“Now that I have been in the program for a few years, I have been able to realize the full potential of my doctorate degree in leadership development. People in my community are actively following my progress through graduate school, so I feel like I am earning a degree not only for myself but for my community as well.”Read the Full Interview
I’m interested in studying educational leadership. What can you tell me?Educational leadership is the study of managing educational organizations such as schools, school districts, educational programs or colleges. It is a cross-disciplinary field that incorporates psychology, financial management, law and policy and organizational leadership. People who study educational leadership become school administrators. Most school administrators have taught for years before they change careers. So if you are interested in studying educational leadership, the first question to ask yourself is, “Am I interested in teaching?” Becoming a teacher is the first step on this path. The education that you need to become a school administrator depends on the job that you want and the education that you already have. Many teachers already have a masters degree in education, so to become a school administrator, they pursue a graduate certificate or a specialist degree in educational leadership. If you want to become a school principal, assistant principal or superintendent, you will need to earn the appropriate license from your state. The educational program you choose will depend on your state’s licensing requirements, since different states require different levels of education.
Let's hear some other perspectives
“I think the reality of graduate school is that there are many situations that it won’t prepare you for because you have to learn how to deal with them on the job. That is the nature of the game, and you have to accept it and be prepared to face unfamiliar situations once you enter the workforce again.”Read the Full Interview
“A common hurdle that students in an educational leadership program face is letting go of their misconception about what leadership entails. Some students perceive the job of a leader to be the simple task of telling others what to do, and that is simply not the case. Real leaders work hard to be part of a solution. But there is a difference between a leader and a boss.”Read the Full Interview
What exactly is a school administrator?School administrators manage the daily activities of schools and school systems. They supervise staff and faculty and also manage programs. Some examples of programs are training for teachers, academic programs for students and student services. Administrators interact with parents, current students, prospective students and members of the community. One type of school administrator that you may already be familiar with is a principal in a grade school. You can also find administrators in all other levels of education. Day care centers, preschools, colleges and universities all have administrators.
Let's hear some other perspectives
“I would encourage students to pursue educational leadership because the field desperately needs leaders. But I would also tell them explicitly that what the field doesn’t need are more cult leaders who are conventional thinkers and who will continue to do things the way they have always been done, because what has always been done isn’t working very well.”Read the Full Interview
“The aspect that I love most about my job as a college disability access coordinator is the dynamic environment where I work. I have never had 2 consecutive days that have looked the same. There are always new problems to solve and students to help, so I look forward to every day.”Read the Full Interview
“Although I truly love my job, I don't like when I get too busy to interact with the kids and teachers. Some days I am stuck in my office doing paperwork or talking on the phone. When I can't get out of the office, it affects how I relate to students.”Read the Full Interview
How do I know if educational leadership would be a good fit for me?
Here is a quick quiz to help you decide if you have the personality it takes to succeed as a school administrator. Rate, on a scale from 1 to 5, how well each of the following statements describes you.
I am a people person and enjoy interacting with others.
School administrators manage school staff, meet with families and engage in their communities. You will need to enjoy a high level of personal interaction to be a school administrator.
I enjoy leading group projects.
School administrators provide leadership to schools, school districts, colleges and educational programs. If you enjoy leading groups, educational leadership may be a good fit for you.
I am organized.
Principals, school superintendents, academic deans and other administrators must keep track of many things. You will need to manage your time well and not lose track of anything to keep your school or program working smoothly.
I handle conflict calmly.
School administrators often deal with people who are upset, including teachers, other school staff, students, families and community members. You will need to remain composed when you interact with people who are very emotional.
I enjoy being with children.
Many school administrators work in K-12 schools. Although you may not be working with children directly, understanding children and caring about them will help you to make good decisions.
I enjoy giving presentations in front of groups of people.
School administrators present information to school boards, community organizations and other groups. If you do not enjoy public speaking, you may find educational leadership to be difficult.
I am able to express myself with words.
