This article refers to elementary, middle, and high school principals. To succeed in this role, you must have a passion for education, experience teaching, and leadership qualities.

What does the Principal do?

Essentially, the principal is the boss. He/she oversees the responsibilities of the teachers, the conduct of the students, and acts as a liaison with the local board of education. You micromanage the details, such as school budgets and disciplinary actions. On the macro-scale, you deal with the school district’s administrative staff to ensure that your school complies with their directives. There are also state and federal regulations to follow.

Whether you are a principal in a public, private, or charter school, you become the face of the school. In this regard, your attitude, compassion, leadership, and demeanor can project the personality of the school. Students, parents, teachers, and your superiors will benefit and thrive by reflecting a positive image. This aspect of the profession is evident in your scope as a communicator. You will have meetings with concerned parents, frustrated teachers, and demanding regulators. Therefore, management skills are imperative for principals.

Educational Process

The road to becoming a principal begins with the necessary degree for teaching at your chosen level. In elementary schools, teachers typically have children in kindergarten through fifth grade. At this level, a bachelor’s degree in early childhood development or related behavioral science is beneficial. A Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education is another option. This degree provides the curriculum to progress to your teaching license in your state of employment.

You may require a master’s degree in education for elementary school at a prestigious private school. The amount of tuition usually defines a prestigious school, regardless of the level. A master’s degree will improve your chances of teaching beyond elementary schools. Some school districts may prefer applicants with a graduate degree.

A Master of Arts in Education is one choice to expand your employment opportunities and salary potential. Teachers currently employed with a bachelor’s degree can gain experience while earning a master’s online. This degree will develop your understanding of research-based educational tools and methods to promote student growth. You will become adept with a digital technology used in education to boost students learning and comprehension.

Another degree choice for aspiring principals is a master’s in educational leadership. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that this degree or educational leadership are typical for the profession. A Master of Arts in Educational Leadership (MAEdL) is available online. This degree is a viable option for those who want to be principals or at the next level as district administrators.

An online MAEdL program offers three areas of specialization, depending on your leadership objectives. There is a 36-credit Building Leadership plan that may appeal to future principals. The 42-credit District Leadership applies to principals and school board administrators. The third choice is a 36-credit program in School Business Administration for graduates who prefer to learn about the business aspect of education.

A Master of Education (MEd) in Educational Leadership is worthy of being at the top of the list. From kindergarten to Grade 12, this degree will provide the theory and practice to excel as a teacher and effective leader in the public or private school system. You will learn the importance of the relationship between the school, the school board, the community, and parents.

A similar degree as the one above is a Master of Education in Educational Administration. This degree stresses various components of being an administrator. As examples, managing finances, handling human resources, implementing teaching methods, and understanding the social, legal, cultural, and political atmosphere. In this endeavor, some of the courses involve political structures, school law, business affairs, planning, evaluation, and curriculum design.


The road to becoming a principal doesn’t end with your college education. Principals and administrators require a state license. The process is different in each state. However, it is a test of your leadership knowledge and skills, as well as your understanding of achievement and demographic data, interpersonal skills, and teaching strategies for optimum student academic achievement.

Each state mandates the requirements for Administration/Principal Certification. All states require at least a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. Florida, for example, has an Educational Leadership Core Curriculum for all aspiring administrators and principals. In Oregon, you have to complete their approved administrator program before sitting for the Oregon Educator Licensure Assessment for Administrators. This exam is in addition to the test of your knowledge in U.S. and Oregon civil rights laws.

It is imperative that you review each state’s requirements. Your research could save you time and money knowing before you choose, which is the best master’s program for the location where you plan on working as a principal.

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