and management, and systems behaviors of administration in educational environments. Students will also discuss how politics, change, power and communication impact education leadership.
Educational Leadership and Change
Survey the financial and business aspects of education administration at the postsecondary level, including federal and state funding, budgeting, institutional planning and sources of financial support.
Finance in Higher Education
Explore the role of education in culturally diverse societies, especially regarding racial, socioeconomic and regional subpopulations. Educational opportunity, social stratification, and education's effect on intergroup relations will be discussed.
Diversity and Equity in Education
Carefully examine the tools, techniques and presentation of syntheses and reviews of the educational literature that informs future research. Students will learn how to systematically map known information and extract the research questions, frameworks and methods used.
Critical Review of Educational Leadership Research
Pre-Enrollment Checklist for Education Administration Programs
There are a few things prospective students might want to consider when choosing education administration degree programs. Among them are the following:
Many education administration programs give students the opportunity to focus their studies on a specific area within the field. Students considering this option should make sure their program of choice offers concentrations within their area of interest.
Earning an education administration degree might mean conforming to a very specific schedule, particularly with doctoral programs. While many schools design these programs with working students in mind, prospective learners should still confirm that classes their scheduling needs before they apply for admission.
Accreditation is important for many reasons. Most state licensing boards and exams require that applicants hold degrees from accredited institutions. Accreditation also indicates a program meets established quality standards. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)replaced both the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC), making it the sole provider of accreditation for education preparation programs. Note that schools accredited by the TEAC or the NCATE retain that status under the CAEP. Students can review programs that are accredited regionally or by the Council for Higher Education Administration (CHEA).
Some programs offer assistantship opportunities that help recent graduates gain practical experience in education administration right away; others include internships as part of program requirements. This practical experience can be invaluable for prospective education administrators.
Licensing requirements for education administrators vary by state, so it is wise for students to make sure their degree programs will help them meet licensing requirements in the state in which they intend to work. Because states often use similar licensing exams, students who pick programs that prepare them for those exams may have more geographic mobility down the road.
Program prerequisites oStudents should review all education administration program requirements, including prerequisites for specific concentrations, before enrolling. Having the right credentials, work experience and educational background ensures students are in a program that matches their career goals, skills and knowledge.
Career Options in Education Administration
Because education administration students learn not only how to positively impact the education system but also key leadership, communication and management skills, graduates are prepared for a variety of careers in the field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that many education administration careers are growing as fast or faster than the average national rate. The following careers are among those available to graduates with education administration degrees.
Elementary, Middle and High School Principals
Elementary, middle and high school principals are in charge of making sure their schools run smoothly. They work with teachers, parents and students to create and carry out plans that improve learning while still meeting district standards. Principals are also liaisons between their schools and parents, legislators, superintendents and the general public.
- Job Growth (2014-2024): 6%
- Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $90,410
- Typical Education: Master's degree and school administrator license
Instructional coordinators work to improve the effectiveness of school curricula and teaching methods. They may review textbooks; analyze performance data; observe teachers and students in the classroom; create and implement teacher training programs; and suggest curricular changes to school boards.
- Job Growth (2014-2024): 7%
- Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $62,270
- Typical Education: Master's degree (a teaching or administrator license may be required)
Education Administrators - Elementary and Secondary
These administrators work to achieve institutional and student success in public or private schools. They might coordinate with parents to create educational activities or discuss behavioral problems; observe and analyze teaching methods and curricula; ensure curricular standards are met and improved upon; plan professional development activities; or keep track of funds and allocations.
- Job Growth (2014-2024): 6%
- Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $89,500
- Typical Education: Master's degree (a teaching or administrator license may be required)
Postsecondary Education Administrators
Postsecondary education administrators may take on many duties within higher education systems to keep the institutions operating smoothly. They may work to develop admission criteria, maintain student records, organize school functions or conduct research relating to students and faculty.
- Job Growth (2014-2024): 9%
- Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $88,580
- Typical Education: Master's degree (teaching or administrator license may be required
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2015)
Key Skills and Requirements for Education Administrators
Most states require practicing teachers and education administrators to be licensed. Graduates can check their state department’s website for specific licensure requirements.
Both state licensing agencies and degree programs may require that applicants have practical classroom teaching experience. This experience gives professionals skills and perspectives that aid in administrative duties.
Administrators must be able to assess not only the performance of others, but also themselves. They must also consider the costs and benefits of assessment-based decisions.
Strong listening, speaking and writing skills are vital for working effectively with many different people within educational systems. Administrators needs to be able to listen to and understand others’ ideas; convey information accurately and effectively; and engage in meaningful dialogues.
Effective education administrators have strong management skills and experience. Planning, leadership, and coordination of resources and efforts play heavily in education administration.
The ability to apply reason and logic to solve problems and assess outcomes is essential to effective education administration.
Advice from the Expert: Dr. Richard C. Horowitz, Co-founder, Growing Great Relationships
Q. Could you please describe the education and career experience that got you to where you are now?
My master's program in educational administration was the gateway to my transition from classroom teacher to administrator. In particular, the internship portion of the program gave me the opportunity to apply my newly acquired administrative skills under the supervision of program faculty. My doctoral program in educational administration was completed while I was working as a school principal. Upon completion of the program, I was prepared for the next step in my career – Superintendent of Schools. The knowledge I gained from the doctoral program increased my skill set and contributed to my success as superintendent.
Q. What can students expect from an education administration degree program, and how can they prepare to succeed in them?
Expect to learn how to integrate a theoretical perspective into the daily demands of administration. Seek a program that does have an internship component so that you will have the opportunity, under supervision, to implement the new learnings derived from their program. Expect to find pursuing an advanced degree while being employed a particular challenge but certainly doable if you are willing to make some sacrifices in personal time.