A school superintendent makes administrative decisions regarding the finances, resources, policies, and educational goals of a public school district. The job can be very demanding at times, and often requires careful reasoning, problem-solving, and communication skills. In order to become a school superintendent, someone must typically receive at least a master's degree in school administration or education, and gain several years of experience as a teacher, principal, or another type of administrator. In most school districts, a person who wants to become a school superintendent must prove to a board of trustees that he or she has a plan and is capable of handling the responsibilities of the job.
A person who decides to become a school superintendent usually has a sincere concern for the education of future generations. A number of other personal beliefs and qualities are also important in becoming an effective administrator. An individual should be comfortable working and communicating with young people, teachers, and community members. He or she must be able to make important decisions when necessary, and realize that providing quality education should come before seeking personal gains. Individuals who possess such skills and beliefs often become very successful superintendents.
Most working school superintendents have received advanced degrees in school administration and gained experience in other education jobs. A university master's or doctoral degree program can provide a student with a broad understanding of the principles of business management, accounting, and the implementation of educational policy. In addition, a prospective superintendent has the opportunity to learn about current trends in the field and potential job opportunities following graduation.
In many districts, an individual is required to gain experience as a teacher or principal before he or she has the chance to become a school superintendent. By working with school boards, teachers and principals have the opportunity to learn about the business and political side of educational institutions. Those who hope to become superintendents can get involved with parent-teacher associations and school board activities, and begin forming important business relationships within a district.
An experienced, degree-holding professional who is ready to become a school superintendent is usually expected to prove his or her abilities to a governing board of trustees. The board reviews an applicant's previous achievements, proposed goals, reference letters, and community standing when making a decision. It is common for a new school administrator to take over duties for a probationary period, which may last anywhere from a few weeks to one year or longer. A professional who is able to prove his or her worth often goes on to enjoy a meaningful career.