Online Principal Certification, Certificate and Licensure Programs

Get info about online principal certification programs. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career and continuing education options.

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Essential Information

There are several fully online certification programs that meet qualifications for licensing as a school principal. Programs vary by state, and students should seek a certification program from an institution in the state in which they plan to work.

All states require that school administrators, including principals, be licensed. They must have a master's degree and experience in education. Some states call for a test and require continuing education to maintain the license.

Because programs vary, admissions requirements differ; however, all programs require that incoming students hold a master's degree and have 2-5 years of professional teaching experience. Students completing the program online may need a headset with a microphone. Many programs are completely online, however some may require campus residencies or advising sessions.

Learning Environment

The length of time needed to complete a principal certification program ranges from 22-36 semester hours. Some programs are available to be completed entirely online; however, many require students to attend advising sessions and/or residency periods intermittently during their course of study.

To access the course material, students need to own a computer equipped with a high-speed Internet connection. In addition, the computer must have the capability to stream video and audio. Some courses require students to have a microphone headset to communicate with peers and instructors via online discussion forums, threads, chats and bulletin boards for collaborative group projects.

Common Coursework

Courses in these online programs prepare students for the administrative tasks of running a school. They'll study school leadership, finance and budgeting, community relations and curriculum development.

Students access course material through websites as well as downloadable lectures and documents. Lectures and materials are delivered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats for courses such as these:

Educational Leadership

This course introduces students to the skill sets needed to become effective leaders within a school's administration structure. Concepts in this course include effective communication, leadership characteristics, administrative roles and resource management.

School-Community Relations

Students in this course are introduced to the role that school administrators play within the school-community relationships. Students learn how to assess the needs of a school district, and in turn to foster communication and achieve mutually beneficial results.

Financial Policy in Education

Students in this course study the factors that influence financial policy in public school systems. Topics in this course include revenue allocation, budgeting, accounting, fund dispersion, facilities operations and school administration operations. Students analyze these topics within the context of an assumed leadership role within a school's administration.

Career Information for Graduates

Graduates of this program are prepared to take the certification and licensure examinations for their respective state where they plan to work as a school principal. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that the employment rate for elementary, middle, and high school principals would rise by 6% between 2014 and 2024 ( The BLS also reported that the mean annual wage for education administrators in elementary and secondary school was $92,940 in May of 2015.

Continuing Education

Students who want to continue their education past the master's degree level can pursue a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree program entirely online. Ed.D. programs allow for students to select specialization areas, including an administration concentration.

Experienced educators seeking promotion to school principal can complete an online program. Students in the program study leadership, community relations, and financial policy in education.

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