Administrators, unlike teachers, work a twelve-month year and are fairly busy most of that time. Whether running a small, private day-care center or an overcrowded public high school, an administrator’s tasks are many and various, ranging from curriculum development to student discipline. The most familiar school administrator is the principal. Assisting the principal are vice-principals, whose duties tend to be more specialized and who have more responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the school. In a central administration office, other specialists work with some or all the schools in a given district, overseeing particular programs, such as the evaluation of student academic achievement. Any one of these administrators may be responsible for infrastructure maintenance, the hiring and training of teachers, and student affairs.
Administrators abound at colleges and universities as well. Among them are the deans of faculty, who handle academic issues, and the deans of students, who see to the well-being and appropriate conduct of the student body. Registrars process student records and many financial matters, while provosts serve as university-wide troubleshooters. As in smaller primary and secondary schools, colleges often require their teachers to perform administrative work. To a college student, the most familiar teacher-administrator is probably the department chair. And anyone who has applied to college knows all about the Dean of Admissions.
School administration is a combination of brain work and grunt work. Organizational skills are key, as is the ability to operate within constantly tightening budgetary constraints. Since duties can range from hiring a basketball coach to AIDS education, administrators need to be versatile and flexible. An administrator must have a great deal of patience to deal with the enormous bureaucracy often associated with educational institutions. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, since administrators are responsible for the education of young people, a particular dedication to and understanding of children’s needs is essential.
Most beginning administrators have acquired related work experience-usually in teaching or management posts-and, as might be expected in an academic environment, they also have advanced degrees, including doctorates, in education or administration or a combination of the two. Recently, some schools have begun demanding that their applicants have an M.B.A. At the university-level, deans are, of course, expected to bring a rich academic and professional background to their jobs. As with many educational jobs in the U.S., applicants must have gone through a certification process (usually administered on the state level).
For those who want summers off, teaching is a viable alternative to administration, and it brings with it many rewards. If you would rather work during the summer, look into camp counseling and administration, although these too can be year-round tasks. More and more religious communities are taking charge of the education of their children, and they consequently require the services of qualified school administrators.