Writing reports and evaluations is an important task for school administrators. If you express yourself well with words, you will be able to describe sensitive topics clearly.
I am observant.
Expressions and body language are important parts of communication. If you are observant of nonverbal communication, it will help you to manage people and respond to concerned individuals.
I enjoy interacting with people from different backgrounds.
Schools in the United States teach students from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. To be a leader in a school or educational program, you will have to be comfortable interacting with the diverse community that your school serves.
I enjoy solving puzzles.
School administrators must analyze complex problems, develop long-term plans and identify problems that could occur in the future. If you enjoy solving puzzles, you may do well in educational leadership.
*Note that this is not a scientific quiz. The result is simply my rough estimate of how well I believe your personality matches that of a successful school administrator.
By my assessment, a career in educational leadership is probably not a good fit for your personality. Please go to the Admissions Advisor homepage for a listing of other careers you may want to consider.
By my assessment, although a career in educational leadership may not be an ideal fit for your personality, if you are willing to adapt in a few areas, you can still find success in the field. Please see the list to the right for information on the areas that you may need to work on.
By my assessment, your personality is a good fit for a career in educational leadership. Scroll through our site to gain valuable insight into what it will take you to earn the necessary credentials.
Is there anything else I should consider in deciding if educational leadership is the right choice for me?
If you are thinking about studying educational leadership, you should consider whether you have experience as a teacher or are willing to work as a teacher before beginning a career in educational leadership. You should also consider your willingness and ability to get a graduate degree.
People who study educational leadership are usually teachers who are getting graduate degrees so that they can become school administrators. Jobs for principals, assistant principals, superintendents and other administrators usually require experience teaching in a K-12 school. Jobs for academic deans require experience teaching at the college level. Some positions may require additional specialized experience. For example, a special education director might be required to have a few years of experience teaching special education classes. If you do not already have teaching experience, you will have to gain experience working as a teacher for a few years before you can pursue most school administrator jobs.
A career as a school administrator generally requires a masters degree or doctoral degree in educational leadership after obtaining teaching experience. Getting the advanced degree can take from 2 to 7 years, so this is a long career path.
What educational leadership professions can I choose from?
Some of the most common professions for those with a degree in educational leadership include:
Masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) or doctorate (4 – 7 years of graduate school) plus experience in teaching and administration (5 years)
Elementary schools, middle schools, high schools
Principals make decisions about almost everything in a school, from planning to hiring teachers to overseeing building repairs. They work with teachers to set goals and make sure that classrooms and materials are working well. Students, parents, members of community organizations and other administrators bring their concerns to principals. Principals ensure that students meet academic standards and also establish programs to help students in their family lives.
Masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) or doctorate (4 – 7 years of graduate school) plus experience in teaching (3 – 5 years)
Elementary schools, middle schools, high schools
Assistant principals help the school run smoothly. They draw up the class schedule and make sure textbooks and supplies are ordered. They also coordinate support services such as buses, janitorial services and cafeteria services. Assistant principals respond to matters of health and safety and problems with student discipline.
Masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) or doctorate (4 – 7 years of graduate school) plus experience in teaching and administration (5 years)
School district central offices
A school superintendent is the chief executive officer (CEO) of a school district. School superintendents develop plans to reach the school district’s goals and recommend policies for the school board to approve. They work with principals and other school administrators to direct the instructional program and operations of all schools in the district.
Masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) plus experience in teaching (3 – 5 years)
School district central offices
Special education directors implement and maintain educational programs for children with disabilities. They provide instruction and support to the special education teachers in the school district. Special education directors must manage Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for each child in the program and ensure that children are receiving the services required by local laws that govern special education.
Masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) plus experience in teaching (2 – 5 years)
Elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, school district central offices
Curriculum directors are in charge of educational programs and academic material for school districts. They decide what textbooks the schools will use and provide training to teachers. Curriculum directors give presentations to school administrators, professional staff, members of the community and the school board.
