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Teaching Careers Updated November 14, 2017

Educational Administrator – Job Description, Pay and Career Outlook

By Robbie Bruens October 4, 2012

Educational administrators oversee the day-to-day functions of schools at every level: day care centers and preschools, elementary and secondary schools, and colleges and universities. They provide leadership in times of crisis and lay out optimistic visions for the future of the educational institutions they serve.

If you want to become an educational administrator, you’ve picked a good time: Demand for qualified educational administrators is expected to rise in the years ahead thanks to an expanding education sector.

Our guide will show what you need to know to become an educational administrator, including the required education, likely salary, professional outlook, and advantages and disadvantages of pursuing this career. Read all the way through or use these links to jump to a specific destination:

At-a-glance
> Educational administrator job description
> Who makes good educational administrators?

Educational administration at the different levels
> Child care administrators
> K-12 educational administrators
> Postsecondary educational administrators

Professional development
> What kinds of programs can help educational administrators?

Related careers
> Other jobs

Best of the web
> Sites and Twitter handles to follow

At-a-glance: educational administrators

Pre-K/child care K-12 school Postsecondary
Education Bachelor’s Master’s Master’s
Median salary $45,670 (BLS)
$39,007 (PayScale)
$47,000 (Indeed)
$90,410 (BLS)
$66,955 (PayScale)
$99,319 (Salary.com)
$54,405 (Glassdoor)
$88,580 (BLS)
$54,683 (PayScale)
$54,989 (Glassdoor)
Job growth outlook (BLS) +7% +6% +9%

Educational administrator job description

Educational administrators are responsible for overseeing all the administrative duties at schools from preschool through post-graduate levels. An educational administrator tries to keep programs running smoothly and provides leadership on both ordinary days and in times of crisis.

Budgets, logistics, schedules, disciplinary actions, evaluations and public relations fall under the purview of educational administrators. They also have a hand in matters like planning events and implementing curriculum.

Educational administrators must ensure that their school follows regulations set by local, state and federal authorities. Every person who works for a school, from teachers to academic advisors to custodial workers, ultimately reports to an educational administrator.

Who makes a good educational administrator?

Someone who is:

  • Attentive to details
  • Service oriented
  • Good at planning and organizing
  • Empathetic and sociable
  • Highly diplomatic
  • Skilled in identifying problems and brainstorming potential solutions
  • Excellent at written and oral communication as well as presentation
  • Comfortable working independently and collaboratively
  • Passionate about connecting with teachers and students
  • Service oriented
  • Excellent at oral and written communication

Interested in becoming an educational administrator?

Educational administration at various levels

The road to becoming an educational administrator can depend on which type of school you hope to work in. Let’s take a look at each in more detail.

Child care administrators/directors

Child care administrators supervise the caregivers and teachers at preschools and child care centers. They are responsible for curriculum, hiring, budgets and every other important aspect of institutions that care for children under age 5.
Continue reading to learn more about child care administrators

What child care administrators do

Child care administrators are in charge of preschools, nursery schools, day care centers, and pre-kindergarten and Head Start programs. The ultimate responsibility for the success of these institutions falls on administrators’ shoulders.

Job duties of a child care director include:

  • Hiring, directing and leading child care center staff
  • Overseeing daily activities
  • Preparing plans and budgets
  • Monitoring financial affairs
  • Supervising teachers and caregivers
  • Establishing child care center policies
  • Providing training and professional development for staff members
  • Helping with problem-solving between staff and parents
  • Meeting with parents
  • Ensuring the physical environment of the facility is in good condition

Child care administrators must also review their staff and facilities to ensure compliance with local, state and federal standards. They also promote the child care center’s image and reputation.

Education and certification requirements

To work as a child care administrator, you are usually required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience in child care or a related field.

Licensing requirements for the profession vary according to state laws.

Income projections

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a child care administrator is about $45,670. Here are two more estimates of the annual salary of a child care administrator:

  • PayScale.com: $39,007
  • Indeed.com: $47,000

Pros and cons of being a child care administrator

As you think about becoming a child care administrator, make sure to consider the advantages and disadvantages that come with the job.

