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Top Schools for K-8th Administration and Principalship

Read about the top schools for K-8 school administrators and principals, who typically oversee teachers, students and daily school operations. Find information about the degree options at four leading universities, as well as an overview of other schools with programs for educational administrators.

Experienced educators who want to redirect their careers toward administration in elementary and middle schools can find the necessary training at many universities. Most programs confer a master's degree, but doctoral and licensure programs are also available at some schools.

School Information

Four of the top schools for aspiring school administrators and principals include Michigan State University, the University of California in Los Angeles, the University of Texas and Ohio State University. Each of these schools has been highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger's and/or The Princeton Review. Typically, prospective principals must have a teacher's license and prior teaching experience before entering an administration program. K-8th grade school administrators usually hold at least a master's degree in educational administration.

Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI

School Highlight: Hybrid course design combines online classes with traditional coursework.

Michigan State University ranked seventh on U.S. News & World Report's list of best graduate educational administration and supervision schools in 2016. According to The Princeton Review, Michigan State was also one of its 'Best Midwestern Colleges' in 2017.

Michigan State University offers a master's degree program in K-12 administration that can be completed in 2-3 years, during which graduate students can continue to work full-time. The university also offers a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Educational Administration. Requirements include an additional 61 credits beyond the master's degree in the following areas: core studies, research and inquiry, selective studies and dissertation work.

University of California in Los Angeles, CA

School Highlight: UCLA offers M.A., Ph,D, M.Ed. and Ed.D. programs.

In 2016, U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) 18th on its survey of best graduate education schools. UCLA also placed sixth on Kiplinger's 'Best Values in Public Colleges' list for 2016. UCLA offers a Principal Leadership Institute, which leads to a Master of Education. Students can also pursue the Educational Leadership Program (ELP), which culminates in a Doctor of Education.

University of Texas in Austin, TX

School Highlight: The school operates the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk.

The University of Texas (UT) in Austin ranked third on the U.S. News & World Report best graduate educational administration and supervision specialty survey in 2016. As of 2016, UT also placed 13th on Kiplinger's 'Best Values in Public Colleges.' The Principalship Program at UT allows educators to earn a master's degree in administration while continuing their careers.

Ohio State University in Columbus, OH

School Highlight: The school was ranked #11 on the U.S. News & World Report 2016 list of the best graduate educational administration and supervision schools.

The graduate education programs offered by the OSU Department of Educational Studies emphasize communication and leadership. Students can earn a Master of Arts, Doctor of Education of Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Studies with a focus in Educational Administration, depending on their academic and career goals. The department also offers a 15-month licensure program for principals, a self-paced licensure program for principles, a year-long licensure program for superintendents and a teacher leader endorsement program.

Top K-8th Administration and Principalship Programs

Aspiring administrators may also want to consider the programs at these schools:

  • At the University of Georgia in Athens the faculty contributes to the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement.
  • At the University of Illinois in Champaign, prospective principals interested in research can complete a master's degree in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership.
  • At the University of Maryland in College Park, the master's degree program in organizational leadership and policy studies prepares principals through interdisciplinary experiences.
  • The program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor emphasizes educational leadership, policy and reform.
  • At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the administration program emphasizes diversity awareness and ethical responsibilities.
  • The University of Washington in Seattle was ranked ninth on the U.S. News & World Report list of best graduate educational administration programs in 2016.

Becoming an administrator in a K-8th educational setting requires graduate-level study. Relevant programs are available at some of the best schools in the country.

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