How to Become a School Prinicipal
A principal is a school administrator who is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of his or her school. A good principal brings to the job a true passion for education, and excellent leadership skills – the job requires nothing less than exemplary educational leadership. Most principals start out as teachers and then go back to school to earn a graduate education degree in administration. While there are principals who took unconventional career paths, in general, the career trajectory goes something like this:
Principals tend to begin their careers as teachers, which means they’ll start working with a bachelor's degree in education. Many education-specialized colleges and universities offer education degree programs in elementary, secondary and special education; curricula are structured according to the grade levels and subject focus, and the degree is earned within 4 years. After the bachelor degree is earned, there is usually a short stint in a student teaching program or fellowship. Once the hours are completed, the next step is licensing.
All US states currently require public school teachers to be licensed in the state in which they teach. While licensing requirements vary state-by-state, the general requirements include a completed bachelor's degree, supervised time as a student teacher, and successfully passing state licensing exams on literacy and subject knowledge. Licenses must be renewed every 3-5 years and educators renew their license by attending specific continuing education courses.
There’s no better way to prepare for the education leadership the role of principal requires than by getting time in the field. As a teacher, a principal-to-be uses the latest and best educational techniques and theory, applying as needed depending on students' needs. They develop and alter coursework as needed, evaluate students' work, and foster and maintain an encouraging, safe learning environment. Teachers typically arrive an hour before their students come to class in order to prepare lessons; they stay hours later than classroom time to plan for the next day, grade papers, attend meetings, etc.
A school principal needs more than a bachelor’s degree in education and time as an educational leader in the classroom. A school principal needs to have studied education in-depth, by earning a master's or even a doctoral degree in education leadership and administration from a specialized education school. Master's degree programs in education administration typically take two years to complete at “on-ground” campuses, and somewhat shorter if earned via an online campus. Courses often include administrative leadership, curriculum development, educational research, instruction supervision, and school policy/law. There are typically internships and a thesis project required for completion.
School Administrator Licensing
Most U.S. states require that public school principals have a school administrator license. School Administrator License candidates must pass state licensing exams in order to oversee a public school; principals (or headmasters) employed by private schools are not usually required to obtain state licensure.
To be a school principal is to take the best you learn in the education field, and bringing it to an educational leadership position – setting the stage for the getting the very best from teachers, administrators, the community, and from the students.