There are nearly a million education administrators in our nation.  These leaders are given the immense responsibility of educating the next generation. The future of our country, way of life, and posterity depend on our young.  These million men and women include elementary, middle, and high school principals, assistant principals, directors of curriculum, academic deans, superintendents, school board members, higher education administrators, and more.  They live and work in public, private, charter, and parochial schools from East to West coasts.  From their combined effort is bequeathed entrepreneurs, businessmen, public servants, teachers, lawyers, doctors, and innovators. To accomplish their solemn duty they organize, oversee, lead, guide, and shape schools and organizations essential educational, curricular, and financial operations as well as ensure the day-to-day operations of our schools.  

Research such as this infographic, taken from Queens University of Charlotte, proves common sense notion that good schools have good leaders.  The same goes for teachers and staff…good teachers have good leaders.  Principals have a ripple effect on the whole school community: Teachers with good leaders work hard and report a higher job satisfaction.  Parents are happier and feel their voice is heard and, most importantly, students learn more, have less behavioral problems, and score higher on assessments.  

If you are drawn to leadership in schools, you need to earn at last a master’s degree.  To become a principal requires Masters in Educational Leadership that results in you getting licensed.  We have ranked the 20 Best Online Master’s in Educational Leadership if you want to continue working while earning your degree.  We have also ranked the 20 Best Master’s in Educational Leadership and 10 Most Affordable Master’s in Educational Leadership if you seek a residential degree or financial considerations are primary.  Whatever route you happen to pick, we recommend you find out through your State Department of Education specific licensure requirements. The U.S. Department of Education has a place to go for help; click here to find your state’s standards and licensure requirements.

The Educational Leadership degree can be a Master of Science, Master of Art, or Master of Education, of which there are important differences.  For example, MA degrees are usually terminal, and MS degrees are more scientific and research-oriented often requiring a thesis.

A Master’s in EL is perfect for teachers seeking leadership roles such as principal, leaders seeking further education or professional development, and in some cases, those with no educational experience wanting to move into a different job.  The degree applies to educators with a license and experience; most university admissions into EL programs require a license and experience, often two or three years minimum.  Some require a GRE as well, so please note this in your search.

A Master’s in Educational Leadership requires between 30 and 45 credits, though we’ve ranked some over 50. The time it takes to finish depends on many factors, but it’s safe to say programs take from one to three years.  

Classes include:

  • Principles of Professional Practice in Education
  • Developing School-Community Partnerships
  • Public School Laws
  • Instructional Leadership Development Training
  • Improving Instruction Using Data
  • Education Ethics
  • Principles of Educational Administration
  • Supervision for Learning Environments
  • Diverse Learning Needs
  • Curriculum Leadership

With coursework comes practical experiences, which also vary considerably from school to school.  Some require 100 hours and other 1000.  The more experience your degree gives you, the better.  Working with professionals in the field in a real-world way is the best way to apply all the knowledge and theory, as well as to network with others, both paving the way to a prosperous future.

Most leadership programs also include a capstone experience your final year. This could be a research project and presentation, educational or professional portfolio, comprehensive exam, or thesis that you may have to defend.  There are some the require a combination of these.