According to educational consultant Shelly Habegger, “The job description of a school principal cannot be adequately described in a 1,000-word essay, let alone in a short paragraph; today’s principal is constantly multitasking and shifting roles at a moment’s notice.” But even with the surprises and responsibilities inherent in the role, many experienced teachers want nothing more than to become educational leaders.

If this sounds like you, becoming a principal is the next logical step. As a building-level administrator, you can make a difference in the lives of your students, your teachers and your entire community.

Requirements for Becoming a Building Principal

To qualify for a School Administrator Certificate in Michigan you must earn a master’s (or higher) degree at a regionally accredited college or university that has been approved by the Michigan Department of Education. The Master of Arts in Educational Leadership, an entirely online program offered by Eastern Michigan University, includes 32 credit hours in a variety of courses, ranging from Educational Leadership in a Pluralistic Society to Legal, Ethical and Professional Issues of Administration. You will also take an additional three hours which you will choose with the graduate advisor, making the complete program 35 credit hours.

If you already have a master’s degree in a related educational field, another path to becoming an administrator would be to complete a post-master’s Basic School Administrator certificate (BSA). This 18-23 credit hour program would fulfill Michigan State requirements for Administrator Certification.

Requirements for Continuing as a Building Principal

The School Administrator Certificate must be renewed every five years to continue leading at the building level. The renewal process involves taking coursework at the college level or participating in state continuing education classes or district-provided professional development classes, as follows:

  • Six semester hours from an accredited college or university, either as appropriate content and grade level courses or in a planned course of study; or
  • One hundred fifty hours of Michigan State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECH); or
  • One hundred fifty hours of Michigan District Provided Professional Development (DPPD).

This requirement can be met by combining any of these options, using this Michigan Department of Education conversion chart:

  • College credit: 1 semester credit = 25 professional learning hours.
  • SCECH Hours: 1 SCECH hour = 1 professional learning hour.
  • DPPD Hours: 1 DPPD hour = 1 professional learning hour.

If you hold a valid, out-of-state K-12 administration certificate, you may use it one time to renew your School Administrator Certificate.

Professional Satisfaction

The role of building principal is not for everyone. The hours can be long, the responsibilities are heavy, and district politics can be time-consuming and unpleasant. But the joy of working with the school community, solving problems and watching children grow and succeed is more than enough to keep principals coming back day after day.

Nina Newlin, principal at Rock Hall Middle School in Maryland, says, “When I get a thank you note in my box from a child whom I have helped resolve a friendship issue, then I know why I get up at five every morning and why I don’t get home until well after dark.”

Learn more about Eastern Michigan University’s Master of Arts in Educational Leadership Online.


NAESP: The Principal’s Role in Successful Schools: Creating a Positive School Culture

Michigan Department of Education: School Administrator Certificates Michigan Administration/Principal Certification

Michigan Department of Education: School Administrator Certificate Renewal

Education World: Principals Reflect on the Best Parts of the Job