Your Path to Making a Career in K-12 Leadership

Have you ever considered becoming an educational leader? K-12 administrators often enjoy challenging work, good benefits, and high salaries.

But it can be challenging to land that first job, so you must prepare yourself with the proper education and experience. 

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics data, elementary and secondary schools had employed around 8 million staff by May 2021. If you want to be one of them, setting your career on the proper track is vital.

This guide will cover everything from choosing your path in educational leadership to landing that first position.

Decide if K-12 Leadership Is Really What You Want

Before you can get started on the path to becoming a K-12 leader, it’s important that you first decide if this is something you want.

To be clear, K-12 leadership encompasses much more than being a principal or superintendent of your local public school district.

It also includes other roles like teachers, coaches, librarians, etc. While there are some shared characteristics between these positions, plenty of differences make each part distinct from the others.

So why should someone want to break into education and pursue one of these newer positions instead? Well, for starters:

  • The field is growing quickly: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2021, “the number of jobs for kindergarten and elementary school teachers was 1,487,000.” This means there will be lots more jobs available shortly. Hence, if your goal is finding employment, this would be an excellent way.
  • You get creative freedom: In most cases, it’s up to each person how they choose their curriculum or how they run their classroom environment. You don’t have to abide by anyone else’s rules. Additionally, some states require certain degrees before working within them, making getting certified easier with prior experience elsewhere.

Get the Education Required to Become an Educational Leader

The first step to becoming an educational leader is getting the education required.

While there are several ways to enter this field, it’s essential to understand that all positions require at least some graduate-level education.

That means you need either a master’s degree or a doctorate in educational administration or leadership.

You can also go for online courses if you need more time to join a full-time educational course for a doctorate.

Online doctoral programs allow you to access study materials from anywhere and get the education you want according to your schedule. 

You can find online doctoral programs in education and enroll in the course to get the certification. While researching a course provider, opt for a reliable provider whose certification is credible and trusted by the schools where you want to get a job.

If your goal is to become a principal, you’ll also need an additional credential called the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced that 2,073 teachers became National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) in the 2020–2021 school year.

Get To Know the Field and Your Potential Career Path

K-12 leadership is a global network of educators, researchers, and practitioners who promote education for all. K-12 leaders work in various roles and settings with the common goal of meeting the needs of today’s students.

  • Principals are responsible for managing school staff, ensuring that core curriculum requirements are met, developing extracurricular activities, and maintaining positive relations between school staff members. They receive a good salary for this, with the median pay being $98,420 in May 2021.
  • School superintendents oversee principals and ensure schools adhere to state regulations and district policies. A recent AASA study shows that more than 50% of American superintendents have earned a doctoral degree.
  • Curriculum directors design lesson plans by education standards set by local or state governments.
  • Instructional coordinators help teachers align their lesson plans with student needs based on standardized test scores (e.g., SATs).

Prepare for Success

As you embark on your career in K-12 leadership, know that there are many things you will need to be prepared for.

The most important thing is to ensure you know what you want to do before starting this journey. You’ll need to be prepared for the challenges of leadership and managing people, budgets, time, and more.

Here are some ways to prepare:

  • Read blogs by leaders in the field who have shared their experiences and tips
  • Take online courses about leadership or management
  • Talk with people who’ve been in similar positions as yours

Develop a Plan for Your First Year in Administration

The first year of administration can be challenging, especially if you’re moving up from another position or coming in from outside the school. But there are some things you can do to make your transition easier.

Following are some tips for preparing yourself for success as an administrator:

  • Get to know your school’s policies and procedures.
  • Learn the district’s curriculum and model instructional practices.
  • Acquire skills in classroom management, behavior management, classroom observation, data analysis, and instructional leadership.
  • Get to know your colleagues. Most schools have a shared goal of helping students succeed, but there can be many different approaches to achieving that goal.
  • Learn about the culture of your school and get to know the people who work there so you can work together more effectively.
  • Get to know the students. The best way to do this is by attending events, meetings, and classes and participating in as many activities as possible. This will help you get a sense of what’s going on in the building, making it easier for you to make decisions later.


K-12 leadership is a rewarding career, but it’s also a challenging one. To be an educational leader, you must prepare yourself for all that comes with the job.

The first step is deciding if K-12 leadership is what you want and then ensuring you have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in this field. 

Then it’s time for some real hard work. Keep going even if things go according to plan initially. Learning from mistakes is part of every successful journey.

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Paschal Uchechukwu
Paschal Uchechukwu

Paschal Uchechukwu Christain is a professional and passionate SEO writer on Education, including homeschool, college tips, high school, and travel tips.

He has been writing articles for over 5 years. He is the Chief Content Officer at School & Travel.

Paschal Uchechukwu Christain holds a degree in Computer Science from a reputable institution. Also, he is passionate about helping people get access to online money-making opportunities.

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