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Graduate Certificate forPrincipalship

Program summary

Earn the certification needed for educational administration and principal positions in Pennsylvania. This 18-credit online program meets the current requirements established by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Educational Leadership Constituent Council.

Hands-On Experience

Complete a valuable internship alongside your online course work.

Application deadline

Apply by November 1 to start January 13

Credits and costs

18 Credits$1,017 per credit

Gain the Skills to Excel as a Principal

  • Lead your school as an assistant principal or principal.

  • Improve your school through leadership and professional development/professional learning communities.

  • Learn about various developed and proven models for school improvement processes.

  • Understand the major issues in school law and how they can impact your work and the instructional process.

Principalship Courses

This 18-credit Graduate Certificate for Principalship prepares teachers and supervisors to take administrative positions and helps candidates meet certification requirements in K–12 educational administration in Pennsylvania.

The Graduate Certificate for Principalship is composed of six required courses for a total of 18 credits. Students must earn a grade of "B" or better in all courses to be eligible for the certificate. Additional state certification requirements for Pennsylvania include the successful completion of an internship (one of the six program courses), a passing score on the Praxis test for school leaders, and a valid Pennsylvania teaching certificate. Because this curriculum is designed specifically to meet the requirements of the Pennsylvania Department of Education for Principal Certification, no transfer credits or course substitutions will be accepted.

Required Courses (18 credits)

  • 3

    Focuses on the development of skills related to data use that will help inform administrative and leadership decisions in school settings.

  • 3

    This course focuses on several general models developed for school improvement purposes. It also explores the component pieces of school improvement, including leadership, professional development/professional learning communities, and a focus on teaching and learning including standards, instruction, and assessments.

  • 3

    Provides aspiring leaders with learning opportunities and activities authentic to school leaders and leadership roles in educational organizations.

  • 3

    The principalship course provides students with knowledge specific to the role of the principal in K–12 schools.

  • 3

    Provides an overview of major issues in school law. The course will focus primarily on case law including U.S. Supreme Court decisions as well as relevant state and federal lower court opinions.

  • 3

    Required field experience across a calendar year for students in order to receive their principal certificate from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Students earn 1 credit for each of 3 consecutive semesters for a total of 3 credits.

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.

Start or Advance Your Career

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You can use the knowledge and professional experience gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in school leadership or a variety of other fields, depending on your goals.

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

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From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

Ready to Learn More?

Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.

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Learn more about this program

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?

Apply by November 1 to start January 13. How to Apply 

Costs and Financial Aid

Learn about this program's tuition, fees, scholarship opportunities, grants, payment options, and military benefits.

Costs and Financial Aid

Graduate Tuition

Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2023–24 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2023, spring 2024, and summer 2024 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?Cost
11 or fewer$1,017 per credit
12 or more$12,203 per semester

2024–25 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2024, spring 2025, and summer 2025 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?Cost
11 or fewer$1,027 per credit
12 or more$12,325 per semester

Paying for Your Certificate

Students pursuing a certificate are considered "nondegree," a status that is not eligible for federal student aid, including the Federal Direct Stafford Loan program. A private alternative loan may be an option to consider.

Additionally, Penn State offers many ways to pay for your education, including an installment plan and third-party payments. Penn State World Campus also offers an Employer Reimbursement and Tuition Deferment Plan. Learn more about the options for paying for your education.

Students pursuing a degree and meeting all other eligibility requirements may qualify for financial aid.

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

To view the detailed list of cost of attendance elements, select “World Campus” as the location on the tuition site.

A Head Start toward a Master’s Degree

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Not only can this program help create opportunities in your career, it can also give you a solid head start toward a full master’s degree.

Degree Program Related to This Certificate

Some or all credits earned for this certificate can be applied to the following Penn State World Campus degree program, if you apply and are accepted:

Broaden your leadership potential as a teacher or administrator and meet your professional development goals with one of the three educational leadership options offered in this online master's degree program.

Learn more about the Master of Education in Educational Leadership

Program Accreditations and Certifications

The principal certification program has been evaluated by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) and is in compliance with their current requirements as well as all requirements of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).

