What is a School Superintendent?

This position is comparable to the CEO of a corporation – with less pay in most cases. A book written in 1916 referred to the role of superintendent as being the chief executive of the schools. As head of the school district, he/she acts in an administrative capacity similar to the company executive. Similar to the business world, the superintendent has personnel who report to her/him. These are the principals of the schools within the district.

Employment Route

With few exceptions, the journey to becoming a school superintendent begins with a strong teaching foundation. There are different levels from early childhood education to post-secondary school. Middle and high school are a fitting place to start as you gain at least ten years of teaching experience.

The first objective is a bachelor’s degree in education. You could earn an Associate degree; however, that will only qualify you for a teacher’s aide. A better option is to jump into an undergraduate program. You have the choice of specific areas, such as early childhood, general, elementary, secondary, or special education. When preparing your list of prospective schools, either resident or online, you should list those recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

AREAS OF education

Another requirement for landing a job is certification in the state you plan to work. The state board of education typically stipulates which college courses a future teacher needs to complete before applying for state licensure. You should verify with your planned state of employment to ensure that you meet their teaching requirements. Additional information is available at this site.

The next step is an assistant or vice-principal. According to the National Association of Elementary SchoolPrincipals (NAESP), the average principal has 14 years as a teacher. Assistant principals are more involved in the curriculum and student learning than their middle and high school counterparts. The latter has more issues that are disciplinary, and there is frequent student interaction.

Regardless of the school level, the preferred degree is a master’s. An online program may be suitable as it allows you to continue work teaching. One consideration is a Master of Education in Educational Leadership. The two-year program at the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions is 100% online. The coursework prepares graduates for positions as principals, school administrators, and other supervisory roles at the district, state, and federal levels.

The online Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) is another example. The curriculum covers a range of topics, such as student success, governance of higher education, technology, academic affairs, and resource allocation. The degree offers the ability for students to proceed to a doctoral program in Educational Leadership.

Assistant Superintendent

There are school districts that have specialty areas, such as overseeing instruction and management of a group of Principals. Your duties may include using data and daily observations as you collaborate with Principals to continually evaluate and improve teaching, teacher training, and curriculum assessment and implementation.

Most of the assistant superintendent jobs require supervisory experience. One way is through schools that offer team leadership positions. An example is the Success Academy in Brooklyn, New York. The school serves over 17,000 mostly low-income students. Aspiring leaders work with the principal as their mentor while receiving coaching and hands-on leadership responsibilities.

Other job opportunities exist in public school districts at the county level for Associate Superintendents. Prince William County in Virginia has this position for its three elementary school districts, one middle, and one high school district. Access to management positions of this type begins with years of teaching, followed by assistant principal and principal.

A synonym for assistant superintendent in some school districts is the deputy superintendent. Typically, the job involves hiring and scheduling teachers and principals, act as a liaison for the superintendent, monitor and evaluate principals within the district, and discuss school policy with staff members. However, there are exceptions when it comes to the duties of the deputy superintendent. In New Hanover County in North Carolina, the Deputy Superintendent is a promotion from the assistant superintendent in this school district.

Education for Leadership

Those who aspire to attain leadership positions within community organizations, state or federal education departments, or district superintendents require a doctorate. To meet the job requirements and demands of the leadership role, you need to have a terminal degree.

A Doctorate of Education or EdD is one option. By specializing in educational leadership, you receive the skills and training to launch your career into administration. You learn to analyze curriculum theory, recommend instructional improvements, apply educational research, and gain familiarity with applicable laws and regulations. Courses in Applied Statistics develop the skills to interpret research questions, design studies, collect and examine data relevant to educational research.

Extra-Curricular Activities

In addition to the appropriate level of education and experience, there are other avenues to help you along the path to becoming a superintendent. To complement the aforestated, join organizations such as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). For over 75 years, the ASCD has boosted the careers of teachers, principals, and superintendents through professional development online courses, webinars, and conferences.

Additional Resources:

If I want to become a superintendent, is a Master’s Degree enough, or do I need a Ph.D.? 

Does becoming a Middle School principal have different requirements from a High School principal? 

What are the differences between a certificate and a Master’s Degree in Child Development?

Does becoming a Middle School principal have different requirements from a High School principal? 

What does a school superintendent do? 

What is No Child Left Behind?