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Online Masters in Education for Principal Licensure: Program Overview

Research online principal licensure courses and programs. Find out what you can learn in these courses and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you.

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Essential Information

Many schools offer online master's degree programs that qualify graduates for licensure as a public school principal. These programs take about two years to complete, and many programs offer all classes online. These programs are designed to accommodate the schedules of working educators, and many classes can be accessed by the student at their convenience. Other classes and seminars may be offered through live streaming video that allows the students to interact and participate in class discussions. However, there are some hybrid programs that offer both online and some on-campus classes. Students usually must complete an internship in a school.

These programs may include classes in education theory, teaching strategies, psychology, personnel management and school finance. Students learn about the role of a principal and how to create a school atmosphere that is conducive to learning. A final research project or comprehensive exam may be required.

Most states mandate that public school principals be licensed as school administrators. A master's degree is required, and some states call for continuing education courses in order to renew the license. A certification examination may be required, also.

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Master's Degree in Education- Concentration in Principal Licensure

The ranks of licensed school principals and superintendents are largely populated by former teachers and administrators who have completed a master's degree in education specializing in administrative leadership. Online programs, like their on-site counterparts, cover the standards endorsed by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) for school administrators, which include sustaining a school culture conducive to learning, managing staff effectively, acting with integrity and collaborating with the community.

Many schools offer two programs, leading either to a master's degree with a concentration in principal licensure or, for those students who already have a master's degree in education, a graduate certificate in principal licensure. The master's degree programs incorporate 30-35 credits in core education concepts like education theory, instructional strategies, teaching methods and psychology, along with 6-9 credits of core leadership courses. The certificate programs offer just the core leadership courses.

Program Information and Requirements

Online master's programs for principal licensure are designed to be completed in as few as 18 months at an accelerated pace. Cohort-based programs specify that students keep pace with their classmates in a fixed 2-year curriculum, and other fully online programs allow students to proceed at their own pace. A clinical component or internship is generally required, and students already working in a school system are often encouraged to complete this component at their own institution.

Course Topics

Online classes can be presented live at scheduled times for maximum participant interactivity, or they may be pre-recorded and available at any time for the students' convenience. Several principal licensure master's degree programs ask students to attend occasional seminars or make a capstone presentation in person at the home campus. Some schools arrange off-site meetings where distance learning students can attend remote presentations together in a small group.

Supervision of Educational Personnel

This course presents supervisory strategies for educational environments. Strategies include setting goals, providing reinforcement, giving feedback and delegating responsibilities.

School Finance and Budget

Understanding government regulations and tax policies is key to effective school management. The budgetary and planning process is reviewed, as well as the roles of administrators in shaping and implementing plans.

Education and Civil Rights Laws

Government statutes regarding education and civil rights are discussed. Students get a chance to work through test cases and complete a research project relevant to their own work situation.

Educational Leadership

Different situations require different styles of leadership. Classwork explores leadership roles, including setting an organization's strategic direction, maintaining an overall perspective and motivating employees.

School Leadership Internship

Students are encouraged to put their coursework into practice in their own educational workplace, including participating in planning and development sessions, performing budgetary analyses or reviewing school standards and procedures. Projects include both a research component as well as direct participation in operations.


Career Information

Median salaries for school principals were $90,410 from elementary to secondary school in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The number of available jobs is expected to increase by 6% from 2014 to 2024, which is about as fast as the average for all U.S. occupations.

Continuing Education and Licensure Information

Most U.S. states require upper-level school administrators to have a license, which generally requires a master's degree or graduate certificate, and passage of an examination. Many states rely upon the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA) exam offered by the Educational Testing Service (www.ets.org), but exams administered, qualifying scores and experience levels differ by state.

Teachers who want to become principals can enroll in a master's degree program that covers administrative issues in education and helps build leadership and managerial skills. Once they finish the program, graduates can pursue state licensure.

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