As teachers become experienced in the classroom, many of them begin to see the merits of school administration and wonder what it takes to become a superintendent. This position gives educational professionals a great deal of control over a given school district, and is a key way for those with an academic vision to help create change that will benefit the largest segment of students. Even so, the requirements for this profession remain something of a mystery to many individuals. Given that it’s the highest ranking position in school administration and easily one of the most competitive jobs in the broader education industry, it’s a good idea for educators to start early when it comes to satisfying job requirements and academic mandates if they wish to take on this position.

Start with the Proper Experience

In an effort to make sure that any superintendent understands how education works, what the unique needs of students actually are, and how administrative influence can change educational outcomes, most states require superintendents to be seasoned educators in their own right. Generally, most states want to see at least a minimum of 5 years of teaching experience, though some states enforce requirements that range from 10 to 15 years of teaching experience in elementary or secondary classrooms. Before applying to any superintendent position, be sure to consider state regulations that govern required teaching experience. This will be a key way to determine whether the position is within reach.

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Extensive Higher Education Requirements for Superintendents

All teachers must have a bachelor’s degree, and many states are passing laws that make it standard to receive a master’s degree to keep the teaching license active for more than 5 years. The superintendent must have even further education, however, that deals specifically with academic leadership and school administration (see: Who Are Educational Leadership Degrees For?). Most superintendents must complete a certificate in school administration or principalship. They must also typically hold a doctoral degree in educational policy, academic leadership, school leadership, administration, or other fields.

The doctoral degree allows superintendents to be the most qualified individuals in their field, with the right combination of practical experience and theoretical insight to make sound decisions. Because superintendents choose textbooks, interact with the school board, set school policies, and become the public face of a given district, this educational requirement is a hard one that often cannot be waived or overlooked.

Certification is Sometimes Necessary

While the vast majority of states do not require superintendents to become certified in this particular area, they will still require that superintendents hold an active and permanent teaching license. Some states actually do have a superintendent certification program, which might require the professional to take a skills exam, pass an interview, meet with state officials, or pass other benchmarks in order to be fully permitted to pursue careers in this top-ranked academic field. As always, those who aspire to senior levels of leadership in their school district should peruse state laws regarding the position to make sure that they’re fully compliant with all requirements.

An Excellent Opportunity for Seasoned Educators

Work as a superintendent has direct consequences on teachers, students, and parents, and can help transform a district as state standards change and educational needs evolve. The best path to become a superintendent, is to be a seasoned teacher, a highly educated administrator, and licensed in either teaching or school administration, depending on state laws in this area.