Education administration degrees

Long gone are the days in which the only prerequisite to being a school principal was being a school teacher. Today's administrators must have skills that go far beyond the ability to lead a classroom. They must be tech-savvy educators, politically astute team leaders and competent financial managers. The Wallace Foundation, a philanthropy organization dedicated to improving education for disadvantaged students, notes the role of an education administrator encompasses five key responsibilities:

  • Shaping a vision of academic success for all students
  • Improving instruction
  • Creating a climate hospitable to education
  • Cultivating leadership in others
  • Managing people, data and processes

To do their work effectively, school administrators need a specialized education that prepares them to fill the many-faceted roles they are assigned.

Master's in education administration

For most school administrators, that education includes a master's in education administration. While a bachelor's degree may have been sufficient in the past, many states now license principals and require a minimum of a master's degree, typically in school administration or education administration.

Just as state requirements vary, so too do admissions requirements for educational administration degrees. However, most typically require students have a bachelor's degree in education and some may even mandate graduate students have a valid teaching certificate or a certain number of instructional years under their belt. Even if experience isn't required for the degree, employers may prefer to hire administrators with a teaching background.

Students can typically expect to earn a graduate education administration degree in approximately two years, but it depends on the program they select and whether they're attending school full or part time, among other factors. Courses will vary by institution but may include instruction in the following areas among others.

  • Professional communications
  • Leadership and collaboration
  • School policy and law
  • Curriculum, instruction and assessment
  • Business and facilities management

Schools may also allow students to specialize their degree in a particular area such as school administration, higher education or policy research.

Although not typically required at the elementary or middle school levels, a doctoral degree may enhance job opportunities for those seeking positions in secondary and post-secondary schools. A Ph.D. may be required for top administrative jobs at colleges and universities.

Schools with the best educational administration degrees

Those planning to earn an education administration degree have many school choices. To help narrow down their options, students should look for accredited institutions that will help them meet their state licensure requirements.

In 2014, U.S. News and World Report ranked the best graduate degrees in educational administration and supervision. The following schools had the best programs according to those rankings:

  • Vanderbilt University
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Stanford University
  • Harvard University
  • Teachers College at Columbia University

Of course, these aren't the only schools with excellent programs in this field. A number of other institutions also offer good quality programs both online and on-campus, and students searching for educational administration degrees in their area are likely to find multiple options.

When it comes to distance learning, some schools offer degrees that can be earned fully online. As with traditional degree programs, enrollment in online programs may be limited to students who meet certain admission standards such as holding a teaching certificate and having a minimum number of years in the classroom.

To select the best online education administration degree, students should ask the following questions.

  • Is the school accredited?
  • Who teaches the classes?
  • Must students be online at certain times?
  • Can the online program be completed in the same amount of time as the on-campus program?
  • Are specializations available?
  • Does this degree meet state licensure requirements?

Finding work as a school administrator

After graduation, students should have not only the educational knowledge, but also the critical thinking and leadership skills needed to fill a variety of administrative positions. Well-qualified graduates could possibly go on to these or other jobs.

  • Assistant principal
  • Principal
  • Dean of students
  • Academic director
  • Superintendent

Some states may require administrators to take continuing education courses to remain certified. A number of professional organizations for administrators exist, and these groups may help their members locate continuing education opportunities. In addition, they could provide other professional development services as well as provide the chance for administrators to network, collaborate or otherwise share ideas. Member organizations for administrators include the following:

  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • The School Superintendent Association
  • ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)

For those committed to quality education, an education administration degree can be the start of a fulfilling career helping both teachers and students excel. Learn more about available degree options by contacting schools and requesting additional information.


Best Grad Schools for Educational Administration and Supervision, U.S. News and World Report, 2014,

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,

Postsecondary Education Administrators, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,

Professional Organizations, Wayne State University,

Characteristics of Highly Effective Administrators, Northwest Regional Comprehensive Center,

"The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning," The Wallace Foundation, January 2012,

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