Education administration programs prepare people to manage schools and school programs. Students learn to plan school programs and direct teachers and staff. They also learn to manage sites and buildings.
Research has shown that the principal is the single most important factor contributing to the success of a school. Assistant principals also handle some important tasks. For example, they might coordinate various school activities, maintain discipline, or develop curriculum. In school district offices, other administrators have a range of responsibilities. They may evaluate curriculum, oversee testing, or direct athletic programs.
To handle these responsibilities, you must learn skills related to both education and management. First, you need to earn a bachelor's degree, which normally takes four years of full-time study beyond high school. A degree in education would be particularly useful. Experience working as a teacher is also helpful, since you will be working closely with teachers. It often is required for you to do graduate study in this field.
Then, you need a graduate degree in education administration. The most common preparation is a master's degree. A large number of graduate schools offer this program. It normally takes about two years of full-time study, but grad schools usually make it easy for you to work on this degree part-time while you work as a teacher.
You learn how to determine the educational needs of your student population, based on their age, their social background, and the learning targets set by laws. For example, if you wish to focus on elementary schools, you study the educational needs of young children. You can also focus on middle or high schools.
No matter what type of school you would like to lead, this program teaches you how to serve your community by responding to its educational needs and considering its economic and ethnic makeup. You study the laws that specify certain goals for learning. You learn about developing curriculum and choosing methods of instruction that will accomplish your learning goals and improve teaching. You study personnel administration so that you can evaluate staff and motivate them to improve their performance. You learn who answers to whom in a school's administration and management. You learn about laws that govern labor relations, education of students with disabilities, privacy of student records, and other aspects of education. You study where schools get their funding and how to create and manage budgets. You work on your people skills so that you can communicate effectively with students and staff. You learn how to motivate people individually and in groups. As part of your leadership skills, you learn how to represent your school in the community.
A growing number of principals have a doctoral degree. The degree also helps if you want to become a superintendent, do research, or teach in college. A large number of graduate schools offer this program. It usually takes the equivalent of three years of full-time study beyond the master's. You learn how to do research into educational leadership issues. Then, you undertake your own research project, which forms the basis of your dissertation.