Elementary and Secondary Education Administrators
- Primary and secondary school administrators are generally required to obtain a master’s degree in an education-related field like education administration or public policy.
- To prepare to receive a master’s degree applicants should enroll in a four-year bachelor’s degree program in education communications public relations or a teaching-specific subject like history or biology.
- Administrators who wish to compete for higher-ranking positions or work as superintendents may also need to obtain degrees in accounting or finance.
- Some highly qualified administrators even obtain MBAs in addition to their education-related master’s degrees.
It should also be noted that entry-level school administrators typically enroll in a rigorous district-specific orientation and on-the-job training program to ensure that they have the proper competencies. In addition virtually all school administrators have at least three years of prior teaching experience. Even if they have the appropriate degrees prospective administrators who lack such experience may not be considered for open positions.
What you study:
Aspiring elementary and secondary school administrators should complete coursework in the following subjects:
- Education administration
- Public policy
- Basic school subjects like math history and science
A quick synopsis of elementary and high school administration careers. Produced for the US Department of Labor.
A Day in the Life
You’ve worked hard to earn your current position as a middle school principal. While you one day aspire to become the principal of your district’s largest high school and eventually take over the reins as superintendent you realize that there’s a great deal of competition for those coveted job openings. As a result you’re committed to proving that you can handle your current responsibilities with the professionalism and attention to detail that the kids in your charge deserve.
On a typical day you’ll arrive at your school before 7 a.m. This gives you and the teachers who work under you a chance to prepare for the day without having to deal with rambunctious students. Although the school’s janitorial staff arrive before you you’re usually the first member of the office staff to arrive. You sit down at your desk and greet other members of the office team as they filter in.
You have a busy day ahead of you. For starters your school district is preparing for its annual state review. Accordingly the superintendent has asked you to compile a boatload of data that measures the performance of each of the teachers in your charge. You’ll also need to aggregate your students’ test data into an easy-to-understand presentation that you can give to your state’s auditors.
While several members of your support staff are helping you with this task it still seems daunting. You spend the first few hours of your day analyzing and aggregating data from your latest round of teacher evaluations. Ultimately you’ll produce a comprehensive chart that ranks your school’s teachers according to their in-class effectiveness. Later today you’ll wrap up your evaluations with two half-hour teacher-observation sessions.
At around 10 a.m. you feel as if you’ve made enough progress on your report to walk away from your desk for a moment. Just as you’re about to walk out into the hallway to observe students as they change classes you’re accosted by a teacher’s aide with a disheveled-looking student. Hurriedly she explains that the student was caught defacing another student’s locker and needs to be disciplined. You gather some basic facts about the incident and mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come.
Although this type of interruption is not uncommon it’s always unwelcome. However you recognize that one of your duties as a school administrator involves disciplining kids who misbehave. Adopting a stern look you lead the student into your office and ask him to have a seat. You’re secretly pleased that he looks downright nervous about being in his current position.
For the next 15 minutes you get the student’s side of the story and calmly explain to him why his actions were inappropriate. Matter-of-factly you inform him that you’ll need to notify his parents about the incident. Until they can pick him up he’ll spend the rest of the day in a detention room adjacent to your school’s central office. Although you’ll need to consult with the teacher’s aide and his parents before making a final decision it’s likely that you’ll subject him to another day or two of in-school detention.
Once you’ve dismissed the student you quickly eat lunch at your desk and continue to update the report that you’ve been compiling. Since you’re also in charge of your school’s finances you’re now putting the finishing touches on a section that details the financial challenges that your school has faced over the past school year and argues for a small but measurable funding increase for the coming five-year period.
Once you’ve completed this section you make rounds in your office and ensure that each member of your support staff is on task. Next you head to your first teacher-observation session.
Although the teacher knows that you’re coming your presence is sure to make him nervous. Accordingly you sit all the way in the back of the room and make your presence as unobtrusive as possible. You mark his performance in several key pedagogical areas and file your preliminary report away in anticipation of the review meeting that you’ll conduct with him tomorrow. You repeat this process with the second teacher and return to your office.
As the students begin to leave for the day you stand outside in the hallway and wish them well. As the school’s most recognizable staff member you like to maintain a benevolent public presence and ensure that you’re visible to students from time to time. After returning to your office and making a few additional tweaks to your report you bid the remaining staff members goodnight and leave the building around 5 p.m.
Certifications and Licensing
Public school administrators must obtain a license from their state’s education department. While the requirements for these licenses may vary slightly from state to state they generally demand that applicants obtain a graduate-level education administration degree and pass a rigorous certification exam. Most states require licensed administrators to take periodic refresher courses and complete re-certification exams from time to time. It’s important to note that private school administrators are not subject to these requirements. However most private schools adhere to fairly rigorous hiring practices.
Full-time versus part-time:
The vast majority of elementary and secondary school administrators work in a full-time capacity at a centralized district office or individual school. Even smaller school districts generally maintain an on-site full-time principal at each school that they operate. In larger districts each school might have multiple administrators or maintain an entire layer of administrative bureaucracy. Likewise district offices tend to require multiple administrators.