Pros

  • Influence the lives of young children in a meaningful way
  • Experience the creativity and curiosity of young children firsthand
  • Protect children from harm
  • Usually earn full health and retirement benefits
  • High projected growth and opportunities
  • Lower education/degree requirements than other administrative positions in the education sector

Cons

  • Ensuring safety and high-quality care for hundreds or even thousands of children is an enormous responsibility that causes considerable stress
  • Managing an institution means dealing with bureaucratic challenges
  • You may have to work with difficult or hostile parents and families
  • Less opportunity to work one-on-one with children than teachers and caregivers
  • Salary lags other administration jobs in education

K-12 educational administrators

K-12 educational administrators lead elementary and secondary schools by managing teachers and support staff, overseeing budgets and curricula, and more.

Continue reading to learn more about K-12 educational administrators

What K-12 educational administrators do

K-12 educational administrators work in roles such as principal, assistant or vice principal, and school district superintendent. They are responsible for the daily functioning and overall success of the schools they lead.

The ordinary duties of principals and assistant or vice principals include:

  • Creating and maintaining a budget to manage school expenses
  • Assigning teaching schedules
  • Leading schools to achieve high academic standards, including benchmark scores in standardized testing
  • Negotiating the purchase of school supplies
  • Conducting regular teacher and staff evaluations
  • Handling public relations and maintaining the school’s image and reputation
  • Planning school events such as open houses, back-to-school nights, fairs and dances,
  • Throwing fundraisers
  • Ensuring proper implementation of curriculum
  • Supervising custodial workers, guidance counselors, academic advisors and bookkeepers
  • Adjudicating appropriate discipline for delinquent students
  • Helping special-needs students
  • Supporting faculty with training, enrichment, and goal setting
  • Maintaining accurate academic records
  • Contacting parents of students with failing grades or disciplinary issues
  • Ensuring the school meets or exceeds district, state and federal requirements
  • Hiring faculty and other support staff
  • Attending school-related events on the weekends and evenings
  • Preparing for the upcoming school year during the summer
  • Meeting with superintendents and school boards

As daunting as this list of tasks appears, principals and their support staff must carry them out to enable their students to succeed.

Superintendents oversee all the schools and staff within a school district, much like a principal but on a larger scale, though they spend more time interacting with the school board and state officials than principals do.

Educational and certification requirements

Requirements for K-12 administrators differ depending on school policies and state regulations. While a bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential usually are the minimum requirements, most positions require a master’s degree in an education-related field and several years of teaching experience. Some states also require a school administrator license.

Income projections

The median annual salary for a K-12 educational administrator is $90,410, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here are three more estimates of potential educational administrator salaries:

  • PayScale.com: $66,955 (median)
  • Salary.com: $99,319 (median)
  • Glassdoor.com: $54,405 (average)

Pros and cons of being a K-12 educational administrator

As you consider becoming a K-12 educational administrator, take into account the good and the bad that come with the job.

Pros

  • High salary
  • Excellent health and retirement benefits
  • Work in a learning-driven environment
  • Encounter new challenges frequently
  • Opportunity for leadership
  • Inspire young students to succeed

Cons

  • Less opportunity to work one-on-one with students
  • Responsible for difficult decisions regarding disciplinary actions
  • Lots of paperwork
  • Organizational needs can be overwhelming

Postsecondary educational administrators

People who become college-level educational administrators have a variety of options of where to work, from small private schools to large public universities. In addition to helping students choose the right courses and ultimately pick the right major, university educational administrators offer counseling on nearly every aspect of a student’s social and professional life.

Continue reading to learn more about university-level educational administrators

Postsecondary educational administrators job description

Postsecondary educational administrators lead institutions of higher learning such as colleges and universities. Here are some of the most common administrative jobs:

  • Admissions: attracting new students and deciding which students get admitted.
  • Registrar: helping students with scheduling and registration; preparing transcripts and diplomas.
  • Student affairs: developing non-academic programs and resolving issues with student housing, security and other matters.
  • Fundraising and development: Attracting donors to the school to support key programs.

Some postsecondary educational administrators must travel, especially if they work in admissions and fundraising. Often, they travel across the country to speak at high schools, meet with prospective students and maintain links with alumni.

Administrators spend a lot of time in meetings with faculty and fellow administrators. Depending upon their position, they may have many one-on-one meetings with students.

