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Steps to Becoming a Principal


By Bisk
Steps to Becoming a Principal

 Ivan A. Shibley, D.Ed.

Clinical Practicum Coordinator at The University of Scranton
George E. Jones
Assistant Director of Online Education Programs at The University of Scranton

Countless professionals who thrive in education careers aspire to the role of principal, for its many challenges as well as personal satisfaction. If your career prospects include becoming a principal, you can make it happen by earning a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration.

Principals are responsible for leading elementary, middle and high schools. They are involved in a wide variety of activities, from being the instructional leader, to developing and upholding the school’s mission statement and school board policy. They may set standards of performance and establish goals and objectives for studies, teacher, and staff. Principals also interact with stakeholders outside of school at community events and various social organizations.

What is Required to Be a Principal?

Most educators seeking to become principals begin as teachers. They may transition to a career in education administration by first becoming an assistant principal or by pursing a department head or curriculum specialist position.

Public schools generally require principals to hold a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration or a Master’s in Leadership. Often, principals go on to earn doctoral degrees. 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. In certain states, continuing education is required to keep an administrator’s license, to ensure that a principal’s skills stay up-to-date.

Necessary Skills and Personal Attributes Needed to Become a Principal

When analyzing your career prospects, consider whether or not you possess the qualifications to pursue a principal career. Successful candidates for principal positions demonstrate patience, tenacity, flexibility, confidence, innovative thinking and sound decision making. In addition, principal candidates must have strong interpersonal skills and be effective communicators. Knowledge of leadership practices, often gained through Master’s in Educational Administration degree programs, is a must.

Steps to Becoming a Principal

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree and become a teacher.

    Most school principals begin a career in education by teaching. Bachelor’s degrees are generally the minimum educational requirement for teachers. States require public school teachers to be licensed, which involves completing a bachelor’s degree and passing a licensing exam.
  2. Gain teaching experience.

    Teaching is an ideal training ground for principals. Before advancing into administration positions, most principals begin their careers in education as teachers, learning skills such as communication, leadership and motivation. Teachers also learn to develop curricula according to students’ needs, as well as valuable evaluation skills.
  3. Teach in as many levels as possible in a short time. 

    Working with a variety of students, parents and colleagues will expose you to opportunities to further develop leadership and communication skills. You’ll also gain valuable knowledge that will serve you well as principal. Try to move quickly through the ranks when possible, while seeking opportunities to advance your skills.
  4. Find ways to demonstrate strong leadership skills.

    Get involved in your school and your community. Volunteering for activities, committees or planning groups can help you shine. When others see your ability to effectively motivate others, successfully complete a group activity or confidently spearhead a planning committee, they will more likely make a positive recommend when you’re pursuing a principal position.
  5. Research your district’s principal qualifications.

    Once you know the requirements for becoming a principal in various districts, you can set about meeting them. For example, you may need to become a licensed school administrator prior to applying for a principal position. What does licensing entail? Perhaps you’ll need a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration to take the exam. If that’s the case, start researching your options for master’s degree programs while you’re teaching and developing those essential leadership skills.

Enhance Your Principal Career Prospects With a Master of Science Degree in Educational Administration

Principals are vital to the success of a school’s students, faculty and staff. Becoming a principal is a worthy, challenging and rewarding aspiration in a career in education. Pursuing a master’s degree and following these five steps to becoming a principal can make a big difference in your career and in your life. Make a change for the better by enrolling in a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration program.

Category: Careers