One of the most common questions asked by aspiring educational administrators is whether or not they need a Ph.D to be a principal of today’s elementary or secondary schools. The good news for those with an eye for administrative positions is that a doctorate is not typically required at the principal level. With that said, there are still a long list of additional requirements that must be satisfied before a teacher can advance into school administration and begin affecting change in school policy, curriculum, and hiring. Before considering this profession as an end point, existing professionals or aspiring teachers might want to consider the additional educational and experiential investments that they will have to make beforehand.
A Master’s Degree is Almost Always Required
Though graduate-level education was not always a requirement for becoming a principal in public schools, it has become a de facto requirement over the past 15 years or so. In that time, major universities have developed master’s degree programs in educational leadership. These programs focus specifically on school policy from the point of view of a typical principal. Whether it’s student discipline, dress codes, parent relations and community involvement, budgetary considerations, scheduling, or curriculum modifications, all topics are covered in the classroom. Principals typically spend a period of time during their educational leadership program in an observation rotation, which seems them shadow existing school administrators to learn more about the hands-on nature of this particular position.
Work Experience Must Be Accrued Prior to Promotion
It’s simply not possible for someone with no educational background to pursue their graduate degree in this field and secure a principal position without a history of success in the classroom. Because principals are charge with overseeing instructors and ensuring strong outcomes for students, almost all states require a minimum of five years of teaching experience. This experience does not have to be done at the same district, nor does it have to be done in the same content area. All that matters is the completion of a minimum number of instructional years prior to promotion.
In most cases, those with the educational qualifications to become a principal will first be promoted to an assistant principal position. Some states require at least three years of experience at this level of school administration before a candidate can apply for a leadership position at the principal level.
So, When Does a Doctorate Degree Come Into Play?
The typical school administrator does not need to pursue their doctorate in education or educational leadership unless they wish to advance beyond the principal level. This would entail a promotion to district-wide superintendent, which is easily the most powerful and demanding position within the school system itself. Doctoral programs intended for superintendents focus on the theory of providing a solid education for various groups, including at-risk cohorts, minorities, and those with learning disabilities. Doctoral courses at this level also teach superintendents all they need to know about hiring teachers, monitoring district progress, taking corrective action, and interfacing with government agencies that directly affect the school’s funding, curriculum options, enrollment numbers, tax base, and several other key considerations.
Related Resource: College Administrator
For Principals, Graduate-Level Education and Experience Matter Most
Aspiring school principals don’t need to pursue a Doctorate in Education, but they do need to plan early so that they have the graduate-level education and classroom experience needed to qualify for this impressive promotion. According to Education Portal, though today’s professionals do not need a Ph.D. to be a principal, they do still need excellent qualifications and a dedication to improving education for all.