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How to Become a School Administrator

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Being a teacher is a great career. In fact, it’s one that many choose to spend their whole lives doing. Some educators, though, get to a point in their career where they want to expand their impact. Becoming a school administrator is one way to do that.

Even if you’re only in your first years of teaching, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for a position in school administration. Here are the most common steps toward becoming an administrator:

Step 1: Work Toward Certification

Learn what the certification requirements are in your state for becoming an administrator. You’ll likely need to teach for a specific minimum number of years and need an advanced certificate in administration. Start working on your certification right away, even if you don’t think you’ll use it soon – you never know when you could be called on to step up and step in.

Step 2: Gain Experience with Teaching, Learning and School Operations

To be ready for an administrator position, learn as much as you can about not just teaching and learning, but also about school operations. Volunteer to be on committees. Ask a close colleague to let you observe their teaching. Consider taking an instructional specialist position where you might be outside of the classroom, but still supporting instruction. Become a mentor for new teachers – this will give you a head start in learning the best ways to onboard new staff.

Additionally, share your career goals with your principal so you can ask them to include you in interesting opportunities whenever possible. Perhaps you can learn about the school budgeting process or participate on the student assistance team. Any of these operational experiences will give you a leg up toward getting administrative positions.

Step 3: Find the Right Opportunities

When you’re certified, prepared and ready to make the transition to administrator, start the job search. But before you do so, it’s wise to put some parameters around the types of opportunities you’ll pursue. Start by drawing a geographic circle around your home and make a realistic cut-off on how far you’re willing to drive for a position. Remember that administrators work long hours and some nights. If you’re too far from home, you won’t be able to go back between the regular workday and evening meetings, meaning you will have very long days.

Once you’ve defined your focus, identify the ways in which positions are publicized in your area. Some teacher unions run a job board. Some states have a statewide database. You should also tap into your professional network to see if your connections know of good opportunities.

Research school districts with openings to decide if you would want to work there. Contracts are likely available on district websites, allowing you to decide if the salary range is acceptable for you. Keep in mind that the process of hiring an administrator is longer and more involved than it is for a teacher, for both you and the district. That’s why it’s crucial to only apply for positions you would actually take. Turning a district down after they’ve chosen you means you’ll almost certainly never be considered there again in the future.

Step 4: Ace the Interview

Make sure you know when, where and by whom you’ll be interviewed. Use the time leading up to your interview to learn everything you can about the position and the school district. Read their website, the local news and find Facebook groups for that town. Look up school or district data, if available.

In the interview, do not talk badly about your current or past employers or coworkers. Answer questions by illustrating with concrete experiential anecdotes when you can. Help the committee see you doing aspects of the job through your storytelling. Prepare thoughtful, school-specific questions to ask so you don’t accidentally ask questions with self-evident answers. Most importantly, smile and be yourself. Although you want the position, you really want one where you’re the right person for the job.

Finally, be patient with yourself. Most candidates go on many, many interviews before getting their first administrator job. When it’s right, it will happen. Good luck!

American College of Education alumni have gone on to become school leaders, principals, administrators, deans and more. Explore our fully online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership or Ed.D. in Leadership.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.

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