Do I Need a Master’s Degree to Become a School Principal?

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If you are interested in pursuing a career as a school principal, most states do require that you have a master’s degree, in addition to work experience as a teacher and other qualifications. The good news is that school principals typically make around $88,000 and enjoy a fair amount of career stability. If you want to pursue a career as a principal without a degree, becoming a teacher at a private school may allow you to advance into the administration. Read on to learn more about what it takes to obtain a job as an elementary, middle, or high school principal.

Bachelor’s Degree Requirements

If your ultimate career goal is to become a school principal, the first step is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in a related field. While a teaching degree is most effective since teaching experience is often required to secure a job as a principal, you could also get your bachelor’s in psychology or school counseling. To learn more about the skills you should develop if you are interested in a career as a school administrator, the United States Occupational Outlook Handbook  is a great resource.

Job Experience Requirements

Before applying to master’s programs, it’s important to spend a few years working in the school system as a teacher. While requirements to become a teacher vary by state, you’ll typically need to complete your bachelor’s degree and required student teaching, followed by taking a test to become licensed by the state where you’ll be working.

Master’s Degree Requirements

To become a principal, enroll in a master’s program in either educational leadership or educational administration. Public school teachers can often have at least some of their degree program funded by their state of residence. While some states have an alternative path program for aspiring principals who do not have a master’s degree, the most effective way to get a job in this field is through higher education.

Licensing Requirements

Public school principals must typically be licensed by the state, which involves a background check and test. This licensure usually includes a continuing education requirement, which means you have to take a certain number of hours of related coursework each year to maintain your licensure. Private school principals do not need to be licensed by the state. To learn more about requirements in your state, the National Association of Secondary School Principals  is a great resource.

Beyond the educational requirements to become a school principal, you should also have the diverse skillset and personality needed to manage a school. Principals are in charge of the entire staff of teachers, responsible for the discipline of the student body, and must analyze data to come up with new and innovative ways to solve educational challenges. If you’re not sure if this career is right for you, consider shadowing a principal in your community. Or, if you’re already a teacher, reach out to your school principal and ask if they’d consider mentoring you as you set out to further your career. While this is a challenging position, it can also be quite rewarding.

Check out “Top 10 Online Master’s in Education Degrees” to get more information.

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