Do I Need a Master’s Degree to Become a Principal?

Principals are considered upper level management so obtaining a master’s degree in education or a field related to education is a requisite to obtaining a position. Educational Administration, Education Leadership, Curriculum Instruction and Development and Organizational Leadership are some of the more commonly named master’s degrees that people can earn to become qualified candidates for open administrator positions in school settings. Less populated schools may have only one principal to manage an entire building. Larger populated schools may have several vice-principals assigned various duties to aid the principal in effectively managing the school. Vice-principal is often a stepping stone in acquiring leadership experience to build credentials for a principal position; therefore, vice-principals also need to have earned a master’s degree.

 What Other Professional Credentials are Required?

Principals have often started their careers in education as teachers. A bachelor’s degree is a compulsory component for teachers, as is a teaching certificate. To earn and/or retain certification teachers must earn additional graduate credits in their educational field. It is not unusual for school districts to require a certain number- generally five- years of teaching experience as a criterion for any open principal positions. In addition to having certification and experience in teaching, principals will have to acquire administrative certification through additional coursework or professional development workshops. Two valuable resources for locating requirements specific to particular states or areas are the National Association for Elementary Principals  and the National Association of Secondary Principals. These sites are also valuable resources to keep track of current trends and directions of educational instruction and innovation, as well as progress being made in the education system.

 Personal Qualities and Traits of an Effective Principal

While they may be excellent instructors in the classroom, not all teachers have the aspirations or personal qualities to become an effective principal. Ultimate responsibility of day to day operations of the building, students’ education and the proficiency of teacher instruction falls on the principal. He or she must be organized, dependable and ethical. A principal is in charge of numerous staff and possibly hundreds of children. The capability to remain calm in any imaginable assortment of stressful situations is a must. Self-control in emotional, difficult situations is not always easy but a principal is obliged to display restraint on a daily basis.

 Typical Duties of a Principal

Principals are responsible for hiring and evaluating staff members. For larger schools this may mean only professional staff and possibly in conjunction with a human resource director. In smaller schools staff may mean not only teachers, but also custodians, teacher aides, secretaries and kitchen help. Further responsibilities to ensure an appropriate educational environment is maintained include:

  • Discipline of the students and insubordinate staff members
  • Cultivate community relationships with businesses and parents
  • Communicate with staff through e-mail and in person, often after school hours
  • Attending extra-curricular activities to ensure safety of the students and building

It is much more difficult to be a leader than a boss. Principals have to be leaders that display paradoxical personality traits- a take charge person with the ability to listen and remain flexible to others’ ideas and suggestions but have the character to analyze options and accept accountability for the final decision. Anyone with the tenacity to pursue a master’s in administration and retain these qualities will make a top-notch principal.