Education Administration

How Much Do School Superintendents Make?

How Much Do School Superintendents Make?
Median base salaries for school superintendents—disaggregated by school district size—range from approximately $95,000 to $260,000 annually. Image from Unsplash
Tom Meltzer profile
Tom Meltzer February 11, 2020

Education isn't renowned for its high-paying jobs, but the role of school superintendent is an exception. It's a challenging job with great responsibility, but then again, so is teaching. At least being a superintendent pays really well.

Article continues here

Under the American public education system, schools are organized into administrative units called districts. States can have as few as one district (Hawaii) or as many as 1,227 (Texas), and those districts can range in student population from under 300 (there’s one in Wyoming with 105 students) to over one million (Brooklyn, NY). No matter the size or location, someone has to supervise them. That someone is the school superintendent.

A school superintendent is sometimes referred to as “the CEO of a school district.” Like CEOs, they certainly are the public face of a school district, and they exert considerable control over budgets, hiring, facilities, and policy. They supervise principals—vice-presidents in this analogy—to ensure their vision is implemented across the district. And, like CEOs, superintendents are usually paid very well.

How well? This article answers the question how much do superintendents make? It covers:

  • What does a school superintendent do?
  • How much do superintendents make?
  • What impacts a superintendent’s salary?
  • What are the educational requirements to become a school superintendent?
  • Should you become a superintendent?

What does a school superintendent do?

A school superintendent has two primary responsibilities. First, they must ensure that each school in their district is operating smoothly and effectively. Second, they represent the district to all its constituents: students, teachers, principals, staff, parents, and other district residents.

Because school districts vary so widely in size and budget, a superintendent’s responsibilities and powers differ considerably from one district to another. They do share many in common, however. The AASA lists these eight standards for assessing superintendent performance:

  • Leadership and district culture: An effective superintendent projects a vision for the district and promotes academic rigor and excellence.
  • Policy and governance: An effective superintendent creates and implements policies that are clear, executable, and beneficial.
  • Communications and community relations: An effective superintendent clearly communicates the district’s goals and accomplishments to all stakeholders
  • Organizational management: An effective superintendent runs an efficient team whose decisions are data-driven and well-documented
  • Curriculum planning and management: An effective superintendent participates in the design and implementation of the curriculum
  • Instructional management: An effective superintendent manages assessment and reporting, and promotes the use of new technologies where appropriate
  • Human resources management: An effective superintendent oversees the daily and long-term operation of district staff and offices, including hiring, training, compensation, and evaluation
  • Values and ethics of leadership: An effective superintendent models integrity, virtue, and tolerance


University and Program Name Learn More

How much do superintendents make?

Each year, the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) produces its Superintendent Salary and Benefits Study. According to AASA, survey respondents oversee school districts that are “generally representative of the distribution of school districts nationwide,” meaning that the survey data, while “not necessarily representative of all superintendents,” does provide a reasonably accurate snapshot. Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect data specifically for school superintendents, the AASA report is the most accurate data set available.

According to the study, median base salaries for school superintendents—disaggregated by school district size—range from approximately $95,000 to $260,000 annually. The smallest school districts captured in the survey had fewer than 300 students; the largest, more than 25,000.

School superintendents’ median base salaries, by school district size and by gender of superintendent, are:

  • 300 students or fewer: (male: $101,000; female, $92,000)
  • 300 to 2,499 students: (male: $128,000; female, $126,670)
  • 3,000 to 9,999 students (male: $167,444; female, $167,013)
  • 10,000 to 24,999 student: (male: $204,000; female, $192,515)
  • 25,000 or more students: (male: $232,000; female; $236,000)

The report indicates that the majority of school superintendents receive generous benefits packages that include:

  • Retirement plans
  • Health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Sick leave and paid time off
  • Conference attendance expenses
  • Professional membership fees
  • Cell phone
  • Computer

The report also lists median base salaries for assistant or associate superintendents, a position many superintendents hold prior to ascending to the top spot:

  • 300 students or fewer: (insufficient data)
  • 300 to 2,499 students: ($108,375)
  • 3,000 to 9,999 students ($128,605)
  • 10,000 to 24,999 student: ($140,000)
  • 25,000 or more students: ($140,000)

School superintendent demographics

The AASA includes other telling demographic details about school superintendents. The male-female ratio in the profession, for example, is four-to-one. We’ve listed some other interesting data below:

Racial demographics

  • White: 90 percent
  • Black: 3 percent
  • Hispanic/Latino: 3 percent
  • Native American: 1 percent
  • Asian: 0.4 percent

District type

  • Urban: 7 percent
  • Suburban: 28 percent
  • Rural: 65 percent

District size

  • 300 students or fewer: 10 percent
  • 300 to 2,499 students: 54 percent
  • 3,000 to 9,999 students: 27 percent
  • 10,000 to 24,999 student: 6 percent
  • 25,000 or more students: 3 percent

Economic condition of district

  • Strong: 15 percent
  • Stable: 56 percent
  • Declining: 29 percent

What impacts a superintendent’s salary?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track income information specifically for school superintendents. However, it does gather data on all education administrators, a category that includes school superintendents.

