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How to Become a School Superintendent

Drexel University School of Education

A desire to have a greater impact on students can lead teachers to become principals and principals to become school superintendents. However, acquiring the training, education, and experience necessary to run an entire school district isn’t something you can do overnight.

The superintendent of schools is the educational leader tasked with propelling learning forward and crafting innovative and creative solutions to the complex issues facing educators today. Often, the superintendent is the equivalent of a CEO of a business, managing hundreds of employees, balancing a multi-million dollar budget, and creating a collaborative vision aimed at preparing students to be critical thinkers ready to solve current and as yet unknown problems facing our global society. 

Superintendents are transformational leaders who facilitate change to meet the challenges facing education today. This position requires someone with a strong vision of what education should be, passionate about improving the delivery of instruction, and ready to create learning environments to prepare tomorrow’s global leaders. Are you that person?

Understanding the various requirements and hurdles in this career path can help you start moving in the right direction. And if you’re ready to learn how to become a school superintendent, take a moment to Request Information about how Drexel can help.

Education Requirements to Become a School Superintendent

A Bachelor’s degree in education is the most common starting point for a superintendent. Because becoming a superintendent often begins with a career in teaching, and it almost always requires a graduate degree related to high-level administration. For example, an MS in Education Administration or an EdD in Educational Leadership and Management.

The career path to becoming a superintendent can be accomplished through the PhD in Education or EdD programs. The PhD focuses on advancing theory through critical analysis, while an EdD prepares you to apply the research in a real-world setting.

School Superintendent Skills

A superintendent oversees several important tasks including hiring staff, managing budgets, monitoring student success, and developing a vision for the district. Given such a challenging and multifaceted position, there are many school superintendent skills that are necessary to thrive.

As the educational requirements suggest, school superintendents will need to develop high-level abilities as managers. They’ll also need the ability to connect with students, versatile communication skills to interact with the community, and the leadership skills necessary to oversee an entire district.

School Superintendent Certification Requirements

Certification requirements vary by state, but in general, superintendents are expected to have 2-5 years of experience in an administrative position before consideration. Programs that allow you to complete a School Superintendent Certification have similar requirements. Prospective superintendents usually need an active teaching license in the state where they work.

Because of the teaching license and administrative experience requirements, starting out as a principle is one of the most direct routes to becoming a school superintendent. Principles have their own certification and teaching experience requirements that largely overlap with the requirements to become a superintendent. But it is possible to develop the necessary administrative experience in other fields.

How Many Years Does It Take to Become a School Superintendent?

Not every superintendent follows the exact same career path. But in general, people who want to become a school superintendent need to:

  • Earn a Bachelor’s degree in education (4 years)
  • Gain teaching experience (2-3 years)
  • Earn a Master’s degree in education (2 years)
  • Gain experience in an administrative or supervisory role (3-5 years)

Between all of these requirements, it takes around 11-14 years to develop the experience necessary to become a school superintendent and run a school district.