From the forthcoming book, Women Lead: Career Perspectives from Workplace Leaders, by the Apollo Research Institute (Lang, January 2013).
Like almost all fields today, the education sector has grown more complex in recent decades and faces a daunting set of challenges. Administrators in K-12 education, for example, must contend with inadequate funding and an aging school infrastructure along with such perennial problems as drug and alcohol use and bullying among students.
The field also faces a teacher shortage in the near future. Attrition among new teachers is high, and, in coming years, many older teachers will retire. Leaders of higher education institutions face their own set of concerns. State and federal funding for higher education has dropped even as the demand for such education has risen.
In California, for example, the proportion of the state budget allocated to higher education is a third of what it was 20 years ago. Nontraditional students, an increasingly important segment of the student population given the need for lifelong learning, can also present challenges, especially at schools originally designed for traditional residential students.
All of these challenges are compounded by a dramatic rise in the both the college student and K-12 populations. So many people have gotten the message that education is necessary for the jobs of today that growth in the higher education sector has exploded over the past decade. Between 1989 and 2009, enrollment increased 38 percent, from 14.8 million to 20.4 million. A growing population means that the number of K-12 students has risen as well. The education sector needs strong, savvy, and well-informed leaders to weather these changes.
The educational field should also have plentiful job openings in the future. Given the growth in the student population, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that education, training, and library professions will add 1.4 million jobs by 2020.
What You Need to Succeed in the Education Sector
- Higher education, especially advanced degrees. Most administrative positions in education require master’s degrees in fields such as higher education administration, counseling, or student affairs. For top positions, employers may prefer candidates who hold PhDs or EdDs.
- Transformational leadership. Like the best business leaders, educational leaders must create and communicate strong visions of what they want their organizations to be. They should be skilled at forging relationships and building teams, and be open to sharing information and gaining first-hand experience of what is going on at all levels of their organizations.
- Soft skills. Leaders recommend that educators possess strong communicative and interpersonal skills and that they stay agile and alert to trends in the field. Qualities such as confidence, motivation, leadership, and innovativeness are in demand.
- Technological literacy. Technology is reshaping the educational landscape. Over six million college students have taken at least one online class, and students at all levels need to learn how to use technology to be prepared for the jobs of the future. One of the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act, in fact, is for every student to be technologically literate by eighth grade. Educational leaders must be comfortable with technology and alert to new trends to be able to incorporate technology into their programs.
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