Bachelors (4 years), masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) or doctorate (4 – 7 years of graduate school) plus experience in teaching (3 – 6 years)
Colleges and universities, school district central offices
Administrators in K-12 school systems oversee programs such as English, music, mathematics, career counseling and athletics. In many school districts, the primary responsibility for these programs has shifted to principals, assistant principals and other staff in the schools. Program administrators also work in colleges and universities. They manage programs such as continuing education, internship programs, main curricula, recruiting new faculty, advising students and maintaining academic standards. College program administrators also provide administrative support to academic deans.
Masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) or doctorate (4 – 7 years of graduate school) plus experience in teaching (5 – 7 years)
Colleges and universities, vocational schools
Academic deans manage colleges and programs in higher education. College deans provide leadership for administrators in their college and make long-term plans for what direction the college will take. They are also in charge of day-to-day activities in the college such as approving the hiring of faculty and overseeing the budget. There are also deans in charge of high-level programs in colleges and universities, such as the dean of students, who is in charge of student services, and the dean of faculty, who is in charge of faculty issues.
What is the job outlook for school administrators?In 2008, there were 230,600 jobs for education administrators in elementary and secondary schools. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2018 there will be 19,800 more jobs in this category. This is an increase of 9%, a job growth rate about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job prospects are expected to be excellent for principals and assistant principals. School enrollments are expected to increase the fastest in the West and South regions of the United States. Demand for administrators is higher in rural and urban areas than in suburban areas.
|Profession||Employment 2010||Projected 2020||Average Growth|
|Distance Learning Coordinator||32500||36900||14%|
|Religious Activities Or Education Director||126000||147100||17%|
|Postsecondary Education Administrator||146200||174000||19%|
|Preschool Education Administrator||63600||79500||25%|
|Educational, Guidance, School, Or Vocational Counselor||281400||334800||19%|
|Elementary Or Secondary School Education Administrator||236100||259300||10%|
Average Salary Growth 2006 - 2011
|Distance Learning Coordinator||71520||74230||77220||80140||81870||82070|
|Religious Activities Or Education Director||37570||39470||40260||40770||40600||41690|
|Postsecondary Education Administrator||82820||85870||92920||95340||96680||97170|
|Preschool Education Administrator||43430||44430||46370||48170||50410||51290|
|Educational, Guidance, School, Or Vocational Counselor||49760||51690||53540||55030||55970||56540|
|Elementary Or Secondary School Education Administrator||79200||82120||86060||87390||89990||90200|
Salary By Percentile
|Distance Learning Coordinator||$41040||$55180||$76730||$102070||$128040|
|Religious Activities Or Education Director||$18840||$24830||$36470||$51860||$73180|
|Postsecondary Education Administrator||$47580||$62020||$84280||$117210||$164390|
|Preschool Education Administrator||$27720||$33810||$43830||$61120||$85550|
|Educational, Guidance, School, Or Vocational Counselor||$32130||$41310||$54130||$69890||$87020|
|Elementary Or Secondary School Education Administrator||$58600||$70840||$87470||$107900||$128660|
How long would it take me to become a school administrator?
Becoming a school administrator takes several years. Most school administrators begin their careers as teachers and then complete a masters degree or doctoral degree in educational leadership. Requirements are different in each state, but it typically takes 5 years to become a licensed teacher and 2 to 7 years to complete a masters or doctoral degree. The entire process could take 10 years or more.
What can I expect to learn while pursuing educational leadership?
As a student of educational leadership, you can expect to learn specialized knowledge and skills.
Leadership theory is the study of what leaders in organizations do. Courses in educational leadership theory examine different types of management styles and institutional organizations. Leadership theory also studies how groups make decisions and how change occurs in organizations. Theories of change are important to educational leadership since teachers, administrators and community members will request changes and apply pressure to see results.
Law and Policy
Educational laws and policies at the federal, state and local level affect the operations of schools in many areas. Some examples are class size, whether students can choose their school, how teachers are recruited and how schools are awarded funding. This subject area covers the history and effects of policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act, charter school policies and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Large-scale educational reform efforts are also covered.
