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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 in one of three sites: Seattle, Stanwood, or Olympia. The Educational Leadership department chair will build a personalized study plan in consultation with each student.

Each applicant 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 complete four courses one summer, 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 includes 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. Candidates are required to submit a formal application to the Certification Officer in the School of Education to be recommended for certification. Most states have reciprocal agreements which 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 4:30–7:05 p.m. Classes offered during the Summer Sessions meet at SPU during weekdays.

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 the Graduate Admissions:

  • Application and $50 application processing fee.
  • Copy of Residency Teacher, ESA, or CTE certificate, front and back.
  • Official transcript(s) from each college/university attended.
  • Personal statement (1–2 pages).
  • Résumé.
  • Two letters of recommendation (one supervisory, one professional).
    • Recommendations must come from present principals and other school administrators who recommend support of the applicant's pursuit of administrative certification.
    • At least one of the letters must be from a school-district level administrator who affirms district support for the candidate to conduct a year-long administrative internship, school-based for principal certification..    
  • Verification of Experience Form - required for anyone pursuing a Washington State Principal Certificate

Application Deadlines

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

Faculty Chair

William (Bill) Prenevost

Associate Professor of Educational Administration and Supervision; Chair of Educational Leadership

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

Graduate Admissions

Grad Icon Your source for information on all SPU graduate programs, as well as admissions and events.