This is not a job that can be performed from home. In addition elementary and secondary school administrators may be expected to travel or give presentations at remote locations. They may also have to come to work early or stay late into the evening to tackle complex projects.
The following websites contain useful information for individuals who aspire to be elementary and secondary school administrators:
- National Association of Secondary School Principals — This professional advocacy organization offers a wide range of resources for aspiring new and experienced secondary school administrators. The NASSP’s site provides a number of professional development resources and offers recognition awards certifications and other credentials to outstanding or innovative principals. Although it doesn’t contain a dedicated jobs board it does link to external sources that contain this information.
- National Association of Elementary School Principals — Like the NASSP this organization offers professional development information and career-related resources for administrators at elementary and middle schools. The site sponsors informational conferences offers additional credentials and provides career information to aspiring school administrators as well.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics — The U.S. Labor Department’s fact sheet on elementary and secondary school administrators offers a comprehensive look into this career track. It contains information about salary ranges education requirements licensing obligations and job-growth metrics. While it doesn’t contain a dedicated jobs board it provides links to other professional organizations that do offer local job listings.
- American Association of School Administrators — This trade organization is dedicated to the professional needs of school superintendents and principals. Like the principal-focused organizations it offers a range of professional development and continuing education resources as well as credentialing advice. Its "careers" section offers a clear-eyed look at out-year job growth and offers job listings that are location specific.
Salaries by City
See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.
|State||City / Region||Typical Salary||Salary Range||Job Count||% of All Jobs|
|AL||Anniston – Oxford||$70390||70||0.16%|
|AL||Auburn – Opelika||$87120||120||0.24%|
|AL||Birmingham – Hoover||$82990||630||0.13%|
|AL||Florence – Muscle Shoals||$75660||110||0.21%|
|AR||Fayetteville – Springdale – Rogers||$91020||360||0.17%|
|AR||Little Rock – North Little Rock – Conway||$80750||550||0.17%|
|AZ||Lake Havasu City $ Kingman||$67570||80||0.19%|
|AZ||Phoenix – Mesa – Glendale||$74950||2470||0.14%|
|CA||Bakersfield – Delano||$101950||490||0.18%|
|CA||Hanford – Corcoran||$103300||80||0.22%|
|CA||Los Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)||$104840||5430||0.14%|
|CA||Madera – Chowchilla||$128800||150||0.39%|
|CA||Oakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)||$103600||1360||0.14%|
|CA||Oxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura||$104270||480||0.17%|
|CA||Riverside – San Bernardino – Ontario||$104780||2110||0.18%|
|CA||Sacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville||$96460||1310||0.16%|
|CA||San Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos||$110190||1250||0.10%|
|CA||San Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)||$103960||1050||0.10%|
|CA||San Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara||$110430||1160||0.13%|
|CA||San Luis Obispo – Paso Robles||$108100||130||0.13%|
|CA||Santa Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)||$114400||1390||0.10%|
|CA||Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta||$102800||210||0.12%|
|CA||Santa Cruz – Watsonville||$94040||130||0.16%|
|CA||Santa Rosa – Petaluma||$104010||220||0.12%|
|CA||Vallejo – Fairfield||$90360||210||0.17%|
|CA||Visalia – Porterville||$104650||230||0.18%|
|CO||Denver – Aurora – Broomfield||$84350||1940||0.16%|
|CO||Fort Collins – Loveland||$85060||190||0.14%|
|CT||Bridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk||$132020||780||0.19%|
|CT||Hartford – West Hartford – East Hartford||$117570||890||0.16%|
|CT||Norwich – New London||$108780||190||0.15%|
|DC||Washington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area)||$103690||3710||0.16%|
|DE||Wilmington (Metro Area)||$108700||520||0.16%|
|FL||Cape Coral – Fort Myers||$101790||130||0.06%|
|FL||Deltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach||$83040||90||0.06%|
|FL||Fort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)||$103860||360||0.05%|
