Online Degrees Blog What is educational administration?

What is educational administration?

18 October
principal smiling in front of students

Students, teachers, and the entire community benefit from well-run schools. Educational administrators work at all levels of education to support the community and create the ideal conditions for student success. They draw on their passion for education and leadership skills to manage all aspects of school governance.1

In short, educational administration is how a school system is managed. Learn more about the key responsibilities of educational administrators and what skills they need to do their jobs well.

Key responsibilities of educational administrators

Educational administrators work in various roles, coordinating activities for K-12 schools. Strategic planning, budgeting and financial management, and professional development are all included in educational administration. These professionals work in different roles, but they all contribute to shaping a school environment that is conducive to student growth and development.2

School leadership

One of the primary responsibilities of educational administrators is leading schools, often by serving as superintendents or school principals. As school leaders, administrators collaborate with school boards, teachers, staff, and the community to set a shared vision and goals.3

Administrators also focus on improving the quality of instruction in their schools by implementing research-based instructional approaches and choosing quality curricula aligned with state standards. They often run faculty meetings, oversee teacher evaluations, and create opportunities for staff professional development.A positive and proactive approach to leadership can cultivate a healthy, productive school culture. The best school administrators lead by example and encourage leadership qualities in teachers as well.4

Community relations

Effective administrators recognize the importance of community relations for the success and well-being of a school. A strong relationship with the community can improve student performance, increase resource availability, and build trust among students, educators, and families. Some ways that educational administrators foster positive community relations include:5

  • Connecting and collaborating with community-based organizations
  • Creating programs that let community members get involved, such as mentoring sessions
  • Participating in community events to promote mutual understanding
  • Establishing a community resource map of organizations that can benefit the school

Change management

Recent years have starkly illustrated the need for fast and efficient change management in schools. Whether due to public health issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting educational policies like the trend away from balanced literacy, or staffing issues like the school bus driver shortage, educational administrators must quickly adapt to changing circumstances so their schools can continue to thrive.6,7,8 Leaders have to drive large- and small-scale changes in their schools regularly, so change management is an important part of their job. Managing change in schools can be difficult, and change fatigue is a common problem among educational administrators. Skillful educational administrators combat resistance and create a desire for change in their teams by doing the following:

  • Determining if there’s an awareness of the need for change
  • Helping teachers and staff understand the positive benefits of change
  • Making sure everyone involved has a chance to offer their input
  • Being adaptable and building a culture of continuous improvement9

Essential skills for educational administrators

Educational administration is a complex job that draws on a diverse set of skills. Leadership is one of the most important skills effective administrators need, but it’s just one of many.

Critical thinking

School administrators are called on daily to make decisions that will impact hundreds or thousands of students and their families. They have to understand data-driven decision-making, systems thinking, and critical analysis to make sound decisions that balance the best interests of everyone involved.10


Effective communication encompasses not only speaking and writing clearly but also listening attentively. Administrators use a wide range of communication skills every day, from informal discussions with preschoolers to formal written grant requests. They need to understand how to effectively communicate with different audiences with conflicting interests and develop empathetic strategies for doing so.11

Financial management

Administrators face the challenging task of meeting expansive initiatives with limited resources. Few schools are overfunded. More often, school leaders must make hard choices about distributing finite monetary and human resources so they’ll do the most good. Strong financial acumen will help administrators make financial decisions that put student outcomes at the forefront.12


During an average day, school leaders handle various tasks, from leading meetings to overseeing school activities to managing unexpected crises.13 They need strong organizational skills to stay on top of all of their responsibilities. From day-to-day responsibilities to long-term planning, educational administration isn’t something that can be done “off the cuff.” Educational administrators have to plan ahead, prioritize tasks, and keep track of deadlines and paperwork.

Educational leadership in modern educational institutions

Educational leadership goes beyond the day-to-day management of educational institutions. It’s about inspiring and leading change, ensuring that schools meet the ever-evolving needs of their students, communities, and the larger educational system.

Educational administrators, whether they serve in a school district or a single institution, often take on this mantle of leadership. They are charged with the crucial task of guiding the direction, and ensuring the well-being, of an entire school system.

Understanding what is educational administration goes hand in hand with grasping the depth of educational leadership. Both concepts are intertwined, with one often acting as a foundation for the other.

While educational administration primarily focuses on the management of human and material resources, leadership takes it a step further—it’s about influencing, motivating, and creating an environment conducive to learning and growth.

The evolving role of education administrators in school districts

Most education administrators begin their careers as teachers. Over time, they seek additional responsibilities and, often, a master's degree in education leadership or administration. This advanced education, combined with on-the-job training, prepares them to manage the complexities of a school district or educational institution.

A significant part of an education administrator's role in school districts involves ensuring the school's curriculum aligns with state and district standards. Moreover, school administrators are often at the forefront of designing and implementing professional development programs, ensuring that educators continue to grow in their roles and adapt to new educational methodologies.

Given the vast responsibilities, it's clear that education administrators manage not just the tangible material resources but also the intangible assets – the aspirations, motivations, and growth trajectories of both students and educators.

Why educational administrators are essential at educational institutions

Educational institutions, whether K-12 schools or higher education establishments, require strong leadership and effective management. This is where educational administrators play a pivotal role. They bring together leadership skills, a deep understanding of the curriculum, and the ability to allocate resources efficiently.

For instance, a school principal might not only oversee the academic direction but also engage with community stakeholders, manage budgets, and spearhead innovative educational strategies. This combination of roles ensures that the educational institution operates smoothly and is positioned for long-term success.

In summary, from ensuring professional development opportunities to managing human and material resources, the role of education administrators in shaping the future of schools is undeniable.

Make a difference by becoming an educational leader

Education in the U.S. is changing. With a growing and diverse population of students and rapid advancements in edtech, schools have more opportunities and challenges than ever before. To succeed, schools need qualified leaders who can support teachers and equip students to meet high standards.

The University of Kansas School of Education and Human Sciences’ online Master’s in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) program will give you the knowledge and skills to drive improved student outcomes and foster a thriving culture in today’s schools.

Our advanced curriculum in educational policy and leadership, combined with our prestigious, experienced faculty, will open doors for you to advance your career and make a difference in the lives of students, schools, and communities.

Schedule a call with one of our admissions outreach advisors to learn more.