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How to Become an Education Director

August 22, 2022

Mask policies, immunization requirements, online versus in-person learning—during the COVID-19 pandemic, education directors have made important decisions affecting students and families. A good education director can greatly contribute to the community’s well-being, especially during a crisis.

In schools as well as in nonprofits, institutions, and businesses, education directors have a great influence on what people learn and how they learn it. As Americans confront looming social justice issues, education directors hold a key role in making sure that individuals of every age can thrive in fair and safe environments. Those interested in how to become an education director should understand the requirements to do so and consider an advanced education to gain the necessary expertise.

Education Directors’ Responsibilities and Impacts

Education directors in school settings, who are also known as school directors, can have a tremendous impact on the development of children and young people. Education directors can also work in nonschool settings, where they help provide learning opportunities to employees, consumers, or the general public.

The responsibilities of education directors are diverse and demanding. Education directors help shape curricula in settings from kindergartens to colleges to companies. They may even write curricula, but even when this isn’t the case, they work with teachers to ensure that educational methods are in line with the needs of students. In school settings, an education director acts as a liaison between the school board and staff and influences the school’s relationship with the community at large.

Education directors in schools must ensure that their schools meet federal and state standards concerning teacher and student performance, which are often assessed by standardized testing. They should be able to find creative solutions for students who are falling behind.

Whatever the setting, all education directors can optimize learning environments by:

  • Hiring and mentoring excellent staff
  • Organizing programs and schedules effectively
  • Developing policies that prevent social problems like bullying and exclusion, racism, and gender bias

Education directors thus have a vital part to play in promoting racial, religious, and gender equity.

Education Directors and Social Justice Issues

As social justice movements demand equity for underserved people in schools and other educational settings, education directors play an integral role in transforming the future of classrooms. Studies have found that education directors can affect the experiences of students from minority backgrounds. Unfortunately, researchers have suggested that many highly placed public school officials discriminate against socially marginalized students.

Researchers found that high school principals and other officials were less likely to respond to emails purportedly from atheist or Muslim families than those from purportedly Catholic or Protestant families in a 2020 study of 45,710 US schools, published in the Public Administration Review. These findings suggest a need for a new generation of education directors with antibias training who can lead educational transformation towards equity.

Educational and Career Requirements to Become an Education Director

To become an education director, you’ll need to pursue a related degree and probably a license or certification. Educational requirements and qualifications may vary depending on the setting—whether the place of employment is a school or another organization, and whether the institution is public or private. Different work environments may demand different types of experience and education; some demand certifications and licenses, while others don’t.

Education Directors in Schools

Usually, prospective education directors must earn a master’s degree in education administration or education leadership. They must then gain several years of experience, typically five years or more, as teachers. A doctoral degree can also help education professionals hone their knowledge in education policy and leadership.

Most states require education directors in public schools to hold a school administrator license. However, private schools don’t necessarily have this requirement.

Education Directors in Institutions and Companies

Institutions and companies that hire education directors may not need their candidates to possess a teaching license, but these organizations typically look for experience in education or leadership. They may require only a bachelor’s degree, but frequently express a strong preference for candidates with a master’s or doctoral degree in education.

Necessary Skills for Becoming an Education Director

Education directors need a wide range of leadership and people skills, such as:

  • Great communication to manage interactions with teachers, current and former students, parents, and members of the community
  • Conflict resolution to resolve any disputes among stakeholders
  • Stress management to cope with the responsibility of representing their institution to the public

Skills for Elementary, Secondary, and Postsecondary Education

Education directors in colleges and universities must develop specific expertise. They play a large role in shaping strategic communication to attract students, hire talented faculty and staff, maintain a network of alumni, and even woo donors. All education directors must also be proficient in database and human resources technology.

Education directors in elementary and secondary schools should ensure that students perform well on standardized tests. To do this, they must identify problems affecting student performance and implement solutions. Prospective education directors should develop critical thinking skills to be prepared for these tasks.

Work Environments for Education Directors

Many education directors are school principals or higher-education administrators. Most education directors work in public and private elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools.

The responsibilities of public and private school directors may differ depending on the work environment. For example, since private schools are funded by tuition and donations, education directors in these settings may have to spend more time raising money. When private schools are affiliated with religious orders, their education directors may have to report to religious authorities.

Nonschool settings like museums or business firms may also seek to hire education directors to work with the public or with employees. These environments can vary greatly. For example, a prospective education director might find work with a large advocacy group to raise voters’ awareness of social issues. They might also work at a small cultural nonprofit to produce classes and workshops for visitors or school programs.

Job Outlook and Salary for Education Directors

The role of education director is projected to grow by 8 percent over the next decade, in line with average job growth. School principals made a median annual salary of $98,420 in 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while college administrators earned nearly as much, at $96,910.

Salaries for education directors at private companies and other nonschool settings are more variable. Considering all education director jobs, the BLS reports that educational administrators working in museums, historical sites, and other similar institutions earned $74,060 as of 2021.

Create Fairer and Safer Learning Environments

Education directors have the power to improve the lives of students by making schools safe places to grow and learn, regardless of background, identity, or beliefs.

Those who want to become educational directors should consider American University’s online Doctor of Education (EdD) in Education Policy and Leadership. With program pillars such as Systems Change and Social Justice and Anti-Racism, as well as coursework that emphasizes conscious leadership and advancing equity, American University’s program can prepare students to make significant educational change. Explore the doctoral degree in educational policy and leadership and discover how you can prepare to shape the future for new generations as an education director.