Take a Leadership Role in the Future of Education by Becoming a School Principal
Are you an experienced, licensed teacher eager to take on new challenges? Perhaps it’s time you prepared to lead a school of your own. Becoming a school principal with this online educational license program will prepare you to change the future of education and impact students, teachers, and communities alike.
This online master's degree program is designed to enhance your expertise in educational governance, finance, law, leadership, and strategic planning. The program will give you the skills you need to manage a modern educational institution, including overseeing teachers, developing and implementing curriculum standards, and improving how your staff helps students achieve established academic goals. You'll also learn how to manage educational budgets, ensure proper security, and better interact with parents, the public, and district administrators.
The M.S. Educational Leadership degree program is aligned with National Educational Leadership Preparation (NELP) standards and Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL). Although it adheres to national educational standards, due to state-specific programming and licensure requirements, this program is not accepted in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota.
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COURSES & COMPETENCIES
Educational Leadership Courses
Curriculum that ensures you’ve mastered the skills you’ll need as a principal or vice principal.
This online Master of Science in Educational Leadership program provides the essential skills, knowledge, and field experience you need to successfully manage a modern educational institution, be it public or private. It will prepare you to be certified as a school principal.
The WGU M.S. Educational Leadership program was designed (and is regularly updated) with input from the experts on our Education Program Council. These respected authorities know exactly what it takes for a graduate to lead a staff of educators, administrators, and support personnel in a modern educational setting.
This program comprises the following courses. You will typically complete them one at a time as you make your way through your program, working with your Program Mentor each term to build your personalized Degree Plan. You’ll work through each course as quickly as you can study and learn the material. As soon as you’re ready, you’ll pass the assessment, complete the course, and move on. This means that you can finish as many courses as you're able in a term at no additional cost.
Leadership Foundations and Ethics presents candidates with a variety of leadership theories and strategies used by PK–12 educational leaders to develop, sustain, and evaluate a coherent system of academic and social supports that meet the full range of students' needs. Foundational knowledge addresses the importance of developing mission, vision, and core values in collaboration with faculty, staff, and the school community to advocate for student success. The course also covers communication strategies, interpersonal skills, and using data to build community, influence school culture, and manage change for continuous improvement. In addition, candidates are introduced to the significance of following professional ethical codes and the importance of modeling and advocating ethical behavior with all stakeholders.
School Law prepares candidates to understand the appropriate application of laws, rights, policies, and regulations to promote student success. The course emphasizes the importance of understanding the history of and relationship between federal and state laws, legal decisions, local education policies, and practices at the local school level to ensure compliance. The course further focuses on understanding the legal rights and protections provided for all students, including those with disabilities, as well as school staff. It also addresses curriculum and instruction that help stakeholders understand the possible effects these rights may have on administrative decisions. Candidates are also provided the opportunity to demonstrate their capability to evaluate legal consequences of administrative decisions.
Leadership of Curriculum Design and Instruction prepares candidates to evaluate and implement curricular programs and instructional methods observed at the school level. Candidates focus on the knowledge and skills needed to develop, align, and implement cohesive systems of curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Importance is placed on responding to student needs, embodying high expectations for student learning, aligning with academic standards within and across grade levels, and promoting students' academic success and social and emotional well-being. This course also covers the selection and use of appropriate technologies to monitor student progress and improve instruction support for assessment, data collection, management, and analysis. Candidates are prepared to build a professional culture of trust and collaboration to ensure they are able to work with school personnel in creating curricular programs and instructional methods that are engaging and challenging and relevant to student needs, experiences, and interests. This course is designed to be taken after successful completion of D017: School Law.
People and Talent in Educational Leadership prepares candidates to understand and implement practices used to recruit, hire, and prepare school personnel to provide students with an optimal learning environment. Various school professional development practices, such as professional learning communities, collaborative learning communities, beginning teacher induction, and mentor programs, will be covered. Additionally the course covers methods to evaluate school personnel appropriately based on data-driven decisions; providing realistic and actionable feedback to school personnel to continuously drive improvement; engaging all school personnel in the use and evaluation of competing school-wide initiatives; creating and sustaining a professional culture of engagement and commitment by developing workplace conditions that promote employee development, well-being, and professional growth; and continuously supporting school personnel to improve their instructional practices through ongoing professional development. The candidate will also reflect on leadership standards in order to develop a personal professional growth plan. A prerequisite for this course is D017: School Law.
