Do I Need Teaching Experience to Become a School Principal?

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School principals are the point person for every elementary and secondary education building across the country. Principals are responsible for the administration of every part of a school building’s operations, from managing teachers and staff to planning professional development to handling disciplinary and administrative issues. Additionally, principals are the public face of schools, serving as a representative for school events and around the community. In order to successfully lead and supervise students, teachers, and staff, school principals must have a unique set of skills and experiences.

A Bachelor’s Degree: The First Step

The minimum education requirement for principals in the majority of school districts is a master’s degree. To obtain that graduate degree, future school principals will need to get started with a bachelor’s degree. There are a number of different options for which bachelor’s program to pursue; however, the majority of future principals will begin with a bachelor’s degree in education.

Most of these programs are separated by grade level, offering specializations in either elementary education or secondary education. Elementary education students take a variety of courses that include teacher education, foundations of education, child development, classroom management, and assessment in elementary education, along with a variety of teaching methods courses. In a secondary education program, students take many of the same courses that are developed for the secondary level, but they also major and minor in specific subject areas such as mathematics or English. These programs help to prepare graduates for teaching and pursuing further education. For additional information, visit the National Association of Elementary School Principals   and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

The Ed.M.: Master’s of Education Degree

While not all school districts will require candidates for principal positions to hold a master’s degree, it is most often a necessity. Many principals hold a master’s degree in education. For this degree, there are a number of possible specializations. Common specializations for future principals include education policy and management, school leadership, and educational administration.

Courses in these programs are diverse depending on the university and the program. Common courses in a school leadership program, for example, include philosophy in education, educational leadership ethics, the principles of curriculum design, instructional improvement, educational technology, school administration, organizational communication, human resource management, and curriculum implementation.

Experience and Certifications

In addition to completing a relevant undergraduate and graduate degree, many school districts will require principals at both the elementary and secondary levels to have experience as a teacher, hold certifications, and obtain state licensures. For many states, school principal licensure requires for candidates to hold a certain number of teaching hours in the classroom. Some school districts will also require principals to hold a valid teaching certificate.

Prospective school principals are also able to earn certifications in other areas, including educational administration and leadership in education. These certifications can be helpful in supplementing an undergraduate or graduate degree that is not in education.

School principals must have a variety of skills, experience, and knowledge in order to effectively lead, supervise, and manage the various tasks of school operations. In addition to an educational background in education, teaching experience can be helpful, and sometimes required, for developing those skills and making a positive difference in students’ lives.

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