The program has five important features: 

  1. The principal certification program curriculum is standardized so that all students receive a consistent, high-quality, and uniform education. 
  2. The specific designated courses cover all NCATE and Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership (PIL) standards. All course assignments and student results are aligned with NCATE/ELCC and PIL standards. 
  3. Students maintain an electronic record of their progress throughout the principal certification process. This provides documentary evidence of student proficiency in all ELCC and PIL standard elements, an evaluation of student progress, and an evaluation of program outcomes. 
  4. The program emphasizes and draws upon our faculty's practical and field-based experiences in public and private school settings. 
  5. A 3-credit internship of 360 hours, spanning a full calendar year, is required. The internship must be under the supervision of an approved on-site mentor principal. 

Because this curriculum is designed specifically to meet the requirements of the Pennsylvania Department of Education for Principal Certification, no transfer credits or course substitutions will be accepted. For PDE certification, a passing score on the Praxis test for school leaders is required in addition to the successful completion of the Graduate Certificate for Principalship. 

Who Should Apply?

Certificate Program Eligibility 

At this time, only Pennsylvania-certified educators are eligible to apply for this certificate. Students who do not currently have (or who will not have by the completion of the program) a minimum of three years of school teaching experience should not apply for principal certification. 


Gain real-world experience through the completion of an immersive internship experience.

Internship Requirements

If you are applying for the principalship certificate or the school leader emphasis of the master's in educational leadership, and you are interested in becoming a certified principal, please note that there are additional considerations regarding your internship.

Pennsylvania-Certified Educator

Your mentor needs to be a Pennsylvania-certified principal who has practiced in Pennsylvania as a principal (not an assistant principal) for at least 3 years.

Act 48–Approved

Penn State is an Act 48–approved provider for Pennsylvania educators, so the courses for the Graduate Certificate for Principalship may count toward professional development hours.

Set Your Own Pace

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Whether you are looking to finish your program as quickly as possible or balance your studies with your busy life, Penn State World Campus can help you achieve your education goals. Many students take one or two courses per semester.

Our online courses typically follow a 12- to 15-week semester cycle, and there are three semesters per year (spring, summer, and fall). If you plan to take a heavy course load, you should expect your course work to be your primary focus and discuss your schedule with your academic adviser. 

To Finish Your Certificate in One Year

  • Take 2 courses each semester 

To Finish Your Certificate in Two Years

  • Take 1 course each semester


Convenient Online Format

This program's convenient online format gives you the flexibility you need to study around your busy schedule. You can skip the lengthy commute without sacrificing the quality of your education and prepare yourself for more rewarding career opportunities without leaving your home.

A Trusted Leader in Online Education

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Penn State has a history of more than 100 years of distance education, and World Campus has been a leader in online learning for more than two decades. Our online learning environment offers the same quality education that our students experience on campus.

Professional Licensure/Certification


Many U.S. states and territories require professional licensure/certification to be employed. If you plan to pursue employment in a licensed profession after completing this program, please visit the Professional Licensure/Certification Disclosures by State interactive map for more information.

How to Apply to Penn State

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Apply by November 1 to start January 13

Application Instructions

Deadlines and Important Dates

Complete your application and submit all required materials by the appropriate deadline. Your deadline will depend on the semester you plan to start your courses.

  • Spring Deadline

    Apply by November 1 to start January 13
  • Summer Deadline

    Apply by March 15, 2025, to start May 19, 2025
  • Fall Deadline

    Apply by July 1, 2025, to start August 25, 2025

Steps to Apply

  1. For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

    Applicants must have at least three years of relevant professional experience in an educational setting that is related to the instructional process and hold a current PDE–issued state certification.

    GPA — A successful undergraduate and (if applicable) graduate record with a minimum GPA of 3.0.

    Prior to submitting an application for the program, please be aware of the following:

    • At this time, only Pennsylvania-certified educators are eligible to apply for the Graduate Certificate for Principalship.
    • You must have the capacity to complete a required, (calendar) year-long internship with a qualified mentor principal (who has been, and still is serving as, a principal for at least three years).
  2. You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:

    Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed — Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.

    Test Scores — No test scores are required.

    English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

    References (3) — You will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering names, email addresses, and mailing addresses of three references. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to each reference requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment for success in an online program. Please inform all recommenders they must submit the form in order for your application to be complete.  

    Ask for letters from recommenders who can make a strong case for your commitment to success in an online program of graduate study. At least one of these recommenders should be your current school principal/supervisor. Remaining references should include individuals who have supervised you in an academic or professional setting, who can speak to your intellectual ability, communication and problem-solving skills, creativity, sensitivity to others, and educational leadership potential.

