What Can I Do with a Master’s in Educational Leadership?

Two women talking over a table with books

A leadership role in education offers infinite possibilities to transform lives. Often, there is a disconnect between the curriculum, traditional teaching methods, and student needs. Educational leaders—armed with a broad understanding of teaching and learning—are needed to guide the overarching focus of successful student outcomes so educators can appropriately connect lesson plans with student populations.

The road to student success is complex. Educational leaders must be skilled and dedicated—reflective and not afraid to question their own assumptions or the educational systems in place. A master’s in educational leadership prepares you for this exciting challenge and gives you the tools needed to truly make a difference in the lives of students, educators, and parents. But how does this translate to your career—in other words, what can you do with a master’s in educational leadership?

Obtaining a master’s in educational leadership enables you to work in a variety of capacities. Whether you are a teacher looking to become a principal or a nonprofit liaison dedicated to the success of school systems, a master’s in educational leadership leads to an inspiring career. It provides you with the opportunity to cultivate knowledge and skills and face the adaptive challenges in education.

Below we’ll take a closer look at the career potential for graduates of a master’s in educational leadership. First, let’s better understand what a master’s in educational leadership program offers.

Make a difference

A master’s in educational leadership prepares you to step into school systems, communities, and nonprofits and carry out a variety of essential functions to ensure student achievement. Diane Ketelle, dean and professor of education at Mills College, acknowledges the importance of teaching and mentoring educational leaders. Ketelle notes that "a master's in educational leadership serves as a model that will help students sharpen their leadership abilities. The future leaders of our schools come to us with passion and a desire for change. It's our responsibility to provide the tools needed to guide their steps and maximize their efforts."

In addition to overseeing and managing people, you will develop and promote inclusive scholastic programs. By examining theory and real-world situations in a master’s in educational leadership program, you are equipped to alter the learning experience for students.

The curriculum for a master’s in educational leadership examines both theoretical and real-world problems. You might take classes in areas like:

  • Programmatic Leadership
  • Planning and Assessment
  • Management and Supervision
  • Socio-Political-Cultural Relations

Coursework is rooted in practical application but extends to support a visionary scope. A strong educational leadership curriculum will give you the framework to assess and reassess evolving educational challenges. Leadership does not entail carrying out the status-quo. Leaders are innovative—they question, they challenge, they improve. Above all, they reflect.

Expand your opportunities

One of the most powerful things you can do is find a job where your passions and values help you support yourself. Each day as an educational leader, you will get to wake up and go to a job where your mission lies, where you're changing the world.

Candidates for administrative roles with a graduate degree are qualified for 2.5 times the number of jobs than those with a bachelor’s, according to Burning Glass. Furthermore, on average, administrators with a master’s earn $80,000 annually, as compared to $58,000 for those with a bachelor’s.

Below is a snapshot of the career potential in educational leadership, including average annual salaries. Keep in mind salaries vary by state and location. Leadership and opportunity go hand-in-hand. As an educator, you have the opportunity to impact the classroom. Becoming an educational leader widens that scope and strengthens your potential to affect change on a larger scale. Master’s in educational leadership graduates can pursue the following careers:

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals — oversee the operations of your school. As a secondary education principal, you are responsible for the overall well-being and success of your student body. You will implement the curriculum and manage the teachers and staff. Principals typically make, on average, $94,390 per year. In most states a credential is required to hold an administrative position. If you have already earned an administrative credential, a master's degree in educational leadership will help you land the job you want.

Community College Program Directors — supervise anything from the registrar to student life. The job responsibilities will vary based on which program you pursue. However, all program directorships typically require a master’s degree and the average salary is $92,360 per year.

Nonprofit Organization Managers or Directors — manage the social service your nonprofit promotes. You might find yourself working at a nonprofit directly tied to education, like The Education Trust or Khan Academy, both of which are aimed at redressing the inequities in education. Or you might work at a nonprofit which is concerned with addressing policy reform. Nonprofit managers typically make $64,100 per year while directors earn $114,426 per year.

Heads of Independent Schools — like a principal, you oversee institutional operations. Independent schools all have a unique mission and choose applicants based on their own unique admission criteria. Salaries can fluctuate based on a school’s tuition and endowment, but the head median salary is $250,000 per year. Associate and assistant heads earn, on average, $148,745 and $129,000 per year, respectively.

Directors of Diversity Programs — provide training to help people within organizations understand how to most successfully work collaboratively in diverse teams. In this role, you’ll pass on the practice of reflection to employees within an organization. The average annual salary for this position is $108,250.

Directors of Admissions — help your institution select the strongest and most diverse class. As a director of admissions, you’ll help shape the direction of your school by looking for candidates who will bring diverse backgrounds to your institution. The median annual salary for directors of admissions is $71,498.

Directors of Museum Education — plan educational experiences for students at a museum. Learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom, and access to resources like museums offer crucial opportunities for students to experience art, science, and history. The typical annual salary for this role varies, with the median making $38,980 and the top 10% making $82,570 and up.

Each of these jobs relies on understanding complex learning environments. Whether you want to be a museum director or you want to lead admissions at a university, you will need an intricate knowledge of the challenges that face education and a deep understanding of how to turn those challenges into successes. A master’s in educational leadership helps you forge a path to what you love to do. As a leader, you will go beyond what’s been done before and make your mark on the world.

See things differently

Education is a pathway to social justice. As a community, we can reduce inequities and champion inclusivity by implementing change in society through the lens of education. We ask again—what can you do with a master’s in educational leadership?

A master’s in educational leadership points you toward an exciting job with exceptional pay. But more than that, it secures you with a life-fulfilling career. The reward of a master’s in educational leadership degree is not just holding a leadership position in the field of education. It’s also being given the vehicle to fight for what you believe in.

Attend Mills College and become a leader in education

In 1852—just two years after California attained statehood—Mills College formed in Oakland, CA, to become the first women’s college west of the Rockies. We’ve been leading outside the lines ever since. Today, our graduate programs offer gender-inclusive opportunities for prospective students to study at our top-ranked (U.S. News & World Report) independent liberal arts college.

The online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership at Mills College is a program for aspiring leaders who want to shape the world through education. With the program being completely online, it’s possible for you to advance your career while you continue working. Combining the accessibility of online learning with our top faculty and resources, we offer a thoughtful and reflective model of leadership. Small classes, easy access to professors, and teamwork promote a leadership model grounded in the knowledge of teaching and learning.

If you’re ready to take on this challenge, we want to be part of your journey. Learn more about the online MA in Educational Leadership at Mills.