How to Prepare for School Leadership

Teachers make a difference in children’s lives in many ways. They help a child discover a passion for a subject. They stand by ready to lend an ear. They compel students to find multiple solutions to a problem.

At some point, they want to advance their careers and make a bigger impact beyond classroom walls. One way is to prepare for leadership roles that present them with new challenges. As administrators, teachers gain the opportunity to create, enforce, and change processes and policies. School leaders also partner with the school staff, families and the community to improve the school and build bridges with the community.

The First Step for Moving Into School Leadership Roles

The Occupational Outlook Handbook for elementary, middle and high school principals from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates these roles typically require a master’s degree and five years or more of work experience.

A good first step toward a leadership role is to enroll in a master of education program. Such a program provides students with knowledge, skills, expertise and practice to prepare them to go into leadership. Furthermore, some states require applicants to possess an education-related master’s degree or be close to finishing the program.

Additionally, the National Center for Education Statistics says that one of the top three conferred degrees is a master’s degree in education. It is likely that most applicants for administrative roles will hold a master’s degree. Earning the degree increases the likelihood of landing the job.

A general Master of Education can usually satisfy the degree requirement for administrative roles. However, those who desire to do a deep dive into leadership topics would benefit from a Master of Education — Educational Leadership or a similar degree. Specializing in educational leadership could potentially help a candidate stand out from others with a general education master’s degree or one with another specialization.

Before researching graduate programs, check with your state to find out its requirements for administrative roles in education. Start with the state’s department of education website.

What Is in an M.Ed. — Educational Leadership?

The curriculum varies based on the program and the state where the university holds its classes. Most universities align the educational leadership program to meet the state education requirements for certification.

A typical M.Ed. in Educational Administration curriculum covers conflict resolution, curriculum development, the development of a positive culture for learning, educational law, human resource administration and school finance.

A university may offer specializations and have specific requirements. For example, Eastern Washington University requires all graduate students in education to complete 25 hours of common core courses relating to issues in education, philosophy and organization of schools, and educational research. An internship is also required.

Students who want to specialize in educational administration take 24 hours of courses that cover school law, leadership in schools and community relations, school administration, and supervision of instruction. They also have a choice of focusing on either elementary or secondary school curriculum.

Learn more about Eastern Washington University’s online Master of Education — Educational Leadership program.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

National Center for Education Statistics: Graduate Degree Fields

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