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Online Elementary School Principal Certification and Degree Programs

Get info about online programs to become an elementary school principal. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career options.

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Essential Information

Many schools offer online master's and doctoral degree programs that prepare educators for administrative positions, like those of principals in elementary schools. Some schools do offer coursework entirely online, while others offer hybrid programs in which students may be required to complete some on-campus work. An internship in an elementary school will probably be required in a master's degree program.

Master's degree programs include courses useful to school administrators such as decision-making skills, leadership, school finance and community relations. In a doctoral program, students look at organizational communications, staff development and advanced topics in school leadership. A dissertation is usually required. Certificate programs are also common for those looking for an online program.

Most states require that public school principals hold an administrators' license. Each state has its own rules, but most require a master's degree with administrative training and passing a competency test. Continuing education may be required to maintain the license.

Prerequisites vary be degree level. Normally students must have a minimum of a Bachelor's in Education or a related field.

Elementary School Principal Master's Degree Programs

Students can pursue an online Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree that prepares them for positions in school administration, including jobs as an elementary school principal. Typical areas of study include school leadership and legal issues.

Program Information and Requirements

Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree in a field related to education from an accredited college or university and be certified teachers. While many courses are available online, programs of this type may combine online coursework with on-campus classes. Most M.Ed. degree programs require a field internship in a professional setting.

Course Topics

Master's degree candidates explore the issues involved in school administration. These topics may include leadership and federal, state and local statutes.

School Leadership

This course focuses on the decision-making skills elementary school principals must possess in order to be effective administrators. Topics of discussion include developing interpersonal skills and understanding the major challenges principals face on a daily basis.

School Law

In this online course students examine federal, state and local statutes and regulations related to student and school personnel rights. An overview of the roles and responsibilities of school and regulatory agency officials is also provided.

Principal Clinical Internship

Students are placed in an elementary school and are tasked with researching, developing and leading an educational administration project. The program is collaboratively planned and guided by the student, institution professor and a designated school mentor.


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Elementary School Principal Doctorate Programs

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) programs are generally designed for students seeking to attain senior-level positions in school districts, including school principal and superintendent. Major topics of study include faculty and staff administration, organizational communications and financial planning.

Program Information and Requirements

In addition to completing courses online, students also have to complete various research requirements in education methods. Students should have a master's degree and experience in the educational field in order to enroll in the program.

Students are encouraged to interact with instructors and other students online, which may require an instant messenger and e-mail account. In addition to having a computer and high-speed Internet access, students may also be required to have an up-to-date browser and operating system. Students may have to purchase software and textbooks for courses as needed.

Course Topics

Faculty and Staff Development

This course teaches school leaders about instructional improvement and working with faculty and staff to identify professional needs. Classes are designed for in-depth study and practice planning, organizing, and facilitating programs that improve faculty and staff effectiveness. These courses also must be consistent with institutional goals and needs; supervising individuals and groups; providing feedback on performance; arranging for remedial assistance; engaging faculty and others to plan and participate in recruitment and development activities; and initiating self-development.

Organizational Communications

This course focuses on effective communication in organizations. This course educates students in relevant theories, technologies, leadership, teamwork, diversity, global organizations and ethics. In addition to learning about issues embedded in organizational communication systems, students must complete a 7-week internship.

Doctoral Dissertation

This is a mentor-guided course. Learners enroll in this course while finalizing their Doctoral Project with their Committee. The learner and mentor relationship is the catalyst for completing the Doctoral Project research, findings, recommendations and conclusions.

  • Develop a learning contract for completion of the dissertation proposal.
  • Synthesize the influences of historical developments and trends on practices and polices within the relevant field of study.
  • Characterize a leadership problem situated within the historical developments and current trends in the field of study.
  • Propose a method for obtaining greater knowledge about an identified problem.
  • Create a dissertation proposal with a cohesive statement of purpose and process in researching and writing the dissertation.
  • Submit a dissertation proposal for review by the ARB and IRB culminating in approval for beginning data collection.

Elementary School Principal Certification

Through an online certification program, post-master's students with teaching experience can enhance their knowledge of elementary school administration or acquire new skills in the field. Major areas of study include school management, local school district issues and community relations. These programs are intended to prepare for state licensure as an elementary school principal.

Program Information and Requirements

Most certification programs require students to hold a teaching certificate and have several years of teaching experience. Some institutions may require prospective students to possess a master's degree in education. Many courses are offered entirely online; however, most programs are of a hybrid format combining online coursework and on-campus classes. A field experience requirement of a set amount of hours is typically required to complete the program.

Course Topics

Certification candidates examine the basic leadership qualities that an elementary school principal should possess. Students should be comfortable working with computers and have a basic knowledge of Internet research.

School and Community Relations

This course provides an overview of the communications skills that principals must develop to effectively communicate both within the school and local community. Particular emphasis is placed on the analysis of school and district needs and the designing of school and community relations programs.

The Politics of Local School Districts

Students examine the theoretical and political issues involved in local school district governance. Topics of discussion cover the decisions that affect relations between school boards and individual schools.

School Management

In this course students examine the basic functions of school leadership. Areas of study include safety and security, finance and daily operational procedures.


Career Information

Masters of Education holders are eligible to attain elementary school principal positions, provided they have successfully passed a state licensing exam. Depending on the particular state or local school district, candidates may be required to serve as an assistant principal for a period of time before becoming eligible to advance to head principal of an elementary school. The median annual salary for an assistant principal was $81,343 in 2016, as reported by Salary.com.

In addition to qualifying for elementary school principal positions, graduates with a doctoral degree are qualified to teach and perform research at the university level. Research areas may focus on improving the quality of education for elementary students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for teachers at colleges and universities are expected to rise 13% from 2014-2024, and the median salary for all other university educators in 2015 was $63,000 per year (www.bls.gov).

Students who successfully complete an elementary school principal certification program can pursue a principal's position. Depending on state and local school district guidelines, certification holders usually must pass a license examination in order to become eligible to serve as head principal of an elementary school. In 2016, the median annual salary for a school principal was $99,319, according to Salary.com.

Teachers pursuing a certification or degree program to become an elementary principal have several options at the undergraduate and graduate level. These programs usually combine on-campus and online study, though there are some that are entirely online other than a completion of an internship.

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