Multicultural education is the study of how ethnicity and socioeconomic status affect the educational opportunities and academic achievement of students. For educational leadership, the study of multicultural education focuses on how schools can have a positive impact on students who are often at a disadvantage and how leaders can operate effectively within a diverse community.
Education finance is the study of how funding is obtained, allocated and used within schools and school systems. Topics for public schools include resource allocation at the state, district and school levels and alternative ways of financing public schools. Finance topics for private schools include tuition policies, compensation and accounting systems. Some topics common to all schools are preparing budgets and managing cash, inventory, facilities and maintenance.
Philosophy of Education
Philosophy of education is the study of the activities involved in transmitting knowledge. Topics in this subject area include why learning is important, what the purpose of knowledge is, how knowledge is communicated, what moral values should be taught and what successful teaching is. More practical concerns of educational philosophy include moral development, censorship, differences in student abilities and the role of authority in learning.
Leadership includes providing a long-term vision for an organization as well as the day-to-day activities of managing personnel and addressing issues as they come up. As you study educational leadership, you will learn leadership skills such as developing a strategic plan and hiring and evaluating school personnel. You will gain skills in motivating teachers and administrators, managing conflicts and creating a healthy learning environment.
As you progress in your studies of educational leadership, you will learn to prepare budgets for schools, programs and activities and conduct cost analyses. Budgets will take into account the effects of enrollment trends and changes in funding. You will learn to manage cash and inventory as well as non-fiscal resources such as scheduling classes and managing facilities and maintenance.
As a student of educational leadership, you will learn methods of evaluating the effectiveness of educational programs. Parents, faculty, board members, governmental agency and communities use data like test scores to judge the quality of schools and school programs. You will learn to plan and implement evaluations of educational programs and write evaluation reports.
As you take classes in educational leadership, you will gain skills in fundraising. You can expect to learn how to plan and execute a fundraising campaign and how to work with parents and community organizations to support their fundraising efforts. Principals and other school administrators are increasingly involved with fundraising activities.
Educational Program Design
In your studies of educational leadership, you will learn how to develop programs to address educational needs. Some skills involved are setting curriculum goals, determining student needs, determining the content of the curriculum, developing the curriculum materials and evaluating the effectiveness of the materials. In addition to their assessment of student needs, developers of educational programs must often take into account national and state standards that have been established to guide local curriculum development.
What academic levels are available in the field of educational leadership?
In educational leadership, the academic levels available are the graduate certificate, masters degree and doctoral degree. Most jobs for academic administrators require a masters degree. For some jobs, such as academic dean or department chair in higher education, a doctorate is required, and the people who are hired are usually former professors. Some administrator jobs in higher education, such as registrar or continuing education coordinator, only require a bachelors degree.
Select the degree level you are interested in:
Graduate certificates in educational leadership are a way for professionals in education to enhance their knowledge and skills, meet state certification requirements and prepare for advancement opportunities. Undergraduate certificates are not offered in educational leadership.
A Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) is equivalent to a specialist degree in educational leadership (EdS), and intended to meet the educational requirement for state licensing of school administrators and school district administrators. Schools in the Northeast and Eastern United States tend to offer the CAGS while schools in other regions tend to offer the specialist degree (EdS).
Educational leadership students may use graduate certificates to meet the educational requirements for licensing as school administrators. School administrator or educator licenses are legal requirements to work in schools and are awarded by states.
What are the different types of certificates that I can earn in educational leadership?
Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS)
A certificate of advanced graduate study provides training beyond a masters degree, but is not as advanced as a doctorate. This certificate is equivalent to the specialist in education (EdS) degree.
Graduate certificates in educational leadership are designed for practicing teachers and other education professionals who need additional training. This option is a good choice for educators who need additional education to meet state licensing requirements.
How long will I have to study to earn my certificate in educational leadership?
Certificate programs vary in requirements. A Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) typically requires 36 credit hours and can be completed in 2 years. A graduate certificate in educational leadership typically can be completed in 1 year and requires 18 credit hours.
