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What Is Education Administration?

By G. Wiesen
Updated: May 17, 2024

Education administration generally refers to the work and positions within a system of education that are not directly involved in the education of students. In other words, education administrators are those people who work at a school or school district in a managerial capacity but are not teachers, such as principals, vice principals, and school district administrators. These administrators typically work to ensure teachers are able to do their jobs and are properly instructing students as well as managing budgetary issues for a school and district, and setting curriculum standards and achievement goals for students in a district. Education administration is typically performed by people who were previously teachers or by other individuals with a degree in education.

Individuals involved in administration typically work at schools or within a school district in public education. While private schools and post-secondary education institutions, such as colleges and universities, also have education administrators, these individuals will have different concerns than those working in public education. Administration in education within the private sector will typically involve budget analysis and ensuring students meet certain goals and expectations, though there will typically be less pressure from regional or national government. Administrators working at public schools and districts often have to meet government standards and goals.

Education administration takes place within individual schools, typically represented by principals and vice principals. These individuals are responsible for ensuring a school operates properly, typically setting and overseeing budgets for the school, dealing with severe behavioral issues at the school, and ensuring satisfactory performance from teachers and students. They may spend time in classrooms observing teachers and students to ensure classrooms are running smoothly, though they will not typically actually teach a class. Many of these administration individuals are former teachers who have worked their way up to higher positions, and may be working toward a position at the district level.

District education administration is typically involved in ensuring the various schools within a district are running properly. Administrators at this level may be former teachers and principals, though they could also be individuals with master’s or doctoral degrees in Education. They often will be responsible for ensuring budgets are set properly and being met by the various schools within the district. District administrators are also responsible for hiring and firing teachers, though principals are often involved in this type of decision making. Education administration at the district level also is typically responsible for setting curriculum standards and goals for students and teachers.

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Discussion Comments
By tolleranza — On Sep 04, 2011

@sinbad - I think being a principal and dealing with budgets, complaints, and rules would be awful. However, I have a friend whose husband is a principal so I have some idea about what it takes to be a principal.

Usually a school system requires a masters degree in educational leadership or a masters in education administration.

I also know someone who is getting their PhD for their education administration degree, yet they have never taught or worked long term in a school.

I don't know if this will make them a great principal because they will be as accustomed to the status quo or if not having worked in the job in which the people you will be leading will be working will make him awful at the beginning of his tenure in educational administration.

By Sinbad — On Sep 03, 2011

@MissDaphne -- I agree with you, the educational administration both the principal and assistant principal really set the tone for the school.

Even as a speech therapist (we usually do not have as much interaction with the principle because we do not have as much to do with the curriculum as teachers do), I was consistently told that a principle really makes or breaks a school.

Another thing I believe a principle spends a lot of time doing is putting out fires with parents and with staff.

One of my friends that I work with in the school system has the same last name as one of the principles and she sometimes randomly gets emails from parents, thinking she is the principle and they are always about something that the administration needs to fix, and sometimes they are quite confrontational.

I actually think being in a mediation position such as this would be fun, what degree do you need for education administration?

By MissDaphne — On Sep 02, 2011

The educational administration really sets the tone for the whole school. I taught at an independent school in the Deep South where a beloved headmaster retired. The upper school principal had the support of the teachers, but he was passed over for promotion (we think for "political" reasons).

New administration was brought in from elsewhere in the country. Within a few months, the whole tone of the place had changed. The new administrators did not endear themselves to the teachers, so every decision they made was highly criticized at the lunch table.

Meanwhile, the students started acting out in ways they never had before. You'd overhear cursing in the hallway, that kind of thing. The dean of students did his best, but without enough support from above, it wasn't enough. I don't know if that school will ever be the same again. I was sad to see what happened to it.

By robbie21 — On Sep 02, 2011

Other positions in school administration can include "deans." I've heard of both private and public schools having positions like "dean of students," which is typically a disciplinary position, or "academic dean," which is fairly self-explanatory.

Especially in private schools, these may not be full-time administrative positions. The dean may still teach a few classes; it is an early step in educational leadership.

When a dean takes on some of these roles, the principal and vice principal would not become involved until a later stage in the resolution of a problem, if at all. For instance, the dean of students might arrange for a student to have lunch detention, but a vice principal might get involved if the student was to be suspended.

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