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School Administrator Job Description, Career as a School Administrator, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Varies—see profile

Salary Median—$68,340 per year

Employment Outlook Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

School administrators make public education work. They serve as administrators for the federal government or the state government; as superintendents working for local school boards; and as principals of individual schools.

Federal administrators develop academic standards and programs and allocate funds to the schools. State administrators interpret state policy governing such issues as teaching standards, school lunches, and student transportation. They run large education departments and supervise many staff members.

School superintendents head districts that are made up of several schools. The job can be small or large: district size ranges from two schools to eight hundred schools. Those who manage small districts work closely with each school and its faculty; those who are responsible for many schools have contact primarily with their assistant superintendents.

Superintendents set and administer policies on hiring and curriculum management. For example, they may decide which textbooks are used in classes. They also carry out their school boards' decisions on such matters as budgets and expansion of facilities.

School principals have responsibility for individual schools. They draw up their schools' budgets and see that policies on curriculum, teaching, and discipline are carried out. Principals are also in charge of their schools' physical maintenance. However, their most important function may be to represent the school to the community. Contact with students, parents, and their schools' neighbors is crucial to their success.

A school principal is an administrator whose duties include drawing up the school's budget, enforcing the school's policies, directing the school's physical maintenance, and maintaining contact with students and parents. (AP Images.)

Education and Training Requirements

Educational requirements for administrators vary, although they usually combine teaching experience with training in school administration. Many administrators have had college courses in education, economics, business, and sociology.

In most cases, administrators need master's degrees in educational administration plus two years of teaching experience. Although not all principals have master's degrees, most have taken courses in school administration and have worked as assistant principals for several years before advancing. Some urban school principals are required to have doctorates. School district superintendents are often required to have completed graduate study in educational administration, preferably at the doctoral level. Superintendents and principals must meet the specific certification requirements that are set by the states in which they are employed.

Getting the Job

Openings for school principals and superintendents are announced by local school boards and listed by state departments of education and public and private placement bureaus. Professional journals and associations may also carry listings. Those interested in working for state or federal government should take the appropriate civil service examinations. Civil service workers generally begin in middle-management positions and advance to higher government posts through experience, length of service, and additional examinations.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Principals may become superintendents. Superintendents may go on to more challenging jobs in larger districts or in state or federal government. The top posts in government are generally filled by appointment, although outstanding civil service workers may be chosen. Administrators on all levels may direct experimental programs for agencies and private companies that create educational materials. Employment in this field is expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014. New hires will be needed when experienced administrators retire or leave the field. Competition is likely to be stiff.

Working Conditions

School administrators generally work long hours. Principals are often expected to appear at after-school functions such as concerts or sporting events. Superintendents spend extra time attending meetings and traveling. All administrators are on call in case of emergencies. Their jobs carry pressure as well as prestige, for they are often called on to make difficult, unpopular decisions.

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary with education, experience, location, and size of the school or district. In 2004 the median annual salary of all elementary and secondary school administrators was $68,340 per year. Principals of public high schools averaged $82,225 per year, while elementary school principals averaged $74,060 per year. The average salary for superintendents was $77,420 per year.

Where to Go for More Information

American Association of School Administrators
801 N. Quincy St., Ste. 700
Arlington, VA 22203
(703) 528-0700

National Education Association
1201 Sixteenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 833-4000

School administrators can expect paid holidays and vacations of two to five weeks per year. They also receive health insurance and retirement plans.

Additional topics

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