Most administrators handle many of their job functions on computers using online communications, spreadsheets, word processors and other automated tools.

No matter which department they work in, higher education administrators must have excellent interpersonal skills, as a majority of their responsibilities require them to interact with other faculty, students, alumni and the public.

Educational and certification requirements

Some administrators begin their careers as professors before becoming deans or provosts. In these cases, a doctorate in their chosen field along with years of teaching experience qualify them for the position. Usually, postsecondary educational administrators must have a bachelor’s degree and an advanced degree.

Occasionally, job seekers with only a bachelor’s degree may find work in entry-level higher-education administrator positions. However, it is difficult for such administrators to advance without obtaining further education. To be considered for many positions, a doctorate or at least a master’s degree in subjects related to higher education are required. Earning a master’s degree or doctorate in a field like education leadership is a great way to advance through the ranks as a postsecondary educational administrator.

Salary projections

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates postsecondary educational administrators earn roughly $88,580 per year. The BLS also projects a well-above-average growth rate of 9 percent over the next decade for this job type.

Because of the vast variety of administrative positions at colleges and universities in the U.S., it can be difficult to know exactly what you may earn as a postsecondary educational administrator.

Here are a couple more estimates of what you might earn as an educational administrator:

  • PayScale.com: $54,683 (median)
  • Glassdoor.com: $54,989 (average)

Pros and cons of being a postsecondary educational administrator

Here are some things to keep in mind about becoming a university-level educational administrator.

Pros

  • Opportunities to travel for work
  • Encouraged to innovate in some cases
  • Intellectually stimulating work environment
  • Growing job opportunities
  • Working with students can be rewarding

Cons

  • Frequently have to deal with a large institutional bureaucracy
  • Many jobs require extensive education and advanced degrees
  • The volume and complexity of problems at institutions of higher learning can cause considerable stress
  • Often required to attend activities in the evenings and on weekends
  • Some jobs are unlikely to permit many opportunities for one-on-one interactions with students

Professional development for educational administrators

There are many ways to pursue professional development as an educational administrator. First, you should look into joining a professional association that provides access to networking opportunities, training, conferences and more. Depending on your career goals, consider the following organizations:

If you’re just getting started in the world of educational administration, seek internships or entry-level positions in the administrative offices of a university or any other institution of learning.

You’ll also want to seriously consider earning an advanced degree in a field related to education. An advanced degree can boost your resume, increase your earning power and unlock new job opportunities.

What kinds of programs can help educational administrators?

Concordia University-Portland offers online degree programs that can help prospective educational administrators sharpen their skills and prepare to work for more selective schools and universities:

MEd in Educational Leadership
EdD in Educational Administration

These programs guide enrollees to cultivate executive leadership traits such as critical thinking, creative problem-solving and informed decision-making. Coursework emphasizes communication and collaboration, teaching students how to make a virtue of complexity and embrace innovation, imagination and invention.

Related jobs for educational administrators

Depending on education or certification, educational administrators may work as teachers, librarians, instructional coordinators, assistant principals, principals or policy analysts.

Teacher: Educational administrators can easily become teachers if they obtain the proper credentials and have a strong educational background in the subject they plan to teach. A bachelor’s degree is required, although a master’s is preferred.

Librarian: A master’s degree in library science (MLS) is generally required for employment. Some states also require librarians to pass a standardized test.

Instructional coordinator: Instructional coordinators generally need to complete a master’s degree related to education, and they may be required to have a teaching or education administrator license.

Academic advisor: With a master’s degree in an education-related field, you can transition into being an academic advisor at either the K-12 or college/university level.

Professor: Education administrators can work as professors if they earn a doctorate in the area where they wish to research and teach.

Education consultant: Education administrators can move into education consulting if they want to tackle challenges at many kinds of schools and education systems.

Education policy analyst: Education administrators can become policy analysts and examine big-picture issues affecting education nationwide.

Best of the web: our favorite educational administrator blogs, websites and Twitter handles

The web makes it easy for us to stay connected to prominent educational administrators. Here is a list of our favorite websites and Twitter handles, in no particular order.

Favorite educational administrator websites and blogs

Favorite educational administrator Twitter handles

Learn More: Click to view related resources.

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