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Advancement Opportunities of Educational Administrators

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In some cases, top administrators move up from related staff jobs such as recruiter, program director, career placement counselor, or financial aid or admissions counselor. Earning a higher degree generally improves one's advancement opportunities in education administration.

To be considered for education administrator positions, workers must first prove themselves in their current jobs. In evaluating candidates, supervisors look for determination, confidence, innovativeness, motivation, and managerial attributes, such as ability to make sound decisions and to organize and coordinate work efficiently.

Since much of an administrator's job involves interacting with others-from students to parents to teachers to the community at large-they must have strong interpersonal skills and be effective communicators and motivators. Knowledge of management principles and practices, gained through work experience and formal education, is important.

In public schools, principals, assistant principals, and school administrators in central offices generally need a master's degree in education administration or educational supervision and a state teaching certificate. Some principals and central office administrators have a doctorate in education administration.

In private schools, they often have a master's or doctoral degree, but may hold only a bachelor's degree since they are not subject to state certification requirements.

Academic deans usually have a doctorate in their specialty. Admissions, student affairs, and financial aid directors and registrars often start in related staff jobs with bachelor's degrees-any field usually is acceptable - and get advanced degrees in college student affairs or higher education administration. A Ph.D. or Ed.D usually is necessary for top student affairs positions.

Computer literacy and a background in mathematics or statistics may be assets in admissions, records, and financial work.

Advanced degrees in higher education administration, educational supervision, and college student affairs are offered in many colleges and universities. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education accredits programs. Education administration degree programs include courses in school management, school law, school finance and budgeting, curriculum development and evaluation, research design and data analysis, community relations, politics in education, counseling, and leadership.

Educational supervision degree programs include courses in supervision of instruction and curriculum, human relations, curriculum development, research, and advanced pedagogy courses.

Education administrators advance by moving up an administrative ladder or transferring to larger schools or systems. They also may become superintendent of a school system or president of an educational institution.


Education administrators hold about 390,000 jobs nationwide. About nine out of ten work in educational services-in elementary, secondary, and technical schools and colleges and universities. The rest work in child day care centers, religious organizations, job training centers, state departments of education, and businesses and other organizations that provide training for their employees.


Education administrator is not usually an entry-level job. Many education administrators begin their careers in related occupations and prepare for a job in education administration by completing a master's or doctoral degree in administration or adult education. Because of the diversity of duties and levels of responsibility, their educational backgrounds and experience vary considerably.

Principals, assistant principals, central office administrators, and academic deans usually have taught or held another related job before moving into administration. Some teachers move directly into principalships; however, most first gain experience as an assistant principal or in a central office administrative job.


Substantial competition is expected for prestigious jobs as adult education administrators. Many faculty and other staff meet the education and experience requirements for these jobs, and seek promotion. However, the number of openings is relatively small; only the most highly qualified are selected. Candidates who have the most formal education and who are willing to relocate should have the best job prospects.

On the other hand, it is becoming more difficult to attract candidates for principal, vice principal, and administration jobs at the elementary and secondary school level-competition for these jobs is declining. Many teachers no longer have an incentive to move into these positions since the pay is not significantly higher and does not compensate for the added workload and responsibility of the position. Also, site-based management has given teachers more decision-making responsibility in recent years, possibly satisfying their desire to move into administration.

School enrollments at the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary level are all expected to grow over the projection period. Rather than opening new schools, many existing school populations will expand, spurring demand for assistant principals to help with the increased workload. Employment of education administrators will also grow as more services are provided to students and as efforts to improve the quality of education continue.

However, budget constraints are expected to moderate growth in this profession. At the postsecondary level, some institutions have been reducing administrative staffs to contain costs. Some colleges are consolidating administrative jobs and contracting with other providers for some administrative functions.
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