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Principal Certification

Because schools are now held more accountable for the performance of their students on national and state assessments, the duties and responsibilities of school principals have changed. Principals are increasingly held responsible for improving teaching and learning and leading reform efforts in their schools. SPU's Principal Certification program equips you to meet these challenges.

Teacher and students

Who Should Pursue This Program

To be eligible for the Principal Certification program, you must have at least a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and one of the following certificates: a Residency Teacher Certificate, an Educational Staff Associate Certificate, or a CTE Certificate. All candidates must have at least three years of documented successful school-based experience in an instructional role with students. Individuals who have a master's degree or other advanced degree do not need to complete a second master's degree in order to obtain certification as a school principal.


Success in increasing student achievement often hinges upon a principal's ability to create a shared vision within the school community and new organizational structures that engage teachers and parents in meaningful, site-based learning strategies. The Principal Certification program offers current research and best practices to enable you to become an effective leader within a broad range of constituents: students, teachers, parents, and the community.

Principal Certification candidates in Western Washington can earn their Residency P–12 Principal Certificate from SPU in a convenient non-cohort program at one of three sites: Seattle, Stanwood, or Olympia. The Educational Leadership department chair will build a personalized study plan in consultation with each student.

Applicants can complete their Principal Certificate in as few as five quarters, although completing in two years is typical. SPU offers all administrator certification candidates a "Summer-Only" option for completing the seven required classes. Under this plan, students will take four courses one summer and three the next and complete their internship in the school year between the two summer sessions. The university offers on-campus summer room and board for students who wish to take advantage of this Summer-Only option. 

Program Components

The Principal Certification program requires 30 credits, which include seven core courses and an internship.

Major Core

  • EDAD 6580   Leadership in Education (3)
  • EDAD 6581   Leadership for School Culture (3)
  • EDAD 6584   School Finance (3)
  • EDAD 6585   School Law (3)
  • EDAD 6586   Human Resources Management (3)
  • EDAD 6588   Supervision of Instruction (3)
  • EDAD 6589   Engaging Communities (3)


The Principal internship (9 credits, 3 per quarter) allows you to engage in leadership and administrative activities under the supervision of a mentor principal or assistant principal in a school setting. Over the course of a full school year, you will acquire and practice skills that are crucial to your future success as a school leader. In conjunction with SPU's Educational Leadership faculty, you are responsible for securing the site mentor and district approval for your internship. While the Principal internship requires 540 hours of experience during the entire school year, it is designed to be completed in conjunction with a full-time contract. It is not necessary to take a leave of absence.


Upon successful completion of the program, you will be recommended to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) for a Residency Principal Certificate in Washington state. Most states have reciprocal agreements that will allow certificates to be transferred between states.

Locations and Schedule

The seven Core Courses for the Principal Certification program are offered in three locations: SPU's main campus, Olympia, and Stanwood. Face-to-face classes meet one evening per week, usually from 4:40-7:15p.m. Classes offered during the Summer Sessions meet at SPU during weekdays. 

Effective for the 2018-2019 academic year, the Olympia and Stanwood cohort sites will meet one evening per week, also from 4:40–7:15 p.m., using an online synchronous delivery model. Students will use Zoom video conferencing to attend the scheduled class without needing to travel to a specific classroom location. There will also be an online synchronous course section offered to students who are not associated with a satellite location and who may want an online opportunity. 

Option for a Second Certificate

Applicants who have earned Residency Principal certification from SPU may earn a Program Administrator Certificate by completing 6 additional internship credits. Students must complete all coursework for the second certificate within three years of earning the previous certificate.

Application Requirements

Applicants must submit the following items to Graduate Admissions:

  • Application and $50 application processing fee.
  • Copy of Residency Teacher certificate or Educational Staff Associate (ESA) certificate or Career Tech Educator (CTE) certificate. 
  • Official transcript documenting bachelor's degree (including official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended).
  • Official transcript documenting master's degree (including official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended).
    • Note, to be considered official, transcripts must be received in a sealed envelope from the college or university. Transcripts may be delivered to Graduate Admissions as long as they remain in their original, unopened university envelope. Electronic transcripts received via eSCRIP-SAFE or Parchment Exchange are also acceptable. 
    • If your degree is not from a US college or university, please arrange for your transcript to be evaluated by an accredited transcript-evaluation company, such as FIS or WES. Have the report forwarded directly to Graduate Admissions. 
  • Personal statement (1–2 pages).
  • Résumé.
  • Two letters of recommendation (one supervisory, one professional).
    • A recommendation must come from the current administrative supervisor (principal and/or other school administrator) who has direct knowledge of the applicant's abilities and potential for a leadership position and will recommend support of the applicant's pursuit of administrative certification.
    • The second letter of recommendation must come from another school administrator or if possible a district–level administrator who affirms the applicant’s abilities and potential for an administrative internship.    
  • Prerequisite Experience for a Principal's Certificate Form is required for anyone pursuing a Washington State Principal Certificate.
  • District Acknowledgment of Future Administrative Internship Form is required for all applicants pursuing an internship for a Washington State Administrative certificate. 

Application Deadlines

Autumn Quarter: August 15
Winter Quarter: November 15
Spring Quarter: February 15
Summer Session: May 15

Gainful Employment

For more information about student graduation rates, median debt, and other important information about SPU's Principal Certification-only program, please visit

Faculty Chair

William (Bill) Prenevost

Associate Professor of Educational Administration and Supervision; Chair of Educational Leadership
EdD, University of Washington

Phone: 206-281-2370
Office: Peterson Hall 413

The Facts on Gainful Employment, Certification

Find gainful employment information for certification programs — including program enrollment, completion rate, cost, and median debt levels — on the Information and Data Management report.


Graduate Admissions

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Because your needs are specific to fit your career, our graduate programs are not “one size fits all.” Graduate Admissions is your source for information on all SPU graduate programs, as well as admissions and events.