By Susan Ott
If you’re already a teacher have a desire to “move up” into administration, a masters in educational leadership can equip you with skills in both educational and business leadership. Those skills can be applied across several different kinds of jobs. Getting into administration appeals to many teachers who want to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to an entire school, district, region or even state by influencing curriculum and educational policies, both of which are constantly changing. This type of career move isn’t for every teacher, but if you like the idea of being an administrator, a masters in educational leadership might help you craft an interesting career path.
A masters in educational leadership is basically a hybrid of an education master’s a business management degree. Your courses will generally be split between education and leadership/management. While the business-type classes will still be related to the educational field, they may be a bit more theoretical – drier, really – than what you experienced in your undergraduate degree. Administration is a very worthy career, but it tends to be less creative than being a classroom teacher. Preparing to be the boss means more focus on policy, procedures, finances, community impact and law. And while many teachers see this as a welcome change which can also lead to a higher salary, it’s important to make sure this type of degree fits your overall personality and career goals before committing two years to it.
Be aware that most programs require you to be a currently licensed teacher with a certain amount of years’ experience teaching in the classroom. This is important because it’s nearly impossible to be an effective school administrator without previously having been a teacher with firsthand knowledge of how schools run and what policies and procedures are most effective in day-to-day classroom life. Also, most states require administrators to earn their administrative licensure before working in a leadership role within a school. Getting certified is a similar process to obtaining teacher licensure; you’ll have to take a series of tests independent of your coursework to earn your license. Your adviser, however, will be able to guide you through this process, as well as will the current administrators at the school in which you teach.
What Specific Jobs Can Your Earn With This Degree?
Students who earn this degree may choose to work in a public school, private school, college or broader department of education at the district, regional and state levels. Most candidates will end up still working with students, but in a different capacity. Instead of being accountable for classroom activities, as teachers are, educational leaders are held accountable for the standards, curriculum, performance, finances and community impact of an entire school.
Yes, there is a significant salary increase for this type of work, but there also tends to be more stress. Instead of only leading a small portion of a school, you’ll be expected to answer to teachers, parents, students and others within the community as to the inner workings and performance of your school. Educational leaders are expected to reach and help at-risk students, implement policies and curricula that help all students succeed, understand and utilize the latest educational and technological trends to help students and teachers, and work with community leaders to make sure your school is having a positive impact. And unlike grading papers and planning lessons, many of the long hours you’ll face will have to be done inside your office, instead of at home. There are many facets of the job to juggle all at once, so make sure you have the passion to change the field of education before you commit.
The Principle’s Job
If you want to stay within a school setting, then a job as a principal is probably the best for you. Basically, a principal runs the school (sometimes with a team of other principals, especially in middle and high schools), from implementing rules and procedures, to developing curriculum standards that serve and challenge students. Expect to also be a disciplinarian, as well as a liaison to parents and the community. This can be a great job, but also taxing, as you’re blamed for problems as well as praised for successes. And if you’d rather move out of the K-12 level, consider becoming a dean at the college level.
If you’re not ready for such a public role within a school, consider becoming a department chair, which oversees and makes decisions for an entire department (such as math or science); a curriculum specialist, which works to develop curricula in schools, districts, and in some cases, at the state level; or a special education director, which oversees the special education departments of a school or district, making sure policies and curricula adhere to the most current standards to help the students who fall into this category (both gifted and special needs).
Finally if you’d rather work for an entire district, region or state, instead of just one school, graduates with this degree are also qualified for jobs as a superintendent, which oversees an entire school district and works closely with the school board to make decisions regarding the district at large, from finances to policies; director of community education, which oversees all of the extracurricular, community-based programs that a school district offers, from swimming lessons at the high school pool to summer day camps at an elementary school; or a member of central office personnel, which varies, but is more of an office job that affects some aspect of education such as the budget, curricula, new buildings and renovations, etc. for a school district, region or state.
Schools that offer a masters in educational leadership may call their courses by slightly different names, however, the courses below outline the majority of topics you’ll cover in your program. Be sure to check your school’s course cataloge for more specifics, such as exact course names and numbers, as well as credit hours earned for each.
- Administrative Leadership
- Educational Relations in Communities & Schools
- Instructional Theory
- Cultural & Racial Leadership
- Educational Trends & Techniques
- Curriculum Development
- School Finance
- School Law
- School & Classroom Technology
- Internship (This can usually be completed by working with the administration at the school in which you currently teach.)