Educational Leadership

Did you ever have to go to the principal’s office?

For some reason, it’s one of the scariest things that can happen to you in elementary school. Looking back now, you know that in all likelihood, at that moment your principal was as baffled as you were scared, and was just trying to give your teacher a break by making you sit in the office. There really wasn’t anything to be afraid of.

And now, if you’ve thought about a career in education, you might have even thought about how you could help the newest generation of teachers as a principal. If so, you’ve come to the right place – that’s what a master’s degree in educational leadership is designed to help you with.

To be fair, a master’s in educational leadership (or educational administration) can prepare you for other roles besides that of a school principal. In their overview of the degree, US News & World Report lists department chair, instructional coordinator, and union leader as other potential paths for someone with this qualification.

But since school principal is the most prominent and most familiar of any of these roles, let’s focus on that. Besides sitting behind a big desk and telling kids to behave, what does a principal do?

A principal’s job description varies from school to school, but it’s helpful first off to think about the title of the degree: “educational leadership.” In effect, you’re the leader of the school. Teachers, staff, students, and even parents look to you to understand what the school is about, how it ought to be run, and what the standards are.

Practically speaking, principals need to be able to manage the school’s budget, train teachers, and yes, even discipline kids. Long hours will likely be required, and if you’re a teacher used to getting a break in the summer, don’t expect it as a principal.

With that said, it might be helpful to know that according to Career Cast, the role of school principal is one of the most underrated occupations. US News & World Report lists the median salary for an elementary school principal at $77,000 and that of a high school principal at $88,000.

Over the next three to four years, growth in the field is expected to reach 10 percent, so if you’re considering this position, there very well could be an opening for you.

So what do you need to do to become a school principal?

There’s not one single career path for becoming a principal, since requirements vary depending on whether you want to lead a public school or a private school, which state and region you live and work in. But if principal is your dream destination, your path will probably start as a teacher, gaining experience at different grade levels. Then, you’ll want to apply for a master’s in educational leadership program (many of them require you to already be a teacher).

Armed with years of teaching experience and a relevant master’s, you’ll then need to finish out the rest of the specific requirements of your target school or district. According to the University of Scranton, you may need additional certification:

Most states require principals to be licensed school administrators. Licensing requirements vary by state, but most require a master’s degree or other graduate-level training, and some require candidates to pass a test.

Whatever the case, a high-quality master’s in educational leadership will prepare you well in your pursuit to be a principal.

That’s why we’ve put together some rankings of the best master’s degrees in educational leadership – to help you decide which degree program will best help you achieve your goal.