Many experienced educators at the elementary, middle and high school levels seek advancement opportunities in the area of school leadership. Some informal positions at the building level, such as team leaders and mentors, require only the desire to lead and the know-how to improve the educational experience for teachers, staff and students.

To become a building principal, however, dedicated educators must earn an advanced degree that includes coursework in human resources, legal issues and ethics of leadership, research, building management, and the unique responsibilities of building leaders.

School Leadership in Michigan

In late 2015, the Michigan Department of Education launched an initiative titled Top 10 in 10 Years. The challenge of this goal is, within the ten years, to “put Michigan on the map as a premier education state.” The strategies described to achieve the first two of the seven written goals involve strong commitment from school leaders. These strategies include:

  • Active engagement of school leaders in community collaborative efforts leading toward business/industry/labor and philanthropic investment.
  • Implement, with strong…building leadership, high-quality instruction in every classroom.
  • Provide an integrated system of guidance to develop and support…school leadership competencies, to accelerate student achievement.

Acquiring the skills necessary to meet these goals requires rigorous training and preparation. According to the Michigan Department of Education, the minimum traditional program requirements to receive a five-year school principal’s certificate include:

  • A master’s degree from an accredited college or university.
  • Completion of an approved program, including at least 18 hours of credit in K-12 administration.

Program Requirements

The National Policy Board for Education Administration requires colleges and universities to meet strict standards in all educational leadership programs. These standards have been set forth by the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) and include standards regarding the school leader’s responsibility in these areas:

  • Student achievement.
  • School environment and culture.
  • Building management, operational systems and safety.
  • Collaboration with all community and building stakeholders.
  • Dedication to integrity, responsible leadership and social justice.
  • Advocacy for students and families.

These standards are currently under review for updating.

When selecting a master’s degree program for advancement into educational leadership, it is vital to choose a program like the one offered by Eastern Michigan University. This all-online program aligns with ELCC standards and will qualify you for the building-level principal license in Michigan.

Program Details

Working in today’s educational field requires creativity, passion, knowledge and commitment. Working in an administrative position in the field adds additional responsibilities, such as leadership and research skills and the ability to manage people, projects and facilities.

Earning a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership online from Eastern Michigan University will provide you the necessary training to become a successful building leader, principal or assistant principal.

In the area of leadership skills, coursework includes topics like:

  • Leadership in a pluralistic society, examining the sociopolitical context of schools and group dynamics.
  • Supervising instructional programs and professional growth.
  • Legal and ethical issues, as well as professionalism in educational leadership.

Several courses strengthen these research and data-use skills:

  • Contemporary educational research.
  • The role of principalship in research-driven decisions and data-driven instructions.

These management skills are outlined and discussed in several classes:

  • Managing and motivating staff members and handling conflict.
  • Working within the parameters of a larger bureaucracy.
  • Economics of schools in the public education system, including fiscal responsibility, tax structures, state and federal aid issues, and responsible budgeting practices.
  • Understanding the complexities of human resources.
  • Creating a strong learning environment by leading with integrity.

If you are dedicated to making important changes to the state of education by becoming an exceptional school leader, earning a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership degree will “help you develop the professional leadership, research and management proficiencies you need to improve your school’s system.”

Learn more about the EMU online M.A. in Educational Leadership program.


Michigan Department of Education: Goals and Strategies

Michigan Department of Education: Superintendent of Public Instruction – Administrator Certification Code

National Policy Board for Education Administration

CAEP: Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC)

NCATE: Educational Leadership – Program Standards