What types of courses will I take while studying for my certificate in educational leadership?
While pursuing a certificate in educational leadership, you will take courses that are somewhat theoretical, such as educational leadership theory, school leadership, school district leadership and school law. You will also take courses in subjects more closely related to the daily responsibilities of a school administrator, such as supervision of instruction, school business administration and school personnel management.
What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a certificate in educational leadership?
With a certificate in educational leadership, you are qualified to hold many school administrator positions since you will have already earned a masters degree. You can become a principal, assistant principal, superintendent or program administrator.
What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my certificate in educational leadership?
When deciding on a school for your certificate in educational leadership, consider whether the school is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Institutions accredited by NCATE meet commonly accepted standards of quality for preparing educators for preschool through 12th grade.
What are the requirements for admission to a certificate program in educational leadership?
Certificate programs in educational leadership require students to hold masters degrees. The masters degree does not need to be in educational leadership. Often it is in another field of education, and the reason for pursuing the certificate is to gain more specific knowledge about school administration. Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) programs also require that students have a state teaching license and a few years of experience in teaching or education.
What about getting an online certificate in educational leadership?
Pursuing your educational leadership certificate online is a good option if you already have experience in school administration. Online educational leadership certificate programs are often chosen by busy professionals in education who need additional training for state licensing. Some online educational leadership programs encourage students to learn hands-on skills through internships and other activities, typically completed in the school district where the certificate student works. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accredits both online schools and brick-and-mortar schools that offer online educational leadership certificates.
A masters degree in educational leadership is the entry-level requirement for most positions in school administration. A specialist degree in education offers a level of education more advanced than a masters degree but not as advanced as a doctorate.
What are the different types of masters degrees that I can earn in educational leadership?
Master of Arts MA
The MA degree is recommended for students who are interested in doing research or in eventually pursuing a doctoral degree. In this field, there is not much difference between the MA degree and the MS degree.
Master of Science MS)
The MS degree is similar to the MA degree. It is recommended for students who are interested in doing research or in eventually pursuing a doctorate.
Master of Education MEd or EdM
The MEd degree is oriented toward work in schools. This option is a good choice for teachers who want to prepare for promotion to school administrator positions.
Specialist in Education EdS
The EdS degree provides training beyond a masters degree, but is not as advanced as a doctorate. This option is a good choice for school administrators who want to prepare for more senior positions.
How long will I have to study to earn my masters degree in educational leadership?
You can typically complete an MA, MS or MEd degree in educational leadership in 2 years, or 36 credit hours beyond the bachelors degree. An EdS degree can be completed in 1 year and requires 30 credit hours beyond the masters degree.
What types of courses will I take while studying for my masters degree in educational leadership?
While studying for your masters degree or specialist degree in educational leadership, you will take courses in instructional leadership, school leadership, organizational behavior, school finance, educational law and policy, supervision of school staff and educational leadership theory. Masters degree programs include an internship and field work, which entails completing assignments in a school such as interviewing the principal or attending school site council meetings. Some specialist degree programs also include internships.
What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a masters degree in educational leadership?
With a masters degree or specialist degree in educational leadership, you will qualify for many jobs in school administration. You can become a principal, assistant principal, superintendent or program administrator.
What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my masters degree in educational leadership?
When deciding on a school for your masters degree or specialist degree in educational leadership, look for a school that is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). States are more likely to recognize that a degree from 1 of the schools accredited by NCATE meets the educational requirements for school administrator licensing. NCATE-accredited schools also meet commonly accepted standards of quality for educator preparation.
What are the requirements for admission to a masters degree program in educational leadership?
For admission to an MA, MS or MEd program, you will need a current teaching license and a minimum of 3 years of experience in teaching. For admission to an EdS program, you will need a masters degree in educational leadership or another field in education.
What about getting an online masters degree in educational leadership?
