How to Become an Education Leader: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


If you ever wondered what your school administrators did all day, the answer was probably—a lot. Education leaders are senior educators—including principals and vice-principals—who help to run elementary, middle and high schools. Education leaders supervise teachers and staff at schools, oversee the administration of schools, oversee the curriculum and what students learn, and deal with serious cases of discipline. Although there is plenty to do, it’s a rewarding job.


Annual salaries for educational leaders will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2013, the average annual salary for educational leaders working in the U.S. was $90,840 per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for educational leaders, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work in Educational Leadership

Texas has the greatest number of employment opportunities for education leaders, with 22,320 positions offering a yearly average salary of $76,020. California is second, with just over 20,000 education leaders working in the field, and earning an annual mean wage of $102,090.

The metro areas employing the most educational leaders are:

  • New York-White Plains (12,160)
  • Chicago-Joliet (7,440)
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach (5,100)

The metro areas employing the highest concentration of educational leaders are:

  • Decatur, IL (3.75 per thousand jobs)
  • Yuba City, CA (3.71 per thousand jobs)

The metro areas employing the best-paid educational leaders are:

  • Nassau-Suffolk, NY (average annual salary $138,440)
  • Punta Gorda, FL (average annual salary $137,220)

Employment and Salary Information for Educational Leadership

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as an educational leader. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Why Become An Educational Leader?

It takes hard work (and usually graduate school) and many years to become a senior educational leader, but for many educators the effort is well worth it. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • Help people achieve their dreams. Any school helps its kids achieve the careers and goals, and ultimately their dreams. Helping a school run smoothly helps to make that happen.
  • Pays very well. The average annual salary for educational leaders is more than $90,000 per year.
  • Impress the kids. Remember being sent to the principal’s office? Imagine being the principal.
  • Make big decisions. From who gets hired to what gets taught, educational leaders can exert a huge influence on the education kids get.

Educational Leadership: What You Need To Know

Educational leaders need multiple skill sets. They need to be experts in education: what makes a good or a bad teacher, or a strong curriculum. They have to lead and manage others and must be excellent with people. And since they often get the tough disciplinary cases, they need to be good with the kids, too. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Strong Organizational and Administration Skills
  • Communication
  • People Management
  • Expert Knowledge of Teaching
  • Discipline and Student Management
  • Understanding of Curriculum

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about educational leadership careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Educational Leadership Careers

Bachelor’s degree

There are sometimes opportunities for those with extensive experience in teaching to take over the role of an education leader.

Master’s degree

Most public and private schools will require aspiring school principals, and other educational leaders, to have a master’s degree in education leadership or administration. These programs are widely offered, including courses that teach college students how to train and supervise teachers and staff, manage school budgets, set institutional goals, and work with parents or other community leaders.


Many states also require education leaders become licensed as school administrators. Getting a license usually involves passing a test and some continuing education.