Other Qualifications, and Advancement:
Most education administrators begin their careers as teachers and
prepare for advancement into education administration by completing
a master’s or doctoral degree. Because of the diversity of
duties and levels of responsibility, educational backgrounds and
experience vary considerably among these workers.
Principals, assistant principals, central office administrators,
academic deans, and preschool directors usually have held teaching
positions before moving into administration. Some teachers move
directly into principal positions; others first become assistant
principals or gain experience in other administrative jobs at either
the school or district level in positions such as department head,
curriculum specialist, or subject matter advisor.
public schools, principals, assistant principals, and school district
administrators need a master’s degree in education administration
or educational leadership. Some principals and central office administrators
have a doctorate or specialized degree in education administration.
In private schools, some principals and assistant principals hold
only a bachelor’s degree, but the majority of principals have
a master’s or doctoral degree.
requirements for administrators of preschools and child care centers
vary with the setting of the program and the State of employment.
Administrators who oversee preschool programs in public schools
often are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Child
care directors who supervise private programs typically are not
required to have a degree; however, most States require a preschool
education credential, which often includes some postsecondary coursework.
and university academic deans and chairpersons usually advance from
professorships in their departments, for which they need a master’s
or doctoral degree; further education is not typically necessary.
Admissions, student affairs, and financial aid directors and registrars
sometimes start in related staff jobs with bachelor’s degrees—any
field usually is acceptable—and obtain advanced degrees in
college student affairs, counseling, or higher education administration.
A Ph.D. or Ed.D. usually is necessary for top student affairs positions.
Computer literacy and a background in accounting or statistics may
be assets in admissions, records, and financial work.
degrees in higher education administration, educational leadership,
and college student affairs are offered in many colleges and universities.
Education administration degree programs include courses in school
leadership, school law, school finance and budgeting, curriculum
development and evaluation, research design and data analysis, community
relations, politics in education, and counseling. The National Council
for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Educational
Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) accredit programs designed
for elementary and secondary school administrators. Although completion
of an accredited program is not required, it may assist in fulfilling
Most States require principals to be licensed as school administrators.
License requirements vary by State, but nearly all States require
either a master’s degree or some other graduate-level training.
Some States also require candidates for licensure to pass a test.
On-the-job training, often with a mentor, is increasingly required
or recommended for new school leaders. Some States require administrators
to take continuing education courses to keep their license, thus
ensuring that administrators have the most up-to-date skills. The
number and types of courses required to maintain licensure vary
by State. Principals in private schools are not subject to State
all States require child care and preschool center directors to
be licensed. Licensing usually requires a number of years of experience
or hours of coursework or both. Sometimes, it requires a college
degree. Often, directors also are required to earn a general preschool
education credential, such as the Child Development Associate credential
(CDA) sponsored by the Council for Professional Recognition, or
some other credential designed specifically for directors. One credential
designed specifically for directors is the National Administration
Credential, offered by the National Child Care Association. The
credential requires experience and training in child care center
usually are no licensing requirements for administrators at postsecondary
To be considered for education administrator positions, workers
must first prove themselves in their current jobs. In evaluating
candidates, supervisors look for leadership, determination, confidence,
innovativeness, and motivation. The ability to make sound decisions
and to organize and coordinate work efficiently is essential. Because
much of an administrator’s job involves interacting with others,
a person in such a position must have strong interpersonal skills
and be an effective communicator and motivator. Knowledge of leadership
principles and practices, gained through work experience and formal
education, is important. A familiarity with computer technology
is a necessity for many of these workers as computers are used to
perform their basic job duties and they may be responsible for coordinating
technical resources for students, teachers, and classrooms.
Education administrators advance through promotion to higher level
administrative positions or by transferring to comparable positions
at larger schools or systems. They also may become superintendents
of school systems or presidents of educational institutions.