Instructional Leadership Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Degrees in instructional leadership are available to educators who wish to further their knowledge of education and to further their career to leadership positions. Programs are offered at the certificate, master's, and doctoral levels.

Essential Information

Certificate programs are designed to help teachers advance their careers. Master's degree programs allow individuals with bachelor's degrees to develop administrative and leadership skills. In a doctoral degree program, teachers and administrators with master's degrees focus on research, analysis and problem solving. Some programs may allow for specializations in areas like early childhood education, special education, and literacy.

To qualify for a certificate program, students should be licensed teachers with a bachelor's degree, a minimum of a 2.75 GPA, and 2-3 years of teaching experience. Applicants to master's programs must fulfill all of those qualifications, as well as submit GRE or GMAT scores. For doctoral programs, applicants are expected to already have a master's degree with a GPA of 3.0 or better and at least 5 years of teaching experience.


Graduate Certificate in Instructional Leadership

Graduate certificate programs in instructional leadership are set up to help licensed teachers improve their prospects for advancement into leadership positions within the educational system, while continuing to teach. Teachers may also use a program to help them prepare for National Board Certification. Program content addresses such topics as instructional strategies, community partnerships, skill development, and assessment and analysis. The curricula of many instructional leadership certificate programs are often comprised of courses that are similar to those offered in a master's degree program. These programs generally take one year to complete, and it may be possible to complete them online, though this option is rare. Certificate courses may include:

  • School administration
  • Education technology best practices
  • Resource management in education
  • Education problem solving
  • Cultural diversity

Master's Degree in Instructional Leadership

A two-year master's degree program in instructional leadership enhances the capabilities of professional educators in curriculum design and the assessment and improvement of instructional practices. Degree candidates learn new approaches to organizing schools, problem solving, conflict resolution and developing the skills of new teachers. A standard structure of core courses, elective courses and seminars comprise instructional leadership programs. Degree candidates may also have to complete a master's thesis or culminating project. The following are among the possible courses in a program:

  • Curriculum assessment and design
  • Classroom supervision
  • Staff development
  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Conflict resolution

Doctoral Degree in Instructional Leadership

A doctoral degree program in instructional leadership provides education to both teachers and administrators, and offers the necessary tools and skills to keep them abreast of current education policy trends and devise new programs, redesign existing programs, allocate resources and monitor outcomes. These programs generally take 5-6 years to complete. Research, analysis and problem solving are primary emphasis of coursework. Classroom work is the focus during the first 2-3 years of an instructional leadership program and is aimed at preparing students to research and write a dissertation. Doctoral level courses may include:

  • Quantitative research methods
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Statistical analysis and program evaluation
  • Educational leadership theory and practice
  • National education policy review

Popular Career Options

Teachers who earn an instructional leadership certificate are qualified to take an expanded role in school policy decisions and teacher training. Possible teacher leadership positions include:

  • Peer Assistance Review (PAR) providers
  • Beginning Teacher and Assessment (BTSA) providers
  • Mentor teachers

An instructional leadership doctorate has applications in and out of the classroom, in public and private schools and in government. The following are among the potential careers.

  • Curriculum specialist
  • Local school administrator
  • District administrator
  • Postsecondary professor of education
  • Education policy analyst

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Graduating from a master's degree program in instructional leadership allows teachers to assume more authority and responsibility in educational settings. They can become education administrators or a hybrid of teacher and education administrator. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that over the years 2014-2024, employment of education administrators at the elementary and secondary levels would increase by 6%. Elementary and secondary school administrators earned median salaries of $90,410 as of May 2015.

The outlook for postsecondary teachers overall throughout the 2014-2024 decade is favorable; according to the BLS, they should enjoy a 13% increase in employment during that time. The BLS reports that postseconday teachers specializing in education could see 9% growth through 2024. In 2015, the BLS reported a median salary of $61,560 for postsecondary education teachers. At that time, the majority of those teachers were employed by colleges, universities or professional schools. The second largest group worked for junior colleges.

Continuing Education

For teachers who only have a bachelor's degree, a master's degree in instructional leadership might advance their prospects more than a certificate. More schools offer instructional leadership programs at the master's level rather than offer certificates.

Degrees in instructional leadership are offered at a variety of graduate levels and focus on topics like research methods, education policy, conflict resolution, and educational leadership theory. Graduates of these programs commonly pursue careers in administration and postsecondary education.


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