Principal Licensure Degrees: Masters, Training & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a principal licensure program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of obtaining non-degree principal licensure or a master's degree in education with principal licensure as well as potential careers.
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Studying Principal Leadership: Degrees and Training Programs at a Glance

The majority of states require that principals be licensed and have a master's degree. Generally, principals are licensed teachers with at least 2-3 years of teaching experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates 10% job growth for elementary, middle and high school principals between the years 2010 and 2020, which is about as fast as average growth (www.bls.gov). Some states require continuing education as part of maintaining licensure, while others require that licensed principles have a long-standing relationship with a mentor.

Let's compare programs:

Training Master's
Who is this program for? Licensed teachers with a master's degree who wish to obtain principal licensure Individuals interested in obtaining both a master's degree and principal licensure
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) -Principal ($90,000)*
-Principal ($90,000)*
Time to Completion 1 year, full-time 1-2 years, full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 24-32 credit hours
- State exams
-Field experience
- Approximately 33-41 credit hours
- Field experience
- Thesis
Prerequisites -Master's degree
- Teaching license
-Approximately 3 years of teaching experience
-Bachelor's degree
-Teaching license
- Teaching experience
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Non-Degree Principal Licensure

Non-degree principal licensure programs are designed for licensed teachers with 2-3 years experience and a master's degree. These programs provide instruction that prepares teachers for administrative roles in schools.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can be completed in a short period of time
  • Many programs are offered online, making it easier to attend classes while working
  • May allow completion of fieldwork required for licensure at the school in which you work

Cons

  • Leads to a career in which you are held accountable for the standardized test scores of your school, which can be stressful
  • Required coursework is not much shorter than that in a master's degree program
  • May not directly lead to your being hired as a principal; in some instances graduates will need to first work as an assistant principal before advancing in their career

Courses and Requirements

Coursework in these programs is orientated around teaching leadership and how to manage school systems. Fieldwork is also usually required, but can sometimes be completed at the school in which a teacher currently works. The number of hours of required fieldwork varies, but usually approximates 300 hours. Courses in these programs include:

  • Leadership and ethics
  • School resource management
  • School culture, climate and communications
  • Supervision and evaluation
  • School law
  • Role of the principal

Online Degree Options

Online and hybrid forms, as well as evening and weekend programs, are available. The majority of programs available are orientated around and structured for working teachers. The curriculum of these programs is the same as those of their on-campus counterparts.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Principals have a large amount of responsibility, including that of the safety of students and faculty and the need to make decisions that affect a school and surrounding community. This makes having interpersonal communication, critical thinking and analytical skills essential for prospective principals. Expanding your capabilities in these skills through coursework and extracurricular activities can better prepare you to work as a principal and give you an edge over your competition.

Master's Degree with Principal Licensure

These programs may be titled 'Master of Education', 'Master of Leadership Education' or 'Master of Education Leadership, Renewal and Change'. The curriculum of these programs focuses on leadership, directing change in teaching and problem solving in school systems.

Sometimes, these programs are offered jointly with principal licensure programs. These programs generally only differ from license-only programs by the addition of nine credit hours of study and the need to write a thesis.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • There are many part-time and online program options, making this degree very accessible for full-time working teachers
  • Allows teachers to simultaneously earn a master's degree and licensure
  • Fieldwork requirements provide hands-on experience

Cons

  • May require writing a thesis
  • Tuition rates may be higher than those for a license-only program
  • Fieldwork credit hour requirements may need to be completed in addition to any teaching experience

Courses and Requirements

The additional coursework in these programs focuses on leadership and handling problems in schools. There are also clinical practice or internship hour requirements. Common course topics include:

  • Curriculum development
  • Special populations
  • Social foundations in education trends
  • Statistics

Online Degree Options

Master's degree programs that prepare for a career as a principle are available in online, hybrid, and evening and weekend formats. These programs often have the same class and other curriculum requirements as in-person programs.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

To get ahead with this degree, consider completing courses in statistics and assessment measurement methods. These courses provide you with the tools necessary to analyze data, solve problems, and make educated decisions when working as a principal. Having knowledge in these areas may make you more attractive to employers.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
      • M.Ed. - Educational Leadership
      • M.Ed. - Instructional Leadership
      • MEd - Corporate Wellness
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.Ed. in Educational Administration
      • M.Ed. in Educational Leadership
      • M.Ed. in Elementary Education
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Online Programs Available
    4. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
  • Campus and Online Programs
    5. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Instructional Design and Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    6. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Master of Education - Elementary Education
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Teaching and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Organization Development & Leadership
      • MS in Education - Instructional Technology
      • MS in Education - Instructional Technology and Instructional Technology Specialist Certification
      • MS - Special Education with Wilson Reading Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    9. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Education in Teacher Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. - Educational Leadership
      • Master of Science - Common Core State Standards
      • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction - Educational Technology Leadership
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Teacher Leadership
      • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Methods & Curriculum

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
  • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)

Which subject are you interested in?

Northcentral University

  • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
  • M.Ed. - Educational Leadership
  • M.Ed. - Instructional Leadership

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Grand Canyon University

  • M.Ed. in Educational Administration
  • M.Ed. in Educational Leadership
  • M.Ed. in Elementary Education

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • MS - Instructional Design and Technology

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
  • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
  • Master of Education - Elementary Education

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Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Organization Development & Leadership
  • MS in Education - Instructional Technology
  • MS in Education - Instructional Technology and Instructional Technology Specialist Certification

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