School Principal Degrees by Degree Program Level

Future school principals often pursue master's degrees in education administration/leadership since that is often required to work in that position at public schools. However, on rare occasions, it is possible to find a bachelor's degree program.

Essential Information

Bachelor's degree programs in education administration are rare and usually focus on early childhood education. Field work is usually also included.

Master's degree programs in education leadership are most common and usually require an undergraduate background in education to be admitted. A supervised internship is usually required during these programs and is also needed for principal licensure. After graduation, students may choose to earn a doctoral degree in education leadership to become a university or school district administrator.

Bachelor of Arts in Education Administration

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) programs in education administration are relatively uncommon since most states require principals to have at least a master's degree. Education administration B.A. programs often emphasize early childhood education, with children up to eight years old. Students learn about curricula design, behavior management, school budgeting and educational ethics.

Educational administration B.A. programs include courses in finance, educational leadership, curricula development, community relations and educational politics. Students work directly with education professionals in some of their classes. Courses on the following topics are often required:

  • Teaching methods
  • Integrating technology into the classroom
  • Lesson planning
  • School finances
  • Educational research methodology

Master's Degree in Education Leadership

Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Education (M.Ed.) programs in educational leadership teach current theories and practices of managing schools. Programs cover topics in special education, bilingual education and educational technology. Students also take interdisciplinary classes dealing with educational law, behavioral psychology, business and human resources. Most programs also require students to complete a supervised internship prior to graduation.

Classes in educational leadership master's degree programs give students a broad range of skills necessary to effectively and efficiently manage a school. Students learn relevant concepts from business management, the social sciences, communications and law. Required coursework covers the subjects listed below:

  • Research and statistics in education
  • Curriculum evaluation
  • Educational budgeting
  • Student behavior management
  • Community relations

Popular Career Options

School principals usually need more than a master's degree to earn state certification, but private schools are able to set their own standards. Career options for education administration B.A. graduates include those mentioned below:

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Job growth for elementary, middle and high school principals was expected to increase 6% from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, The BLS also noted that the average annual salary for elementary and secondary school education administrators was $92,940 as of May 2015.

Continuing Education Information

Some people interested in careers as school principals earn a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.). This degree is generally for those interested in school district or university administrator positions, but the concepts may be relevant to primary and secondary schools, too.

Each state has unique certification requirements that school principals must meet. Most states require candidates to have at least a master's degree in education leadership or a related field. Principals must also pass a written examination and complete a supervised internship. Some states ask that principals complete continuing education to maintain licensure.

Students who want to be school principals have to typically earn master's degrees due to the licensure requirements from states. There is the option to earn more education through doctorate school for those interested in higher administrator positions or higher salaries.

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