School Financial Leadership focuses on financial policies, practices, and issues connected to PK–12 school operations. The course describes various sources of school funding, the impact these sources can have on managing school budgets, and the challenges connected to finances that are often encountered by school leaders to ensure equitable financial support for all students. Candidates learn how to analyze different types of school budgets and understand the principal's role in the budgetary process to ensure alignment to the school's mission, vision, and values. This course also identifies and explains various types of commonly used accounting regulations, rules, and professional ethical principles used to create, maintain, and evaluate school budgets to ensure the equitable and ethical use of financial resources. This course is designed to be taken after successful completion of D017: School Law.
Practicum in Educational Leadership - Focus on Professional Practices provides candidates with an authentic, real-world work experience as an educational leader in a K–12 school environment. This is the first of a two-part experience designed to take place under the leadership and supervision of a practicing school principal or assistant principal at an approved practicum school site (K–12). This course includes an emphasis on the application of knowledge and skills to areas directly or indirectly affecting students. Collaboration within the school and local community is a focal point for this course. The course also includes the completion of assigned administrative duties in a K–12 setting, as defined by the candidate's state of residence, under the supervision of the cooperating administrator of the candidate's approved practicum site. Prior to enrolling in this practicum course, the candidate must complete a minimum of 18 CUs.
Practicum in Educational Leadership - Focus on Instruction and Operations provides candidates with an authentic, real-world work experience as an educational leader in a K–12 school environment. This is the second of a two-part experience designed to take place under the leadership and supervision of a practicing school principal or assistant principal at an approved practicum school site (K–12). This course includes an emphasis on the application of knowledge and skills to areas affecting school operations and school personnel. The course also includes the completion of assigned administrative duties in a K–12 setting, as defined by the candidate's state of residence, under the supervision of the cooperating administrator of the candidate's approved practicum site. Prior to enrolling in this practicum course, the candidate must complete a minimum of 18 CUs.
Educational Leadership Capstone serves as the culminating experience of this degree program, uniting content area knowledge with the execution of a problem-based learning project. Under the guidance of program faculty, candidates will apply their data literacy and research skills authentically and to topics appropriate to the candidate's degree program and future career goals. Projects will include action research or program evaluation and the qualitative or quantitative research methods necessitated by the project's purpose. Prerequisites include Data Literacy and Educational Inquiry, as well as all content area courses and field experiences prescribed in one's area of study. This course is designed to be taken after successful completion of all courses with the exception of Educational Inquiry, which may be taken concurrently.
Systems management and school operations instruct candidates on the operational aspects of school leadership that are essential to developing, monitoring, and evaluating school management, school systems, and services that address and support the needs of students and school personnel. Topics presented in this course include systems thinking; development, implementation, and evaluation of data-based strategic planning; and school improvement processes. Candidates will evaluate the use of appropriate operational technology and the development of communications systems that provide actionable information to internal and external stakeholders for use in classroom and school improvement and community engagement. Each of these topics emphasizes the importance of efficiently and effectively managing school resources to build, maintain, and evaluate a cohesive system of academic and organizational supports, services, extracurricular activities, and accommodations to meet the full range of needs for each student. Prerequisites for this course: Leadership Foundations and Ethics and School Law.
Leading Inclusive Schools covers a variety of topics that directly affect students who have been assessed and determined to need additional support or services to ensure their academic success and well-being. The course prepares candidates to understand and comply with applicable laws, rights, policies, and regulations as appropriate to address matters of equity, fairness, and student marginalization based on culture and language, disability, or giftedness. These include types of special education classifications and their significance, working with English learners (ELs), working with gifted and talented students, and using Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) frameworks to ensure optimum learning environments for diverse learners. This course will guide candidates in building a strong repertoire of skills and knowledge related to exceptional students. It will help them ensure that each student has equitable access to effective teachers; learning opportunities; academic, social, and behavioral support; and other resources necessary for success. This course is designed to be taken after successful completion of the School Law course.
