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How to Become a School Administrator: A Step-by-Step Guide

Are you passionate about the success of your students? If you're dedicated to changing the lives of your students and want to expand that commitment to the staff and parents of your school, then becoming a school administrator could be the next big step in your career. An excellent school administration doesn't go unnoticed. From the performance of the school to the content of the students and staff, having a knowledgeable, caring administrator is key to an education institution's success. If you're trying to decide if school administration is the right education career for you, read this step-by step-guide. 

How to Become a School Administrator

Education administrators are professionals who work in schools, but not as teachers. While they may not spend their days in a classroom, they do have an incredible impact on both students and staff. School administrators oversee the day to day functions of an educational institution. Administrators work with teachers, parents, and superintendents to set goals and develop a promising vision for the institution. Professionals in this field provide leadership in times of pressure and ensure that the school's curriculum and resources are used to their fullest potential. 

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Before you can become a school administrator, you must earn a Bachelor's Degree in education. Most school administrators begin their professional careers as teachers. Not only does this give them better insight on how to manage students, but it also allows administrators to become familiar with the school system itself. 

So, what does it take to become a teacher? It depends on what you want to teach! To work as an elementary school teacher, an individual must first earn a bachelor's degree in elementary education. While the requirements on how to become a school administrator vary by state, most bachelor programs include courses on human relations, psychology, and student assessment. These programs also discuss various instructional methods in core subjects like math, English, science, and social studies. To become a middle school or high school teacher, one must earn a 4-year bachelor's degree in a specific area of studies like English, science, or mathematics.

Next, individuals need to complete training and gain experience by working as a student-teacher. To teach on their own in a classroom, student teachers must obtain their teaching license. To earn a teaching license, prospective teachers must have a bachelor's degree in education as well as teaching experience. In many cases, depending on the grade taught, teachers may need to earn an additional license allowing them to teach a specific set of classes.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Before becoming a school administrator, it is recommended that educators have experience working in elementary, middle, or high schools. Teaching and educational experience is a crucial part of developing the leadership and management skills needed to become a successful administrator. Through experience, educators will gain first-hand knowledge of lesson plans, school curriculum, student instruction, standardized tests, and staff and parent communication. All of which is valuable insight that will assist the administrator in making well-educated, effective school decisions.

However, even with prior experience, educators are not guaranteed a job as a school administrator. If your goal is to become a school administrator, you must do everything needed to set yourself up for success. Becoming familiar with administrative responsibilities while you're a teacher will significantly impact your ability to administrate. By speaking with current administrators and taking an interest in administrative tasks like staff supervision and curriculum development, you'll gain more insight into the role. Solving existing problems to help your educational institution reach its goals will significantly increase your chances of employment in the field. 

Step 3: Earn a Master's Degree and Credential

To become a school administrator, most educational institutions require individuals to earn a master's degree in education administration or educational leadership, as well as a credential in administrative services. Whether your goal is to become the principal of your school or education policymaker, obtaining a credential through a program like the Administration Services Program, offered by Alliant International University’s California School of Education (CSOE), will provide you with the skills needed to go from an experienced teacher to school principal, superintendent, or an educational administrator. The knowledge and leadership skills acquired in this program will not only help to advance your career, but they'll likely increase your paycheck as well!

Step 4: Pass your State's Exam and Earn Your License

Much like with a teaching license, administrative license requirements vary by state. After completing your master's degree, first, look into the administrative license requirements in the state that you're seeking a job. Generally, to obtain an administrative license, individuals must complete education requirements, successfully pass all state exams, meet curriculum standards, and complete training hours/requirements. In many states, it is common for a newly licensed administrator to work under the supervision of a mentor for a while to gain the proper experience needed. 

Step 5: Work in your Field to Gain Experience

It's important to note that gaining your administrator's license will not automatically guarantee success. As in any profession, there is always room for improvement, and while no one is expected to be perfect when applying for administrative positions, the more experience you have, the better. Working closely with administrators as a teacher, completing training hours, and working alongside a mentor are just a few of the many ways to gain administrative experience before applying for a supervisory role. 

Skills Needed to Become a School Administrator

Though passing all education and training requirements to become a school administrator is an excellent way to set yourself up for success, it is not the only way you can prepare! The role of an educational administrator is a challenging yet rewarding job. By mastering a few of these crucial skills, you can ensure that your career will be a successful one!

Cultivate Positive Relationships

Often, in educational institutions, stress levels run high. While managing students, parents, and staff may seem like a challenging task, an administrator who is skilled in interpersonal communication can quickly turn challenges into opportunities for growth. It is the role of an administrator to hold everything and everyone in a school together. Building positive relationships, thinking of others before oneself, diffusing uncomfortable situations, and creating positive stress outlets are just a few of the various skills a school administrator is expected to have. 

Remember, as an administrator, it is likely that almost everyone in the school will turn to you for guidance at one point or another. Becoming a positive role model and building positive relationships with students, parents, and staff is the first step to success.

Know When to Ask for Help

Though school administrators are expected to lead the school, it's important to remember that you may not always have the answer - and that's okay! Knowing when to ask for help is one of the most notable signs of a great leader. Depending on the problem, there may be an individual on your staff who is better fit to develop a solution.  Or, you may even have a group of mentors who you can ask for help. Administrators who have more experience in the field will likely have encountered a similar situation and know how to handle the problem at hand. Many successful leaders are often reluctant to ask for help because they feel it is a sign of weakness. 

Contrarily, asking for help illustrates to those around you that it's okay to not always have an answer. And more importantly, that it's okay to ask for help. An essential part of an administrator's role is to be a good role model. By asking for advice, you are encouraging others within the school to ask for guidance with their problems and ultimately creating a better experience for everyone. 

Stay up to Date

Conduct research, attend seminars and classes, and join educational groups to keep current on the latest advancements within the field of education. Knowing what tools other schools and leaders are using to achieve success will help you better improve your school system. Aside from learning from the success stories of others, it's crucial to remain up to date on the problems and challenges the education community is facing daily. Being aware of issues other schools/systems are facing can help you stay ahead of the curve and tackle concerns before they become problems. 

Ultimately, if you strive to make a difference in the lives of others daily and are passionate about the success of your school system, then becoming a school administrator may be the right career path for you. While the job description for a school administrator will vary based on the educational institution, it is undoubtedly a rewarding career choice. To become the best school administrator you can be, learn more about the administration services credential program offered at Alliant International University.

Sources

  1. “School Administrator Career Guide,” Teacher Certification Degrees, https://www.teachercertificationdegrees.com/careers/school-administrato…
  2. “How to Become a High School Administrator: Education and Career Roadmap,” Study.com, https://study.com/articles/How_to_Become_a_High_School_Administrator_Ed…
  3. “How to Become a School Administrator,” Teacher.org, https://www.teacher.org/career/school-administrator/
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