How Do I Earn a Principal Certification?

If you are interested in becoming a public school principal, you might like to find out more about the educational and licensing requirements. This article also includes information on how to pursue a principal certification. Continue reading for further details. Schools offering Principal Licensure degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

About Principal Certification

Certification is not always required in order to become a principal. However, if you are interested in earning a principal certification, you might earn one in conjunction with some graduate-degree programs. Most states require that you be a licensed teacher with several years of experience, particularly at a public school, in order to be eligible for such a credential. Requirements are often less strict at private schools, therefore, you may not have to obtain a state license to obtain employment as a private school principal.

Important Facts About Principals

Key Skills Communication, decision making, critical thinking, leadership, problem solving, interpersonal skills
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%
Median Salary (2014) $89,540 (for all elementary, middle and high school principals)
Similar Occupations Teacher, instructional coordinator, technical educator

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

State Licensing Requirements

You need to apply to the department of education in the state in which you work to obtain principal certification. State licensing parameters vary, but many call for at least graduate-level training and most require you to complete a master's degree in higher education administration or a related field. In some states, you must pass a licensing examination, participate in mentored on-the-job training and earn continuing education credits in order to get and maintain your license.


Most principals begin their educational careers as licensed teachers. In order to make the jump from teacher to administrator, you will likely need to earn a minimum of a master's degree in educational administration or educational leadership, though some principals hold doctoral degrees in these disciplines. You may be expected to complete a state-approved principal certification program to ensure that you meet your state's certification requirements.

Depending on the program, you might need a master's before earning principal certification or you may be able to complete master's and certification programs concurrently. If you already have a master's degree, you can complete a post-master's principal certification program. Your master's-level coursework might cover topics in resource allocation, assessment, mentoring and research. Specific principal certification courses may cover school finance, community relations and technology integration.


The experience requirement for principal certification may be dictated by the state in which you work. In some states, you'll be required to have as many as five years of teaching experience before applying to a principal certification program. In other instances, you may only need teacher licensure or certification before applying.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next »