Elementary School Administration Career Options and Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

Elementary school administrators are required to have a master's degree, teaching certification, and teaching experience. Most states require elementary school administrators to have an administrator's license as well.

Essential Information

Elementary school administrators typically start their careers as teachers to gain practical experience in a school setting. A master's degree is necessary for most positions in administration, and state licensure is required for some jobs, such as public school principal. Internships and training are often mandatory for school administrator positions, and teaching certification is sometimes needed.

Required Education Master's degree typically required
Other Requirements Internship, training and teaching certification might be required; some positions require licensure
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 4% for elementary, middle and high school principals
Median Annual Salary (2020)* $98,490 for education administrators, elementary and secondary school

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options for Elementary School Administrators

A few school administration positions exist at the elementary school level to provide support, guidance and academic strategies for faculty and students. The most common administrative positions at the elementary school level include principal, assistant principal and central office administrator. Duties and responsibilities differ by title, though certain functions overlap for these professions.


Like the president of a corporation, an elementary school principal provides high-level management of faculty, policies and academic standards. The primary face of a school, the principal typically interacts with parents, school board members and teachers to shape a school's curricular and extracurricular offerings. Principals often work with other administrators or school district officials for budgetary, expansion and community plans.

Vice Principal

Assistant or vice principals typically deal with everyday issues and concerns of a school, including service coordination, disciplinary actions, ordering school supplies and student guidance counseling. Assistant principals often spend time in the position to gain the experience necessary to become a principal.

School Administrator

School administrators work in the school's or district's central office and usually direct a specific area, such as placement testing or curricula development. With more districts transitioning administrative responsibilities directly to the schools, central educational administrator positions might take on multiple roles within a school district.

Requirements for Elementary School Administrators

Education Requirements

Typically, educational administrators are required to have teaching experience before advancing into one of these leadership roles. Teachers generally need only a bachelor's degree and education training, but many states mandate graduate degrees for those interested in obtaining public school administrator positions. Options include master's, specialist and doctoral degree programs in elementary school administration.

A typical program in the discipline includes classes in curricula development, school law, educational administration theory and leadership. Students typically perform an internship at the elementary school level.

Licensure Requirements

Although licensure requirements vary, most public school districts require elementary school administrators to obtain a license. Some states require administrators to hold both a teaching and an administrator license, others issue one or the other, and a few offer an administrator endorsement to a teacher's state certification. Generally, those advancing into an administration position must pass a state-mandated competency test.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that job growth for elementary, middle and high school principals will grow by 4% between 2019-2029 ( The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for elementary and secondary school education administrators was $98,490 as of May 2020.

Elementary school administrators may work on site in a school as a principal or assistant principal. They may also work in the school district's central office. School principals are responsible for being the public face of the school, overseeing the school staff, and allocating the school budget.

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