Data Literacy and Evidence-Based Practices focuses on the development of data literacy skills educators need to improve the learning and development opportunities of K–12 students. Candidates will practice identifying educational problems and data types, generating data, analyzing data, making inferences and drawing conclusions, and creating action plans within their educational settings. Candidates will also learn best practices for data literacy, including continuous improvement planning, approaches to professional learning communities, and instructional decision-making processes. This course has no prerequisites.
Cultural Competency and Social-Emotional Learning focuses on fostering cultural competence among professional educators by increasing knowledge of diverse learner populations, implementing culturally responsive pedagogy, and ensuring social justice and equity in the educational setting. Candidates also will participate in learning experiences designed to ensure they can lead efforts to meet the social and emotional learning needs of all learners, contributing to a school environment that builds learners' personal agency and academic success. Advocacy strategies are learned in this course, ensuring candidates possess the tools to positively impact school environments both locally and globally. This course has no prerequisites and candidates are strongly encouraged to take this early in their program.
Educational Inquiry focuses on practical problem solving. This course teaches candidates to use scholarly literature to inform their own practice. It also teaches candidates to engage in their own action research processes, which empowers educators to recognize opportunities for improvement and to systematically implement and evaluate changes. This course prepares candidates to conduct research for the capstone. Prerequisites for this course: Data Literacy and Evidence-Based Practices.
Program consists of 13 courses
At WGU, we design our curriculum to be timely, relevant, and practical—all to ensure your degree is proof you really know your stuff.
Special requirements for this program
WGU's online master's degree program in educational leadership requires the successful completion of a capstone project. You'll take what you've learned during your studies and apply it to a real-world situation, proposing a solution to an actual issue you're likely to face in a professional academic environment.
You Aren't On Your Own
WGU has Program Mentors who work with you from the day you start, all the way through graduation. They help you chart your courses, answer your questions, and ensure you can go through your program. You're not alone when you choose an online degree at WGU.
Flexibility You Need
Students choose WGU for their online degree program because of its flexibility. Whether you already have a full-time job, have responsibilities as a parent, or just have a busy schedule, WGU can work for you.
Strong Alumni Network
When you enroll in an online master's degree program at WGU, you join an impressive network of teachers. Over 13,000 students graduated from the Teachers College in 2021 alone, taking their skills and impacting the educational system all around the United States.
One important measure of a degree’s value is the reputation of the university where it was earned. When employers, industry leaders, and academic experts hold your alma mater in high esteem, you reap the benefits of that respect. WGU is a pioneer in reinventing higher education for the 21st century, and our quality has been recognized.
A Master's Degree Is Within Reach
There is help available to make paying for school possible for you:
A Different Way to Learn: Degree Programs Designed to Fit Your Life—and All the Demands on Your Time
Professional responsibilities. Family obligations. Personal commitments. At WGU, we understand schedules are tight and often unpredictable for adult students. That’s why we offer a flexible, personalized approach to how education should be. No rigid class schedules. Just a solid, career-focused principal preparation program that meshes with your current lifestyle. You'll be challenged. You'll work hard. But if you commit yourself and put in the hours needed, WGU makes it possible for you to earn a highly respected degree as a busy working adult.
A Master’s in Educational Leadership Paves the Way to the Next Step in Your Career as an Educator
If you're a licensed classroom teacher with at least three years of experience under your belt, and you have a passion for positive leadership in a school setting, you are ready to advance in your career by becoming an instruction-based principal, vice principal, or assistant principal. As an educational leader, you'll have an opportunity to shape the school that you run by creating an inspiring and safe environment for educators and the students they teach.
With the deep, comprehensive education you'll receive at WGU, you will be ready to be certified and become a school principal. This position allows you to lead a school toward a better academic future, impacting every person who walks through the doors. Consider this program an investment in yourself, in your professional growth, and in the future of your students.
