How to Become a School Principal

Being a school principal is the ultimate goal for many teachers. It is a job sought by those who want to change the lives of their students and themselves. It is a critical role that students and faculty rely on. Principals aren’t only the outward face of the school, they have a diverse set of responsibilities to both their students and staff. Therefore, they must be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed at the job.  A job as a school principal also appeals to many people because it also brings about a pay increase. On average, school principals’ salaries in the USA are around $111,131.  Whether it is at the elementary level, middle, or high school level, the route to becoming a principal is similar. Read on to find out more about the process of becoming a school principal. 

Begin Your Career as a Teacher

Principals are teachers, first. They come from a teaching background and they have spent ample time in front of a classroom setting. While it isn’t always necessary, it is encouraged and, depending on the school or district, required. A bachelor’s degree and certification are requirements for teachers On average, a bachelor’s degree and certification take four years to complete, and you will need to work as a student-teacher throughout part of that.  If you are looking to become a high school principal, it is recommended that you teach at the secondary school level. The same thing applies to any other school level.

How Many Years as a Teacher?

This is entirely depending on the individual. There are no set requirements for years as a teacher before pursuing your principal certification. The number of years you spend as a teacher is up to you.  Before you decide to leave teaching to become a teacher, you want to have enough experience so you are comfortable as a leader. Having classroom experience is an essential part of becoming a principal. This way you understand what the teachers you oversee are going through. You can also gain an understanding of how the school runs, what students need from both teachers and administrators, and what makes a good principal.  

Earn Your Master’s and Principal License

Once you have your bachelor’s, have worked as a teacher for several years, and determine you are ready to take the next step to become a principal, you’ll want to begin looking for a principal master’s program that leads to certification. Here at WLC, we offer a fully online Master of Arts in Education – Leadership and Innovation which leads to a master’s and principal certification. The majority of states within the USA require a master’s degree and certification in order to become a principal.

What if I have my master’s?

 If you already have your master’s degree, you will still need to be certified. You can do this by enrolling in a program such as WLC’s Leadership and Innovation program. However, the amount of coursework required will differ for you. If you have certification questions, email us at At Wisconsin Lutheran College, we believe that principals need to be prepared for anything their job may throw their way. We designed our program to teach you hard and soft skills that will ensure you’re a better leader, how to make a positive impact in the lives of your students and staff, and how to face any troubles that may arise. To get started on your application or to ask any questions you may have, visit our website to fill out a form, call us at (414)404-4028, or email us at


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