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 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.

What Classes Will I Take in a Master's Degree Program?

When you pursue a Master of Science in Educational Administration or a similar degree in educational leadership, you take classes that prepare you for duties as a principal, such as budget allocation, personnel management and curriculum development. You can also choose an area of focus, such as grades K-12, offering courses in comparative education and educational philosophy. Programs often take two years to complete and frequently include an internship. Course topics typically include:

  • Instructional leadership and supervision
  • School law and public policy
  • Administration of special programs
  • School finance
  • Human resource management
  • Educational technology
  • Evaluation of testing data
  • Community relations

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.

Additional principal licensing requirements often 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.

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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