How to become a Principal

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Principal? What Principals do? Degrees for Principals, Steps to become Principal and much more.

Principals manage the operations of their school, usually in elementary schools, middle schools, or high schools. School principals might work in a public, private, or charter school. They are responsible for ensuring their school runs smoothly, remain safe, and provides an excellent learning environment for its students. Becoming a principle helps in setting standards of performance and establish goals and objectives for studies, teachers, and staff. Principals also interact with stakeholders outside of school at community events and various social organizations.

What does a Principal do ?

Principals are responsible for leading elementary, middle and high schools. They are involved in a wide variety of activities, from being the instructional leader to developing and upholding the school’s mission statement and school board policy.

  • Uphold educational policies and integrate the common core government guidelines into each class curriculum.

  • Create benchmarks for students and teachers and track progress towards those goals.

  • Develop programs that improve teacher performance and assist students in understanding class material better.

  • Provide guidance to the school’s network of student leaders and challenge those leaders to make the school a better place.

  • Respond immediately to concerns from parents and school board administrators.

  • Managing the school’s finances and budget.

  • Making sure facilities are safe and secure.

  • Meeting with teachers and parents as part of measuring progress and gauging behavior.

  • Supporting teachers in their disciplinary decisions.

  • Supervising and monitoring all categories of school staff, including teachers, counselors and media specialists

Steps for becoming a Principal


Earn A Bachelor’s Degree And Become A Teacher

Most school principals begin a career in education by teaching. Bachelor’s degrees are generally the minimum educational requirement for teachers. States require public school teachers to be licensed, which involves completing a bachelor’s degree and passing a licensing exam.


Gain Teaching Experience

Teaching is an ideal training ground for principals. Before advancing into administration positions, most principals begin their careers in education as teachers, learning skills such as communication, leadership, and motivation. Teachers also learn to develop curricula according to students’ needs, as well as valuable evaluation skills.


Teach In As Many Levels As Possible In A Short Time

Working with a variety of students, parents, and colleagues will expose you to opportunities to further develop leadership and communication skills. You’ll also gain valuable knowledge that will serve you well as the principal. Try to move quickly through the ranks when possible, while seeking opportunities to advance your skills.


Find Ways To Demonstrate Strong Leadership Skills

Get involved in your school and your community. Volunteering for activities, committees or planning groups can help you shine. When others see your ability to effectively motivate others, successfully complete a group activity or confidently spearhead a planning committee, they will more likely make a positive recommendation when you’re pursuing a principal position.


Research Your District’s Principal Qualifications

Once you know the requirements for becoming a principal in various districts, you can set about meeting them. For example, you may need to become a licensed school administrator prior to applying for a principal position. Perhaps you’ll need a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration to take the exam. If that’s the case, start researching your options for master’s degree programs while you’re teaching and developing those essential leadership skills.


Earn A Master’s Degree

In most cases, a master’s degree in educational leadership or educational administration is required for employment as a principal. The graduate degree programs are designed to provide the necessary training for prospective principals to lead faculty and staff, work with budgets, communicate effectively with parents and the community, and set and accomplish goals for the school.

Principal Degree Levels


An associate’s degree in education provides the skills and knowledge needed to enter the education field and is a good first step towards a career in teaching. Those who earn an associate degree in education from an accredited school may qualify for paraeducator positions such as teaching assistant, teacher’s aide, or in some states, preschool teacher or substitute teacher.

Early Childhood Education
  • Early Childhood Education Today

  • Foundations for Teaching and Learning

  • Implementing Early Childhood Programs

  • Establish an educational philosophy

  • Demonstrate an awareness of cultural diversity

  • Discuss techniques to guide children

Child Psychology
  • Biological Factors in Child Psychology

  • Schools of Child Psychology

  • Vygotsky’s Theory In-Depth

  • The concept of Childhood

  • Early history and childhood

  • The class difference in perceptions of childhood

Basics of Curriculum
  • Backward Design of Lessons

  • Curriculum and Teaching

  • Lesson Plan Creation

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the relationship between educational theory and practice

  • Examine current curriculum theories

  • Examine curriculum mapping


A Bachelor's degree does not need to be in education, as long as the candidate is certified as a teacher in a state. However, a Bachelor's degree in education can be helpful in working your way up to this career.

Foundations in Education
  • The Purpose of Schooling

  • The Official Construction of Schools

  • The social construction of race and racism

  • Explain historical moments of schooling

  • schooling conditions

  • Current content and pedagogical practices

Effective Teaching Skills & Classroom Management
  • Classroom Management

  • Classroom Organization

  • Behavior Management

  • Plan the organization of a classroom

  • Manage student progress data electronically

  • Establish classroom procedures and expectation

Instructional Technology in Education
  • Media Knowledge and Skills

  • History and Purposes of Technology in Schools

  • Future Trends and Ethical Concerns

  • How to select and evaluate technology in the classroom

  • How to prepare technology-enhanced lessons in the classroom

  • How to keep up-to-date on new and emerging technologies


You'll likely need teaching experience before you are eligible for a Master's degree program in this field. Many aspiring principals aim to complete a Master's degree in education or a more specific field of educational leadership. Most states and schools do require principals to have a related Master's degree. However, some schools hire principals with any Master's degree as long as they are certified teachers and certified school administrators.

Classroom Management
  • Foundations of Classroom Management

  • Behavioral and Assertive Approaches

  • Positive and Cooperative Approaches

  • Identify and evaluate different classroom-management approaches

  • Discuss routine and disruptive events in the classroom

  • Implement effective classroom and behavior management techniques

Advanced Educational Psychology
  • Analysis of current Personal Educational Philosophy

  • Expert Teachers & Learners

  • Cognitive, Learning & Language Skills

  • Extend the knowledge of educational psychology principles

  • Cognitive development

  • Social development

Foundations of Reading and Writing
  • Oral Language

  • Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

  • Alphabetic Principle

  • Explain the developmental processes associated with communication systems

  • Procedures to plan and implement instruction

  • Explain the alphabetic principle


A doctorate in education (EdD or Ph.D.) equips a graduate with skills and scholarly knowledge relating to the practice of education. There are several different types of doctoral programs in education, and at various schools, the lines between these programs may be blurred. EdD programs are typically project- and practice-based, while Ph.D. programs are typically more research-based. A doctorate in education can also focus on a specific area of education such as a special education doctorate degree or an educational leadership doctorate degree.

Learning Theory and the Educational Process
  • Brain-Based Learning

  • Behaviorist Learning Theory

  • Cognitive Learning Theory

  • Create, revise, and use your own personal theory of learning

  • Reflect on how learning theories impact on every aspect of your life

  • Explain the interactions of students, teachers, and materials in classrooms

Educational Philosophy
  • Eastern Philosophy and Education

  • Pragmatism

  • Reconstructionism

  • The relationship between theory, philosophy and educational practice

  • Describe the historical context of the various philosophies

  • Discuss the strengths and limitations of the various philosophies

Principles of Educational Administration
  • Introduction to the American legal system

  • Role of the federal government in education

  • Governance of public schools

  • Outline and explain the organizational structure of public schools

  • Explain the general structure of the federal and state court systems

  • Issues in educational law to develop and administer a safe school environment