|FL||Miami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area)||$103550||600||0.06%|
|FL||North Port – Bradenton – Sarasota||$99990||180||0.08%|
|FL||Orlando – Kissimmee – Sanford||$84880||540||0.05%|
|FL||Palm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville||$84920||130||0.07%|
|FL||Port St. Lucie||N/A||80||0.07%|
|FL||Sebastian – Vero Beach||$79800||40||0.08%|
|FL||Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater||$87020||660||0.06%|
|FL||West Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area)||$99170||290||110||0.19%|
|GA||Athens – Clarke County||$86210||140||0.18%|
|GA||Atlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta||$84900||4300||0.19%|
|GA||Augusta – Richmond County||$79500||380||0.19%|
|GA||Hinesville – Fort Stewart||$81160||40||0.26%|
|IA||Davenport – Moline – Rock Island||$95250||290||0.16%|
|IA||Des Moines – West Des Moines||$89050||390||0.12%|
|IA||Waterloo – Cedar Falls||$79610||110||0.12%|
|ID||Boise City – Nampa||$77950||380||0.15%|
|ID||Coeur d’Alene ID||$59050||150||0.29%|
|IL||Bloomington – Normal||$86280||120||0.13%|
|IL||Champaign – Urbana||$70810||200||0.21%|
|IL||Chicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area)||$109010||9090||0.25%|
|IL||Kankakee – Bradley||$99840||140||0.36%|
|IL||Lake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area)||$100400||1340||0.36%|
|IN||Elkhart – Goshen||$86500||110||0.10%|
|IN||Gary (Metro Area)||$85180||410||0.15%|
|IN||Indianapolis – Carmel||$85010||1080||0.12%|
|IN||Michigan City – La Porte||$85200||70||0.17%|
|IN||South Bend – Mishawaka||$79890||180||0.14%|
|KY||Lexington – Fayette||$87440||310||0.13%|
|KY||Louisville – Jefferson County||$93130||950||0.16%|
|LA||Shreveport – Bossier City||$78370||300||0.17%|
|MA||Boston – Cambridge – Quincy (Metro Area)||$102040||2570||0.15%|
|MA||Brockton – Bridgewater – Easton (Metro Area)||$84430||220||0.26%|
|MA||Framingham (Metro Area)||$91560||390||0.25%|
|MA||Haverhill – North Andover – Amesbury (Metro Area)||$84400||260||0.33%|
|MA||Lawrence – Methuen – Salem (Metro Area)||$87050||150||0.26%|
|MA||Leominster – Fitchburg – Gardner||$92890||100||0.21%|
|MA||Lowell – Billerica – Chelmsford (Metro Area)||$98980||280||0.24%|
|MA||Peabody (Metro Area)||$95970||240||0.23%|
|MA||Taunton – Norton – Raynham (Metro Area)||$89050||60||0.13%|
|MD||Baltimore – Towson||$97300||2670||0.21%|
|MD||Bethesda – Rockville – Frederick (Metro Area)||$115530||1350||0.24%|
|MD||Hagerstown – Martinsburg||$86670||250||0.25%|
|ME||Lewiston – Auburn||$80910||100||0.21%|
|ME||Portland – South Portland – Biddeford||$83020||330||0.17%|
|MI||Detroit – Livonia – Dearborn (Metro Area)||$91310||1010||0.15%|
|MI||Grand Rapids – Wyoming||$87460||560||0.15%|
|MI||Holland – Grand Haven||$90610||180||0.18%|
|MI||Kalamazoo – Portage||$86580||220||0.17%|
|MI||Lansing – East Lansing||$86770||280||0.15%|
|MI||Muskegon – Norton Shores||$85450||120||0.20%|
|MI||Niles – Benton Harbor||$76940||90||0.16%|
|MI||Saginaw – Saginaw Township North||$86320||150||0.18%|
|MI||Warren – Troy – Farmington Hills (Metro Area)||$95400||1370||0.13%|
|MN||Mankato – North Mankato||$97170||30||0.06%|
|MN||Minneapolis – St. Paul – Bloomington||$103530||1660||0.09%|
|MO||Cape Girardeau – Jackson||$75010||60||0.14%|
|MS||Gulfport – Biloxi||$75240||150||0.15%|
|NC||Charlotte – Gastonia – Rock Hill||$66890||1310||0.15%|
|NC||Durham – Chapel Hill||$71970||370||0.13%|
|NC||Greensboro – High Point||$69730||670||0.20%|
|NC||Hickory – Lenoir – Morganton||$60650||230||0.16%|
|NC||Raleigh – Cary||$74390||1130||0.22%|
|NC||Winston – Salem||$67860||410||0.20%|
|NE||Omaha – Council Bluffs||$85130||680||0.15%|
|NH||Nashua (Metro Area)||$85890||210||0.16%|
|NH||Rochester – Dover||$79750||120||0.24%|
|NJ||Atlantic City – Hammonton||$114630||310||0.23%|
|NJ||Camden (Metro Area)||$111520||1180||0.24%|
|NJ||Edison – New Brunswick (Metro Area)||$119320||2200||0.23%|
|NJ||Newark – Union (Metro Area)||$131150||2120||0.22%|
|NJ||Trenton – Ewing||$123560||430||0.20%|
|NJ||Vineland – Millville – Bridgeton||$106250||180||0.30%|
|NV||Las Vegas – Paradise||$88420||990||0.12%|
|NY||Albany – Schenectady – Troy||$100520||690||0.16%|
|NY||Buffalo – Niagara Falls||$90840||800||0.15%|
|NY||Nassau – Suffolk (Metro Area)||$137860||2420||0.20%|
|NY||New York – White Plains – Wayne (Metro Area)||$128490||10860||0.21%|
|NY||Poughkeepsie – Newburgh – Middletown||$114830||540||0.22%|
|NY||Utica – Rome||$86970||200||0.16%|
|OH||Canton – Massillon||$88660||260||0.16%|
|OH||Cincinnati – Middletown||$85250||1520||0.15%|
|OH||Cleveland – Elyria – Mentor||$81520||1600||0.16%|
|OH||Steubenville – Weirton||$70290||90||0.21%|