What Can I Do with an Educational Leadership Degree?

Written by Scott Wilson

What can I do with an educational leadership degree? An educational leadership degree delivers the skills and knowledge to succeed in advanced positions in schools at every level. Offered with specialized focus areas ranging from ECE to special education as well as traditional certification tracks for building- and district-level K-12 principals and superintendents, these advanced degrees offer qualifications for licensure and the tools to inspire and lead.

leadership meeting in the hallway

Earning an educational leadership degree is a big step in the career of any educator. It’s a step up from the direct daily work of teaching kids. Leadership shoulders the big responsibilities in the education world. Principals, superintendents, and other professional leaders take on the hardest problems in a complex system. So, they need the most advanced education in the profession to do their jobs.

Since they are almost always offered at the graduate level, the cost of a master’s of educational leadership or even a PhD in educational leadership is significant. They also require substantial commitment in time and energy.

This isn’t news to anyone who works in education already. As educational professionals, teachers are intimately familiar with the costs and benefits of advanced degrees.

In fact, it’s a common requirement for teachers and other education professionals to have to earn continuing education credits each year. Since they already hold bachelor’s degrees, those credits are typically earned at the graduate level. And if you’re earning credits anyway, it only makes sense to put them toward a full degree.

There are also incentives in many jobs for pursuing an advanced degree. It may even be needed just to keep your license. So, earning a master’s degree may already be in the cards for you.

But it’s still reasonable to ask what sort of degree that should be, and how it will serve your career. When facing the choice of majors to pursue, you’ll want to answer the question of what exactly it is you can do with a degree in educational leadership.

An Educational Leadership Degree for Every Type of Administrative Position

graduate in front of chalkboard, using diploma as a telescope For starters, it’s important to understand that there isn’t just one type of educational leadership degree. The actual degree you earn will have a lot to say about what you can do after graduation.

Many educational leadership degrees come with your job options baked in. That’s because they are built around a core set of EPP (Educator Preparation Program) classes. EPP coursework is a required element for licensure or certification for educational leadership positions in most states. That means a Master of Education in Educational Administration specializing in School District Business Leadership is geared to financial and business operations positions. What you can do with that degree is right on the label.

There is a whole range of specialized concentrations with related certification implications. Each different choice influences your potential career track. They can include:

Naturally, each of these tends to correspond to a specific type of license in the state it is earned. A degree focused on school counseling won’t equip you to work as a librarian. A principal certification specialty doesn’t qualify you for work as an educational technology specialist.

Educational Administration Degrees May Be Specific, But Core Leadership Skills are Universal

Of course, each degree does include some of the same basic leadership skills. You’ll come out the other side with the background in leadership theory and the essential abilities to:

These are all valuable skills that can take you a long way in life, not just your education career.

The Level of Study for Your Educational Leadership Degree Drives Your Opportunities

smiling administrator in classThe level of educational leadership degree you earn will also have quite a lot of impact on what you can do in the real world. There’s a big difference in the depth of training you get in a one-year certificate in educational administration versus a full doctoral degree that takes five years or more to earn.

At a minimum, most leadership positions in schools today require a master’s degree in educational leadership. As a two-year, advanced course of study in your field, these equip you to take on senior roles ranging from school principal to online learning administrator to teacher-leader.

Also, while they don’t have licensing requirements in the same way that primary and secondary school leadership roles do, this level of education can get you in on the ground floor in college and university leadership jobs. An assistant dean position or a job in the university registrar’s office are a couple of examples.

For the top jobs, a PhD or Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership are more common. These degrees offer extensive preparation and real-world exposure to the big issues that senior leaders in education deal with. So, an EdD in Educational Administration can give you the tools you need as a school district superintendent, or even a college provost.

In the world between a master’s degree and a full doctoral program, you can also find leadership degrees at the post-master’s level that fall in-between a master’s and a full doctorate. The Educational Specialist (EdS) degree comes with doctoral-level studies, but drops some of the heavier research and final project requirements of a traditional PhD or EdD. The EPP coursework in these programs offers the same licensing potential, but holding a doctorate can mean getting a special level of consideration when competing for top jobs.

A Degree Alone Won’t Define Your Career Options in Education

While a formal education in the form of an advanced degree is an important step toward any of these jobs, it’s never enough by itself. Graduate studies leading to licensure typically involve internship or practicum experience requirements. But even those placements aren’t quite the same as spending a few years on your own as a teacher or administrator.

So, what you can do with an educational leadership degree is also going to depend on what you have done before you earned it. Your experience as a teacher and leader will be critical in how you absorb the lessons and apply the knowledge out in the real world of educational leadership.

So, you can see that a degree alone won’t define you. What you do with the education you get will have as much to do with your preferences, unique set of natural talents, and the opportunities that present themselves. But you can also see that a degree is the first piece of the larger puzzle of your life and career. How you put it on the board can have a big influence on what you end up doing with a degree in educational leadership.

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