    Ask for recommendations (completion of an online form and an attached recommendation letter) well in advance of the application deadline. Notify all recommenders that they must submit their recommendation in order for your application to be complete.

    Program-Specific Questions/Materials

    Vita or Résumé — Upload your résumé to the online application.

    Statement of Purpose — Write a brief statement, of about 1000 words, describing your reason for applying for the Penn State World Campus Graduate Certificate for Principalship program and any experiences that have contributed to your commitment to education.

    Writing Sample — Select an article from a current education journal or peer-reviewed journal, such as Education Policy/EPX (Sage), Educational Administration Quarterly (UCEA), International Journal of Educational Policy and Leadership (electronic journal), Educational Leadership (ASCD), or a similar option. Briefly summarize, in a maximum of three pages, the main points of the article and then critique the content from the vantage point of your experiences as an educator. Your critique can include agreement as well as disagreement with author's perspective. Include a complete citation for the article in your writing sample.

  3. To begin the online application, you will need a Penn State account.

    Create a New Penn State Account

    If you have any problems during this process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

    Please note: Former Penn State students may not need to complete the admissions application or create a new Penn State account. Please visit our Returning Students page for instructions.

  4. You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.

    • Choose Enrollment Type: "Certificate Admission"
    • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus

    Checking Your Status 
    You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form. 

    Technical Requirements  
    Review the technical requirements for this program.

    Applying as a Nondegree Graduate Student

    To begin taking courses right away, you may apply as a "nondegree" graduate student. You may take up to 6 credits in nondegree status before submitting your application portfolio. Only students who have been accepted to the Graduate Certificate for Principalship program and who are no longer in nondegree status are permitted to take EDLDR 595: Internship for Principals.

    Note: If you apply and enroll as a nondegree graduate student, you must re-apply to be considered for admission into the principalship certificate program. This new application includes a second application fee. Application/enrollment as a nondegree student does not guarantee admission to the program. Acceptance to the certificate program is contingent upon approved (by faculty panel) application to a selected program. If you plan to enroll as a nondegree student, you must contact an adviser in the program for guidance prior to beginning course work.

  5. 5. Complete the application.

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

Contact Us

Customer service representative wearing a headset

Have questions or want more information? We're happy to talk.

For questions regarding the Graduate Certificate for Principalship or how to apply, please contact:

Mark Ivicic
Administrative Support Assistant
Educational Leadership Program
The Pennsylvania State University
Phone: 814-865-1487
[email protected]

Learn from the Best

One of the primary reasons Penn State is recognized around the globe as a distinguished university is its faculty. As a World Campus student, you will have the opportunity to learn from the same instructors who teach traditional, face-to-face classes on Penn State's campuses across Pennsylvania.

Our College of Education is regularly ranked among the nation's best graduate schools, according to U.S. News & World Report.


  • Gerald K. LeTendre

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Education, Stanford University
    • Degree
      M.S., Sociology, Stanford University
    • Degree
      B.A., Sociology, Harvard University

    Dr. Gerald K. LeTendre is the Harry Lawrence Batschelet II Chair of Educational Administration at Penn State and co-editor of the American Journal of Education. His current research focuses on the impact of online learning and other information technologies on teacher-led professional development and teacher work roles. Dr. LeTendre has published on a broad range of topics in educational policy and comparative/international education. He is co-editor (with Motoko Akiba) of the International Handbook of Teacher Quality and Policy (Rutledge, 2017).

  • Tiffany M. Squires

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Instructional Design, Development, and Evaluation, Syracuse University
    • Degree
      M.S., Instructional Design, Development, and Evaluation, Syracuse University
    • Degree
      M.S., Education, Canisius College
    • Degree
      B.S., Elementary Education, State University of New York at Fredonia

    Dr. Tiffany M. Squires is an assistant professor and serves as assistant director of Online Programs for Education Leadership. Dr. Squires has more than 15 years of experience in K–12 education as a teacher, principal, and professional development facilitator. Her dissertation research focused on the perceptions of principals regarding the role of the school leader in the implementation of curricular and instructional change associated with standards-based reform. Her research continues to focus on school systems reform/improvement and highly effective leadership practice.

Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?

Apply by November 1 to start January 13. How to Apply