From teacher to administrator: what does it take?

July 10, 2015

As a teacher, you have an important role to play in ensuring that future generations are prepared for success.

But have you considered moving to an administrative position where there is the potential to make an even greater impact—and earn a higher salary?

Here’s a brief overview of the job outlook for education administrators and the skills required to get there.

Leadership roles and job outlook

Teachers looking to move into education administration and leadership might consider a position such as director of admissions, athletic director, or dean of students. The job outlook and hiring growth for these positions is determined by whether a district is growing or shrinking and the number of administrators approaching retirement.

The following administrative positions have specific job growth predictions as outlined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics*:

  • Assistant Principal or Principal. The overall outlook for growth in administrator positions is slow but steady for elementary, middle, and high school principals: about 6% from 2012 to 2022 for school principals. However, the situation will differ based on where you live.
  • Curriculum Director or Instructional Coordinator. Instructional coordinators (similar to curriculum directors and with a prerequisite of having a master’s degree) will see a 13% growth in jobs through 2022 with more opportunities in districts and schools focused on improving curriculum and teacher success.

Once you get started in an administrative leadership role, opportunities for career advancement continue, as assistant principals become principals, principals assume district-wide roles, and a few rise to become the superintendent of a school system. In higher education settings, administrators often have a similar progression from overseeing one academic area to broader responsibilities as dean of students, provost, or even university president.

Skills required

K-12 administrative positions frequently require former teachers to add new skills they may not have developed when their responsibility was limited to the classroom. Among them:

  • Resource Management. As an administrator, you are likely to have some budgetary responsibilities—deciding where to spend the money available for your school or department.
  • Communication Skills. The audience you need to reach is larger and more varied as an administrator. You may have to make the case for your department or school in front of other administrators, teachers, the public, parents, and even the news media.
  • Process Management. You will have a lot more moving parts and participants to oversee as an administrator. For things to work well, you have to understand how to coordinate them all to achieve a successful outcome.

The most fundamental requirement: Leadership

Perhaps the most important skill an education administrator needs to demonstrate is leadership. That means taking on the responsibilities of advisor, guide, and role model even before you step into your first administrative job. Seasoned administrator Roland S. Barth wrote an article for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) where he outlined a great need for a new brand of teacher leadership. Demonstrating leadership initiative—even in your role as classroom teacher—can prepare you for the next step in your career.

How to get there

There are several paths to administrative leadership, with various requirements depending on the position you seek.

  • Look for opportunities to experience leadership by joining committees or other associations responsible for a subject. That gives you a taste of making decisions and working with others, as well as building your communications skills with peers.
  • Review the requirements of positions that interest you. While they all may require an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree in educational administration, some positions may prefer specific knowledge for the field. For example, an administrator responsible for a school district’s information technology likely would be expected to have advanced, demonstrated technology skills.
  • As with any job search, it helps to have connections outside the classroom. Knowing where vacancies may occur in your area and the type of skills prized by hiring committees is important. Doing informational interviews with others in administrative positions is a good way to learn what might be appealing to you and how to get there.

Master’s in Educational Administration Leadership provides advanced skills to support your desire to move beyond the classroom and into an administrator role that provides leadership for the entire school—not just one group of students. As education evolves, so will the decisions and systems for success—leaders with skills to support these changes can be more valuable to employers and bring a fresh perspective to the education landscape.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition.

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