Return on Your Investment
WGU Has Alumni Teaching in Schools Across the Country
Graduates of WGU's M.S. Educational Leadership program have found meaningful, rewarding teaching careers in:
- Elementary schools
- Middle schools
- Junior high schools
- High schools
- Private and charter schools
- District-level positions
Impressive Class of Graduates
Graduates of the WGU Teachers College include recipients of many professional honors, including:
- Gates Millennium Scholars
- Intel Grant for Mathematics and Technology
- Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction Award
- Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award
- Association of Public Charter Schools Educator of the Year Award
Focused on Equity and Accessibility
The WGU Teachers College is in the top 1% for granting degrees for Black and Hispanic/Latinx educators at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. It is second in the nation for combined graduate and undergraduate degrees and credentials for students of color, according to the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).
Master in Educational Leadership Admission Requirements
Prior to entry into the M.S. Educational Leadership degree program, you will be required to complete a candidate interview and provide the following:
- Evidence of a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution
- Proof of a state issued, valid, and unexpired standard professional license
- A resume showing three years of licensed professional experience in a P-12 setting (excluding probationary, temporary, and substitute teaching experience)
- A confidential recommendation
- Recent annual summative performance evaluation
Additionally, you will complete and submit a Practicum Site Agreement. Use the version for your state of residence.
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More About the M.S. in Educational Leadership
- More About This Degree
- Financial Aid
A master's degree in educational leadership is a graduate program that prepares you for certification as a school principal or administrator. It gives you important skills and credentials to understand how to run the school in an efficient way.
Typical master's of educational leadership programs take 2 years to complete, but at some schools you may be able to accelerate and finish faster. For example, most WGU educational leadership students finish in just 18 months or less.
An educational leadership degree can prepare you to become a vice principal, assistant principal, principal, or other administrator in education.
An educational leadership degree can prepare you to become a vice principal, assistant principal, principal, or other administrator in education.
Most educational leaders fall into a few categories of leadership including: servant leaders, transactional leaders, emotional leaders, and transformational leaders.
Educational leadership is implemented to ensure that the entire school and system runs smoothly. Educational leaders are in place to create effective and robust places of teaching and learning where students feel safe and welcome. They ensure that the business end of a school runs well, while also ensuring that students and teachers feel confident as individuals.
Educational leadership theory evaluates the different approaches to running schools and classrooms in ways that are effective for students and teachers alike.
Educational leadership is a joint effort utilizing the talents and expertise of educators, students, policy makers and the public at large to enhance public K-12 educational quality and systems. These enhancements are typically executed through improvements to training regiments, pedagogy, epistemology, and developmental psychology. A degree in educational leadership will focus on helping current teachers advance their knowledge and skills, giving them greater opportunities to influence policy and move into education careers that impact the future of learning.
There are many qualities that an educational leader should exhibit. Qualities such as positivity, honesty, deep reflection, authenticity, integrity, passion, inclusivity, and a strong focus on community building and collaboration on educational issues are key to being a transformational educational leader. In an educational leadership degree program, you will focus on developing and honing these skills.
Understanding your post bachelor educational possibilities is crucial if you have a specific goal in mind. For some, a post-graduate certificate can fulfill the requirements that are needed to teach a specific course or courses, by fulfilling a state or national licensing requirement, but a certificate is what is considered a non-degree award. As a result, if you have career goals that include additional advancements for your career beyond the classroom, you may need to consider if a certificate will provide you the ability to pursue those goals.
A master’s degree in education can open the doors to school leadership roles as a principal or assistant principal, and in some states is even sufficient to be considered for roles as part of the superintendency. This is not typically true of a graduate certificate. Check your state guidelines to see your specific state’s educational requirements for leadership roles.
Scholarships are available for new WGU students and returning graduates. This video shows more about scholarship opportunities and how they can help you pay for school. Get information on:
- How to apply
- Eligibility requirements
- Examples of scholarships
- What happens after you apply
- Other financial aid options
WGU's tuition is a flat rate that is charged every six months. You can take as many courses as you are able in that six-month term—with no extra cost. You simply pay for the term and do as much work as you can or want to during that time. This means that finishing faster helps you save money—a major benefit you won't find at other schools.
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