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Prepare to Be a School Principal in North Carolina With a Master’s Degree from UNCP

Becoming a school principal is a significant milestone in an educator’s career, marking a transition to a leadership role with increased responsibilities and the potential for a greater impact on student learning. In North Carolina, the path to licensure as a K-12 principal involves several steps and requirements.

As a North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) approved educator preparation program (EPP) for school administrator licensure, the online Master of School Administration online program from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) helps students develop their practical knowledge as influential educational leaders and prepare for success as school principals. Designed for experienced educators and administrators, this online graduate degree program can enhance the abilities to strategically realize the vision, goals and mission to meet the modern needs of every school.

How to Become a School Principal in North Carolina

To pursue licensure as a K-12 principal in North Carolina, educators must fulfill certain requirements. Below are the steps of the process:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree. The first step of the process is to complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field. A strong educational foundation is essential for school principals.
  • Gain teaching experience. Principal candidates are required to gain relevant teaching experience, and North Carolina typically mandates a minimum of three years of teaching experience before becoming eligible for principal licensure.
  • Obtain a master’s degree. Many aspiring principals pursue a master’s degree in education leadership, administration or a similar field. This type of advanced degree provides educators with the necessary skills and knowledge to lead effectively.
  • Complete a principal preparation program. Candidates must complete a state-approved principal preparation program, which provides future principals with specialized training in areas such as school leadership, curriculum development and personal management.
  • Pass the principal licensure exam.* Aspiring principals must pass the North Carolina School Executive Leadership Examination (NCSEL) to demonstrate their knowledge and competency in educational leadership.
  • Apply for licensure.* Once they’ve met all requirements, educators can apply for their K-12 principal licensure through the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI).

Benefits of Becoming a School Principal in North Carolina

Becoming a school principal in North Carolina has several benefits that make it an attractive career choice for educators:

  • Competitive salary. Principals in North Carolina typically enjoy higher salary ranges than teachers and other school professionals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average median pay for school principals is $98,420.
  • Advancement opportunities. Serving as a school principal in North Carolina opens doors to further advancement in the field of education. Successful principals can advance to school district administrator positions, such as superintendent or assistant superintendent, where they can shape policies and educational initiatives on a larger scale.
  • Increased impact on student learning. Principals play a crucial role in shaping the educational experience of students within their schools. They have the opportunity to create a positive school culture, implement effective teaching strategies and provide support to educators and staff.

As educators aspire to leadership roles, pursuing licensure opens doors to a rewarding and influential career path in education.

Next Steps to a Career in School Administration

To earn UNCP’s online Master of School Administration degree, students must complete 11 core courses, an embedded internship and one elective course. The breadth of subjects students can study includes applied educational research; analyzing educational issues, ethical, societal and legal aspects of educational leadership; and leading school improvement and organizational change.

Learn more about the University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s online Master of School Administration program.

*Disclaimer: as of July 2023, there are currently some changes going through North Carolina state legislature about principal licensure, so some details in this article may be subject to change. Although there was a NC principalship licensure exam at one point, it’s not required at the moment, and the legislation is leaning toward a portfolio assessment. UNCP’s program has a portfolio students can create through coursework evidences and artifacts.

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