The Road to School Leadership

Road to School LeadershipSo you want to be a School Leader? There are a number of different degree and licensure pathways to get there. How can you get from where you are to where you want to be? Let us help send you in the right direction.

If you are looking for a Full-time on Campus Program, and have 4 Years Teaching Experience with a Current NC SP2 License, then let us tell you more about the selective application based Principal Fellows Program (see details below).

Master’s in School Administration

The most popular and highest value-added pathway is the Master in School Administration (MSA) degree which at the end of this two-year, part-time evening program, the graduate is awarded the MSA degree as well as two administration licenses; the Principal License (012) and the Curriculum Instructional Specialist License (113).  This pathway is frequently selected by candidates who already have one Master’s degree in an education related area as it offers an advanced school leadership degree as well as two administrative license.  In addition to being eligible to be an Assistant Principal or Principal, often times school systems consider the MSA degree as a prerequisite to selection in a school system level leadership role.

If you are teaching full-time, each year we identify several regionally located cohorts. Using a hybrid delivery of both face-to-face and online coursework that meet one evening per week, eligible candidates must have an SP 2 Teaching License based on a minimum of 3 Years of Successful Teaching Experience.

Program studies include a significant service-learning component. The MSA encourages and supports students to serve as problem-solvers, communicators, innovators, collaborators, and change agents in their respective schools and school districts. A supportive school and district setting is essential for MSA students as they immerse themselves into these service learning experiences.

Principal License Only (PLO)

If you already have a Master’s Degree, and a “M” on your License, and you specifically want to be an assistant principal and principal, then the Principal License Only (PLO) is worth considering.

This license only program is embedded within one of our MSA regional cohorts and can be completed over a two-year period.   The PLO is only 9 semester hours less than the advanced degree MSA and upon completion graduates will ONLY be eligible for the Principal License (012), and NOT the Curriculum Instructional Specialist License (113) or MSA degree. Program studies include strategic planning, problem solving, instructional leadership, managerial leadership, political analysis, organizational theory and development, and leadership skill application. The program consists of 33-semester hours (including a year-long internship experience).

If you haven’t yet earned your Master’s Degree, but want to attend while still teaching, then the Master’s in School Administration is the direction for you.

Principal Fellows Program

Participation as a North Carolina Principal Fellow (NCPF) enables the individual to obtain an MSA degree after completing a one year full-time academic program on campus and a full-time internship at a public school in North Carolina. A NCPF receives a scholarship loan which provides $30,000 the first year and 60% of a first year assistant principal’s salary and an internship stipend determined by the General Assembly the second year. The total amount varies according to the state salary schedule and the amount for the internship determined by the General Assembly. This year’s second year NCPFs will receive an internship stipend of $15,124 for ten months and $26,786 from the Principal Fellows Program.

NCPFs are expected to complete the MSA degree in two years and agree to meet the standards set by the NC Principal Fellows Commission. The NCPF agrees to practice as a full-time administrator for four years within six years following completion of the master’s degree. Individuals who do not complete the program or serve in an eligible position for four years must repay the debt in cash at an interest rate of 10%. (Specific requirements for details are included in the SEAA website at under rules and regulations.)

NCPF program applicants need to be able to demonstrate in their application strong evidence of leadership roles and responsibilities at the school, school system, statewide and in the community.

Upon completion of the program, the fellows earn their Master’s in School Administration. They are also eligible for their Principal License (012) or Principal License and Instructional Supervision License (113).

Curriculum Instructional Specialist License Only (CISO)

If you already have a Master’s Degree, and a “M” on your License, and you specifically want to earn your Curriculum Instructional Specialist License (113), then the Curriculum Instructional Specialist License Only (CISO) is worth considering.  You may want to ask your school system’s HR department how the 113 license is used as a requirement within your school system.

The CISO program is designed to prepare individuals to become curriculum and instructional school leaders. Program studies include teacher leadership, law, policy, and politics in education, instructional leadership, and communication with home, school, and community. The program consists of 20-semester hours (including a 3 credit hour internship experience). With successful completion of the appropriate licensure exam, the Praxis 2 in Educational Leadership: Administration and Supervision, the candidate is only eligible for the NC 113 license.


Graduates with their Principal License find employment as Assistant Principals and Principals.

Graduates with their Curriculum and Instructional Specialist License may find employment as School Level Instructional Facilitators and Instructional Coaches and District Level Coordinators or Directors of Elementary, Middle, and High School ECP, ESL, etc.