For educators looking for a fresh challenge, administrative roles in school settings often hold some appeal. Vice principals, principals and superintendents draw on their experience in the classroom to handle problems outside of it, ranging from handling disciplinary problems to setting performance goals for students and teachers. Yet in educational administration roles, it isn’t classroom management skills or meticulously mastered teaching strategies that matter, but rather, leadership and organizational management abilities. As a result, studies in business – and in particular, Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees – are becoming more prevalent among education administrators. MBAs haven’t, and aren’t likely to, replace Master of Education (M.Ed.), Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) degrees in educational leadership. However, they are an increasingly accepted form of graduate education for this field, especially with a concentration in education administration available.

The Intersection Between Business and Education

Administrative roles in education necessitate a combination of expertise in both business and education. You could be the world’s greatest teacher, but without some degree of business know-how, your efforts to coordinate and manage the school’s operations and activities are likely to fall flat. Similarly, a business leader who excels in other areas must develop at least some familiarity with teaching, learning and classroom management strategies to be successful at addressing student performance and disciplinary problems and plan for better student achievements.

The higher you rise in the area of educational administration, the more businesslike your work becomes. Lead teachers may have the responsibility to supervise, train and mentor other teachers, but most of their work is still done in the classroom, with the primary function being to educate students. Principals, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported, are better classified as management roles than one of the education occupations. School superintendents, who manage the even higher-level business responsibilities of guiding the direction and activities of an entire school district, are a type of top executive and fit firmly in the management sphere, according to the BLS.

When you look at the tasks expected of an education administrator, the distinction makes more sense. Principals and superintendents don’t work in the classroom, developing and implementing lesson plans, carrying out educational activities and grading exams and assignments. Instead, they evaluate the performance of teaching staff and educational programs, manage the recruitment and training of staff and handle budgetary and day-to-day operations matters. Although the “business” they are running is a school or school district, their responsibilities and duties have more in common with high-level managers in other industries.

Although you can learn the business aspects of school management through an MBA program, having a background in education is still valuable. Many school districts require principals and superintendents to have years of experience teaching in the classroom.

MBA in Educational Leadership Curricula

The value of having a business background in educational administration roles hasn’t gone unnoticed. To address this shift, some colleges and universities have added new specializations in the field of education to their existing MBA programs of study. In an MBA in educational leadership, students take plenty of general graduate-level business courses along with a few specialized courses that focus on the business of running a school or school district.

MBA programs are known for their breadth. Core MBA coursework is likely to include some study in topics like finance and accounting as well as human resources, marketing and entrepreneurship. Although some of these disciplines may seem far removed from the field of education, you might be surprised at how important it is for school administrators to be able to manage a budget, maintain positive public images, oversee staffing procedures and launch new programs and objectives. General coursework in management principles, project management, leadership strategies, statistical analysis of data and operations and change in complex systems equip students with management skills to meet numerous types of administrative challenges.

Many MBA programs allow students to choose a specialization or concentration to further customize their education. The specialized coursework for aspiring education administrators may approach the business of managing a school or school district from numerous angles, including operations, auxiliary services, finance and accounting, curriculum and instruction and clinical practicum experiences.

Some professionals earn an MBA while working in educational administration. In the Bright New Leaders for Ohio Schools program, fellows take MBA coursework while working full-time school principal placements, to become certified and graduate simultaneously.

Additional Resources

For a Superintendent, Which Is More Important: Interpersonal Skills or Business Abilities?

What Can I Do With an MBA Degree?

What Kind of Job Can You Get With an MBA?