High School Principal: How to Become a High School Principal

Published Sep 12, 2009

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A high school principal is the chief administrator in a secondary school, responsible for supervising faculty and support staff, handling student-related situations and maintaining school policies. This article details the process of becoming a high school principal.

Education Required to Become a High School Principal

After earning a bachelor's degree in secondary education or in a specific field of study, a prospective high school principal generally enrolls in a master's degree program in educational leadership, educational management or education administration. Others might earn a Master's in Business Administration instead of or in addition to a master's in an education-related program. Nearly two-thirds of all principals hold advanced degrees, with fewer than ten percent holding doctorates. Following are certain of the courses required to become a high school principal.

  • School and community relations
  • Legal issues
  • Educational leadership
  • Instructional supervision
  • School finance and budgeting
  • Curriculum development and evaluation

Job Training Required to Become a High School Principal

Many prospective high school principals earn a teaching certificate and gain secondary classroom experience before they enter graduate school. Some school systems consider classroom experience to be an important qualification for high school principals, and a number of states now require it. School boards also look for principals with leadership experience, particularly in an educational setting; many prospective principals volunteer to work on special projects whenever possible. Some future principals also seek out a current high school principal who agrees to serve as a mentor. Finally, many principals start out as assistant principals or guidance counselors and work their way up to the top administrative position.

Licensing Required to Become a High School Principal

Most states require master's program graduates to pass a licensing test for school administrators and to take continuing education courses in order to maintain licensure. In addition, some states require completion of a principal preparation program; several colleges allow graduate students to enroll in a principal preparation program while working toward a master's degree. Some of the courses in a principal preparation program are as follows:

  • School leadership technology
  • Personnel administration
  • Improving school performance
  • Public education policy
  • Ethical leadership
  • Professional development

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