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Superintendent Career Guide

How to Become a Superintendent

Superintendents act as the executive of a school district and lead the school administration within a district. Each district has a superintendent who makes decisions related to educational programs, spending, and facilities. They also hire and manage principals (who manage teachers are parents within their respective schools).  

Those who are dedicated to providing better learning environments for students in their area might be interested in becoming a superintendent of a school district. 

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What is a Superintendent?

A superintendent is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a school district. All major decisions, including the hiring and firing of principals within the district, fall on the shoulders of the superintendent. The board of education hires superintendents. 

Superintendents rarely interact directly with students or parents, but work to meet the educational needs of their students by maximizing the district's effectiveness, influencing principals, and establishing policies. 

Superintendents lead school districts and make important decisions that impact the education of students within the area. They often have a clear vision for how they want the district to function and create goals to enact their plans. 

A superintendent is not a starting position. In many cases, superintendents begin as teachers and then work their way up the school administration ladder. Those wishing to become superintendents of a district will also need a master’s degree in school administration.

What Does a Superintendent Do?

Superintendents have a long list of daily responsibilities. Because they lead their districts, their responsibilities involve anything that could push the district towards the superintendent’s goal. Some of the most common daily responsibilities of a superintendent include: 

  • Hire and lead principals. 
  • Manage, coordinate, and plan multi-million dollar budgets. 
  • Facilitate meetings. 
  • Implement Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. 
  • Manage complex logistics. 
  • Manage new remodels and construction within the district. 
  • Work with the board of education.  

Job responsibilities will change depending on the superintendent’s personal goals and vision. They work closely with the board of education to establish educational standards within the district.

What Education Does a Superintendent Need?

Superintendents are highly educated individuals. To be considered for a superintendent position, applicants will need: 

Superintendents are at the top of the school administration hierarchy. Those who wish to become superintendents must work their way through other school administration positions, such as vice-principal and principal.   

Those interested in becoming superintendents can expect to set aside between 11 and 14 years before they will be considered for a superintendent position. They will spend four years earning a bachelor’s degree, two years teaching, two years earning a master’s degree, and five years in an administrative role (such as school principal).

What Certifications Do Superintendents Need?

The certifications and licensure for superintendents vary by state. For most, superintendents will need to complete a state program and pass a certification exam. 

Common assessments required for superintendents include: 

  • School Superintendent Assessment: The School Superintendent Assessment is offered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is used as a uniform standard assessment for current and future superintendents. 
  • School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA): ETS also offered the SLLA exam to grant credentials for those looking to become administrators for those presiding over K-12. The test is offered three times a year.  
  • ETS provides additional information that allows individuals to search the test requirements in their state. Each state will require different exams to qualify as a school administrator.  

Superintendents may also benefit from a certification in Microsoft Office to verify that they are familiar with Excel and Powerpoint, two essential apps for leadership and organization. They should also be familiar with attendance tracking software, IBM SPSS Statistics, and Minitab. 


Best Degree for Superintendents

Educational Leadership – M.S.

An online master's degree for current teachers looking to move...

An online master's degree for current teachers...

An online master's degree for current teachers looking to move into a school or district leadership position, like principal, vice principal, or administrator.

  • Time: 73% of grads earned this degree within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,935 per 6-month term.

Coursework in this program includes:

  • Process management
  • Strategic planning
  • Performance excellence
  • Governance, finance, law, and leadership
  • Measurement, analysis, and knowledge management
  • Workforce focus
  • Other courses, including a capstone project and a series of performance tasks to take place under the leadership of a practicing state licensed school principal or assistant principal in a practicum school site (K–12). 

Put your leadership skills to good use—in the service of America's children—with this education master's degree. 

States that do not accept this program: Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota.


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What Skills Does a Superintendent Need?

Superintendents need a myriad of skills to effectively lead a district. They must be adept leaders who are willing to communicate with those around them. The most important skills for a superintendent are: 

  • Leadership skills: Superintendents are the leaders of a district. They work with the board of education to ensure that schools are running correctly and that every student receives the best education. 
  • Problem Solver: As the district leader, superintendents must be problem solvers. They must be ready to tackle difficult issues as they arrive. 
  • Communication: A huge part of a superintendent’s responsibilities is communication. They must use communication skills to create changes to the curriculum and strategize new plans. 
  • Interpersonal skills: Superintendents must foster trust with principals and with their board of education to ensure that everyone involved in the students’ education is aware of the plan.
  • Budgeting skills: Superintendents must be able to manage budgets for each of their distinct schools within the distinct. K-12 schools spend a total of $612.7 billion annually. Individual schools spend around $12,612 per student annually.  

Successful superintendents are flexible learners who seek to grow within their position. 

How Much Does a Superintendent Make?

$160,125

School superintendents make an average salary of $160,125 per year. Your level of experience and location will play a large role in the total annual salary for superintendents

An entry-level superintendent will begin with a salary of $115,357 per year, while a superintendent with more than 10 years of experience will earn over $124,239. 

 

What Is the Projected Job Growth?

4%

Superintendent positions are expected to grow by 4% by 2029, which is similar to the average job growth in the United States. Superintendent positions continue to be relevant because districts need to be led by qualified individuals prepared to follow state laws. 

Superintendent is a vital and essential position necessary for a successful district. Those interested in leading students and ensuring that students in their area receive the best education possible should consider creating a career path that leads to becoming a superintendent. 

Where Do Superintendents Work?

Schools

Superintendents function as the head of a school district and take responsibility for all of the district’s actions. Superintendents work in either of two locations: 

-Public schools: Public schools are funded by local, state, and federal governments. They are led by the state board of education. 

-Charter schools: Charter schools also receive government funding but are led by a private board of education, called a charter. Because charter schools are exempt from many state laws that govern public schools, the superintendent of a charter school may have vastly different job responsibilities from a superintendent in charge of a public district.

 

Interested in Becoming a Superintendent?

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