Geography has a significant impact on superintendent compensation; the more affluent a district, the higher a superintendent’s income is likely to be. According to the BLS, the five highest-paying states for education administrators are:

  • Connecticut
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • California
  • Washington

The lowest-paying states, according to the BLS, are West Virginia and North Carolina (pay is lower still in Puerto Rico, a US territory).

The best-paying metropolitan areas include:

  • Nassau and Suffolk Counties (i.e., Long Island), NY
  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
  • Fairbanks, AK
  • Trenton, NJ
  • Anaheim metropolitan region, CA

Other factors that can impact compensation include:

  • District size: Unsurprisingly, the larger the district, the higher a superintendent’s salary is likely to be. Running a district of 25,000 is significantly more challenging than running a district with 250 students, and pay usually reflects that. Furthermore, the larger district pulls from a broader tax base, and therefore typically has more money to expend on its leader.
  • Experience: According to the AASA report, more than half of all superintendents have been in their current jobs for one to five years. About a quarter have been in their positions for six to ten years, and another 15 percent have been in their current roles for more than ten years. Each year should bring another raise, i.e., higher income. When a superintendent leaves one job for another, it is likely because the new job is better, and that typically means higher pay. It makes sense, of course; this is an extremely challenging job, and anyone who has proven their ability to do it well has earned a little something extra.
  • Education: By the time you’re a candidate for a superintendent position, your education is going to count for a lot less than your experience and accomplishments. Even so, you will almost certainly need a graduate degree even to be considered for this job. Further, you will almost certainly need a graduate degree to accrue the experience and accomplishments required for consideration. Finally, a graduate degree from a top university never hurt anyone when it comes time to impress an employer.

What are the educational requirements to become a school superintendent?

There are over 10,000 school districts in the United States, each with its own hiring standards. While there is no single education standard for superintendents, few if any districts will consider a candidate who does not hold at least a master’s degree, preferably in education or education management. Many job postings indicate that a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree is either preferred or required.

Pursuing an EdD can be challenging for a working professional. Fortunately, a number of top schools offer this degree online, making it easier to complete part-time and from the convenience of your own home. Schools that deliver an online EdD include:

Certification from the AASA will also boost your resume. Its National Superintendent Certification Program, designed for superintendents with fewer than seven years experience in the job, costs $6,000. The program consists of four three-day sessions spread over 18 months (and, typically, three or four cities) and includes case studies, mentoring sessions, and a capstone project.

Should you become a superintendent?

No one scrolls through a job board, sees a posting for a school superintendent, and says to themselves, “I’ll bet I could do that! I mean, how hard could it be?” Well, maybe someone does, but no one with a realistic grasp of what the job requires. This is a job one builds one’s career to pursue. You may start as a teacher or as a school administrator. Either way, you should put in some time in a school’s front office, because supervising principals is among a superintendent’s most critical responsibilities.

Depending on the size of your district, you may also want to put in some time at the district level. In a small school district—the one in Wyoming that we mentioned at the beginning of the article, for example—jumping from school principal to superintendent is quite likely. In a larger district, however, that’s just not going to happen. You’ll need to pay your dues at the district level, perhaps in the role of assistant or associate superintendent.

At that point, you should have a very clear idea of whether you want the responsibility and attention that come with this high-profile role, or whether you’d rather hang a little further in the background. If you’re all about taking charge and standing front-and-center, then yes: you should become a superintendent. Good luck finding a district to lead!

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

How useful is this page?

Click on a star to rate it!

Since you found this page useful...mind sharing it?

We are sorry this page was not useful for you!

Please help us improve it

How can this content be more valuable?

Questions or feedback? Email

About the Author

Tom Meltzer began his career in education publishing at The Princeton Review, where he authored more than a dozen titles (including the company's annual best colleges guide and two AP test prep manuals) and produced the musical podcast The Princeton Review Vocab Minute. A graduate of Columbia University (English major), Tom lives in Chapel Hill, NC.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


You May Also Like To Read

Categorized as: Education AdministrationEducation & Teaching