Classes Needed to Become a School Principal

Classes leading to a master's degree in educational leadership or administration can give you the skills you need to manage the daily operations of public and private schools through grade 12. Keep reading to find out what classes you might encounter on the path to becoming a school principal. Read more about licensing requirements. Schools offering Principal Licensure degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Classes Will I Take to Become a School Principal?

When you want to become a school principal, there are a variety of classes you might take, either online or in-person. These courses might be part of a Master of Science in Educational Administration or a similar degree in educational leadership, or part of the curriculum for a certificate program. Examples of courses you might take include the following.

Leadership Skills

This course emphasizes the challenges principals face in leading a school. Students will learn interpersonal skills and administrative theory. A major focus of a leadership skills course is decision-making in the school setting.

School Law

In this course, students will learn about the law as it relates to school districts. Students may learn how legal and political influences impact the operation of a school. Topics of discussion may include school boards, state boards of education, case law interpretation, special interest groups, ethics, and unions.

School Finance

Students will learn about budgeting for school facilities. The learning process will focus on the issues that are unique to school buildings and facility management.

Human Resources Management

Students will discuss the strategies used to address behavioral problems, crisis management, problem-solving, classroom interventions, recruitment, and compensation. The course may cover research-based strategies to learn about the common approaches to interventions and employment law.

Instructional and Curriculum Leadership

This course looks at the relationship between instruction in the classroom and the school's culture. Students might learn about teaching procedures, curriculum development, and observation methods used in the classroom.

What Type of Degree Do I Need to Become a School Principal?

In many states, you are required to hold a master's degree, preferably in a field such as educational leadership or administration, to become an elementary or high school principal in a public school. A graduate degree is optional if you plan to work in a private school, but some employers may prefer a master's or doctoral degree.

In some states, you may also need to complete a graduate-level principal certificate program to work as a principal or assistant principal in a public school, particularly if your master's degree is not related to education. Principal certificate programs offer many of the same courses as master's degree programs in this field, and credits can often be applied toward your degree. In some schools, you can automatically complete principal certificate program curriculum when you enroll in a qualifying master's degree program.

Can I Take Classes Online?

Many graduate schools offer principal certificate and master's degree programs in educational leadership and administration online. Coursework is similar to that of on-campus programs and can often be completed in the same amount of time. You can also take individual professional development courses online without enrolling in a degree or certificate program. Some programs are offered entirely online, but others include courses that you take on campus. Many online programs include an in-person principal internship or practicum, which can sometimes be completed at a school where you may already be employed.

Technical requirements for online classes vary, but you typically need a computer with Internet access and the ability to view lectures online, download documents and turn in assignments via your school's Web-based content delivery system. In online classes, you can often communicate with your instructor, participate in class discussions and interact with peer groups through e-mail or live Internet conferencing.

How Do I Become Licensed?

In many states, you need to become a licensed school administrator before you can be employed as a public school principal. To earn your license, you need to pass a standardized exam, such as the School Leaders Licensure Assessment exam administered by the Educational Testing Service or other, state-specific, exam.

Additional principal licensing requirements might include a current teaching certificate in your state and several years of teaching experience. Teacher certification typically requires a bachelor's degree, completion of a teacher-training program and a passing grade on a state-administered certification exam. Check your state's Department of Education website as each state's requirements tend to vary.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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