An online educational leadership masters degree is not a good idea unless you already have experience in school administration. An educational leadership masters degree online will not give you as many opportunities to learn the hands-on skills that are taught in traditional classrooms. Since there are so many aspects of school administration that involve face-to-face interaction with people and sensitive situations, it is not a good idea to neglect this aspect of your education. Some online educational leadership programs offer a hybrid format with some courses presented online and others held in a traditional classroom. This is a better option than a purely online program.
For the specialist degree, an online educational leadership program may be a better idea. Since you will already have a masters degree and may already be working as a school administrator, you will already have developed hands-on skills. Online educational leadership schools and online programs offered by traditional colleges and universities should be accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
A doctorate in educational leadership can prepare you for research, teaching or advanced school administrator positions. The 2 degree options at this level are the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and the Doctor of Education (EdD). The PhD is oriented toward research, while the EdD has an emphasis on applied educational leadership.
What are the different types of doctorates that I can earn in educational leadership?
Doctor of Philosophy PhD
A PhD is a research-oriented degree. This option is recommended for students who plan a career in conducting research or in teaching at the university level.
Doctor of Education EdD
The EdD degree is similar to the PhD, but has an emphasis on professional training in the field of education. This degree is a good option for those who want to work as school administrators.
How long will I have to study to earn my doctorate in educational leadership?
An EdD in educational leadership can typically be completed in 3 to 5 years and requires from 54 to 66 credit hours beyond the masters degree. A PhD in educational leadership can typically be completed in 3 to 7 years and requires 90 credit hours beyond the bachelors degree, or 60 credit hours beyond the masters degree.
What types of courses will I take while studying for my doctorate in educational leadership?
While studying for your doctorate in educational leadership, you can look forward to courses in educational policy, philosophy and ethics, learning theory, qualitative and quantitative research methods, organizational theory and educational resource management. Students in a PhD program will complete a dissertation. Students in an EdD program may complete a dissertation or a residency, depending on their program’s requirements.
What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a doctorate in educational leadership?
With a doctorate in educational leadership, you may qualify for jobs as a professor, researcher, academic dean, school superintendent, principal or assistant principal. You will also need teaching experience at the relevant level of education for most jobs. A PhD in educational leadership will qualify you for a job as a researcher or professor. Experience as a professor will qualify you for a job as an academic dean.
An EdD in educational leadership coupled with experience teaching at the K-12 level will qualify you for a job as a principal or assistant principal. Once you have gained administrative experience, you could also advance into a position as a school superintendent.
What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my doctorate in educational leadership?
When you are evaluating schools for your doctoral degree in educational leadership, make sure that every school you consider is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). NCATE-accredited institutions meet commonly accepted standards of quality for educator preparation.
What are the requirements for admission to a doctorate program in educational leadership?
For admission to a doctoral program in educational leadership, you must hold a bachelors degree and have professional experience in teaching or education. Some PhD and EdD programs also require applicants to have a masters degree in educational leadership or a closely related field.
What about getting an online doctorate in educational leadership?
An online educational leadership doctorate is probably not a good idea. Online degree programs are still not well respected in the world of higher education, and most of the jobs you would pursue with a doctorate in educational leadership are in colleges and universities. This is probably why not many online educational leadership PhD and EdD programs exist. If your circumstances require that you pursue your educational leadership doctorate online, you might choose a school with a hybrid online educational leadership program. These programs combine online courses with face-to-face meetings at a brick-and-mortar institution.
What else should I keep in mind when considering studying educational leadership?
To become a school administrator, you may need to be licensed by your state. State licenses are also called certifications, and shouldn’t be confused with the academic certificate programs that are offered through colleges and universities.
Most states require principals and superintendents of public schools to be licensed. Each state has different requirements, but nearly all states require graduate-level education such as a masters degree or a doctorate. Some states also require applicants for licensing to pass a test and have on-the-job training such as an internship. Specific jobs may require specific types of licensing. For example, a special education director may need a teaching license with an endorsement in special education. There are no licensing requirements for administrators at private K-12 schools, colleges or universities.