How to Become a School Superintendent
What Is a School Superintendent?
Superintendent Job Description and Responsibilities
4 Common Steps to Becoming a Superintendent
- Become a Teacher
If you are new to the education field, a potential first step in becoming a school superintendent could be completing a bachelor’s degree in education and gaining experience as a teacher. Experience as a teacher can be important to help prepare you for education administrator roles. As a teacher, you’ll gain experience enforcing administrative policies and assessing the educational outcomes of students.
Becoming a teacher generally requires a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued license or certification. Specific degree requirements and licensing requirements depend on where you live and what you are planning to teach. Some states may require teachers to earn a degree that is relevant to the subject they are teaching, as opposed to a general education degree. This is especially true for high school teachers. Be sure to check with your state’s education licensing requirements for more information.
- Pursue a Graduate Degree
Once you have your bachelor’s degree and teaching license, you may be required to gain several years of teaching experience before pursuing a master’s degree in a field like educational leadership. Specific prerequisites vary from program to program, but most master’s programs in education likely require you to hold a current teaching license.
There are several master’s degree options available for those looking to become superintendents. You may choose to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), Master of Education (MEd), a Master of Science in Teaching (MST) or a similar degree. Courses on educational leadership, curriculum and instruction design, and similar subjects may prepare you for school administrator roles. It generally takes two years to complete a master’s degree program, though some programs may be completed sooner.
Holding a doctoral degree such as a Doctor of Education (EdD) may be beneficial for prospective school superintendents. EdD programs tend to require a master’s degree as well as work experience in an educational leadership role.
- Gain Experience in an Administrative Role
Becoming a school superintendent usually requires gaining a number of years of experience in a school administrative role. In many cases, school superintendents first become vice principals or principals of an elementary school, middle school or high school.
The role of a principal is similar to that of a school superintendent. As a principal, you oversee school operations and manage staff. You are also responsible for regularly meeting with students, parents and teachers to discuss student progress and behavior.
Most states require school principals to have a master’s degree in education administration or leadership. You may also need to get licensed as a school administrator and have teaching experience. Licensure requirements vary by state.
- Meet Certification Requirements
Another step to becoming a school superintendent is meeting any superintendent certification requirements. These certification requirements vary depending on where you live and the specific role you are applying for. Some states may administer their own exams, while others rely on tests provided by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
ETS provides several assessments for school leadership roles, including the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA) and School Superintendent Assessment (SSA). Visit the ETS website to determine whether an ETS exam is required in your state.
After completing the necessary certification and licensing requirements, you may start applying to superintendent positions. Be sure to thoroughly review any other job guidelines, such as education requirements or recommended work experience.
What Skills Do School Superintendents Have?
School Superintendent FAQs
Requirements vary by state and specific role. In some states, superintendents must hold a doctoral degree in educational administration or educational leadership from a regionally accredited college or university. Some states may only require a master’s in teaching, education or a similar field along with several years’ teaching or related experience. However, some employers may prefer candidates with a doctoral degree. Be sure to check your desired job description for all education requirements.
How many years it takes to become a superintendent depends on how quickly you finish your degrees and how many years of work experience you acquire. Generally, earning a bachelor’s degree takes about four years, while earning a master’s degree takes another two years. Pursuing a doctoral degree may add another three years or more to your timeline. You can also expect to spend about three to five years gaining experience as a school administrator or principal, though the exact amount of time required depends on the employer.
According to a survey of 1,500 superintendents conducted by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the median school superintendent salary from 2020 to 2021 ranged from $140,172 to $180,500. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide information on superintendents specifically, they estimate that employment of elementary, middle and high school principals will grow 8% from 2020 to 2030. This is on par with the average growth rate for all occupations.