How to Become a Principal in Washington

School principals provide leadership and strategic direction for faculty, staff and students under their oversight. They are also responsible for cultivating leadership in others. Effective principals establish the culture and vision in their schools as well as support academic instruction and student outcomes.

Making Your Plan

Once you have decided that this is the role for you, the process toward certification begins. To become a principal in the state of Washington, you must satisfy four criteria established by the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB):

  1. You must have a master’s degree from an accredited institution.
  2. You must complete a state-approved administrator preparation program.
  3. You must possess a teaching license.
  4. You must complete a school-based practicum.

Earning and Renewing a Residency Certificate

Principals and program administrators receive an undated Residency Certificate that is valid until they have two years of experience in the role. At that time, principals become eligible for a five-year residency certificate (also called a dated residency or residency reissuance). The two years do not have to be consecutive, and they do not need to be with the same employer. The certificate holder does not need to have a contract for a third year with an employer in place in order to receive the five-year residency certificate.

Principals and program administrators in Washington may renew their residency certificates an indefinite number of times. To renew at five-year intervals, principals and program administrators must complete one of the following during those five years:

  • 100 clock hours
  • Four Professional Growth Plans (PGPs)
  • A combination of clock hours and PGPs to total 100, each PGP being equivalent to 25 clock hours

Earning a Master of Education – Educational Leadership with Principal Certification

Education professionals who seek certification as a principal and want to move into leadership roles can earn a Master of Education in Educational Leadership with the affordable and flexible online program offered by Eastern Washington University. The M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, Principal Certification program features rigorous online coursework taught by the same experienced faculty who teach on campus. It is designed to prepare experienced educators to assume the role of principal or other administrative positions in the public schools.

This online program consists of 12 six-week courses, comprised of 25 credit hours of common core courses, including an internship and 24 credit hours of specialization courses.

In this program, you will learn how to work collaboratively with your school community to achieve established academic goals. You will also learn methods of educational research, school law, school administration, how to manage the challenges of curriculum development and much more.

Core curriculum explores quantitative and qualitative methods, tools, and strategies of educational research, and examines the role of the principal, using the Interstate School Leaders Licensed Consortium (ISLLC) Standards as a framework. Decision-making, planning, communication, management and change processes are all part of the skills needed in twenty-first-century schools and communities, and the M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program focuses on each one in depth.

Eastern Washington University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The EWU College of Arts, Letters & Education educator programs are approved by the State of Washington Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB).

Learn more about EWU’s online Master of Education in Educational Leadership, Principal Certification program.


State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction: Administrator Certificate

Washington State Legislature: Principal and Program Administrator Residency and Professional Certification – Renewal and Reinstatement

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