Educational leadership represents the management structure of schools and universities, and includes principals, career and guidance counselors, district administrators, and university deans. An administrative hierarchy is built into educational institutions; this ensures that there are high-level perspectives making big decisions about the country's schools. and improving and sustaining quality education. Without educational leadership, accountability and plans for future growth would be lacking.

With respect to job volume, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the U.S. has 292,000 school and career counselors, 251,300 K-12 principals, and 180,100 postsecondary education administrators, as of May 2017. The table below provides an overview of salary and job growth you can anticipate with a career in educational leadership.

Educational Leadership Role Typical Entry-Level Education Work Experience in a Related Occupation Average Salary Job Growth 2016-2026
School and Career Counselors Master's Degree None $55,410 13%
Postsecondary Education Administrators Master's Degree 5 years or more $92,360 10%
K-12 Principal Master's Degree 5 years or more $94,390 8%

A Master's in Educational Leadership allows individuals to expand upon classroom or leadership experiences to provide innovative solutions for unique educational challenges. Not only will a Master's in Educational Leadership make you more competitive on the job market, in many cases it will provide administrative preparation courses for becoming a certified school administrator — courses which are required in some states. Read on for more guidance and insight on preparing your application for a Master's in Education Leadership program.

Prepare for a Master's in Educational Leadership application

A master's program application is your chance to provide an exemplary first-impression and show university admissions how you outshine other applicants. The specific steps you will take to apply for a Master's in Educational Leadership will be dependent upon the program you choose. Each university will have a curriculum aimed at preparing prospective students for educational leadership roles within the region, which are guided by state laws and policies. But while all schools have unique qualities, there are some general program feature that are consistent across the board; we will discuss these in detail below.

Already a teacher? Teaching experience is a common professional background for those pursuing a career in educational leadership. If you are fulfilled by teaching but want to take a step-up to have a broader impact, a vice-principal or principal position might be a perfect fit for you. Some Master's in Educational Leadership programs, such as Michigan State University's MA in K-12 Educational Administration, are even specifically designed to prepare aspiring educators for school leadership. A program such as this may be a good choice if you are planning to stay within the K-12 school system. Bringing teaching experience into an administrative leadership role provides perspective and value to both students and educators. Having worked directly with students and having been in the position of an educator, you will be able to empathize with the struggles both students and teachers are facing, and will have the opportunity to make positive changes.

Not a teacher? There are plenty of important non-teaching roles in U.S. schools, and these jobs are an excellent starting place for a career in educational leadership. If you are currently in a non-teaching role and are also interested in pursuing a Master's in Educational Leadership, there are programs that will work for you. While many programs require a teaching credential and teaching experience (Azusa Pacific University's MA in Educational Leadership requires a basic credential and five years of teaching experience), there are many programs that accept candidates who do not have a teaching background. Arizona State University's online Master of Education in Educational Leadership (Principalship) program only require applicants to have a bachelor's or master's degree — in any field — in order to apply.

No matter your current job title, you must research within your state to see what credentials are required to become an educational leader. Some states do not require further certification if you are already a licensed teacher; however, some require additional licensing. It is possible to qualify for and obtain licensure as an educational leader without having previous teaching licensure or experience, but this will need to be investigated through your state's Department of Education.

Master's in Educational Leadership ranking and accreditation importance

While it is always important to conduct your own research and make sure you’re choosing a program that meets your needs, ranking and accreditation can be useful. Accreditation, which is awarded by an external authority, ensures that universities and programs meet a certain standard of quality. Universities choose to apply for accreditation, but they must undergo a series of assessments in order to do so. Therefore, when a program is accredited, you can be certain you will get a high-quality education. Rankings, while worth perusing, are best utilized when you are just beginning your search for a program. U.S. News and World Report recently released the Best Grad Schools in Education for 2019. This list is a great way to get started, but personal research is still the key to making the most informed decisions.

Master's in Educational Leadership GPA and standardized test requirements

The GRE is not universally required for a Master's in Educational Leadership, but GPA is oftentimes a deciding factor. For the most part, universities want to see a B average GPA (3.0 on a 4.0 scale). If your GPA is lower than a B average, well, this may be where the GRE will come in handy. If you are set on a school with a minimum GPA and you don't meet the qualifications, you may elect to take the GRE to prove your seriousness and offset your lower grades.

Other Master's in Educational Leadership considerations

If you are applying to a Master's in Educational Leadership program, you will typically need to submit an essay and resume with your application. While the essay and resume are essential for all applicants, they are especially important for those without a background in teaching. These supplementary materials give applicants the opportunity to explain why they are choosing to make this career shift. For example, Indiana University's online M.S.Ed. in Educational Leadership program instructs those applicants who do not have teaching experience to use their personal statements to explain why they are interested in educational leadership.

Given the amount of responsibility that is placed in school administrator's hands, some programs will require applicants to go through a background check as well. Another item that is unanimously required is a list of references. References should know you well as a professional, and should be qualified to illustrate your knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Preparing for your Master's in Educational Leadership is a big task, but is just the start of your amazing journey to become a school leader. A few things are imperative: first, make sure that you do your research and verify that the school you’ve chosen will allow you to become a certified administrator within your state. Next, review your undergraduate transcripts, and make plans to take the GRE if your grades are below a B average. Finally, you must ensure that you have a solid personal essay, and that your references will be able to speak to your character and abilities. Follow these guidelines, and we have no doubt that you will soon be on your way to a master’s program and a fulfilling career in educational leadership.

Lizzie Perrin

Lizzie is a writer and content marketer, with experience in education, finance, public policy, and leadership. She earned a bachelor's degree in communication from UC Davis and a master's degree in public administration from CSU Bakersfield. Lizzie is also a musician and lives in California with her husband and son.