Versatile, Vital and Valuable: Why an Educational Leadership Degree Might Be Right for You

February 29, 2024

Scott Bailey

Executive Faculty, Assistant Provost, Education Professions, Department of Leadership and Administration

educational leadership

Of all the advanced degrees available to educators, the master’s in educational leadership – focused on principal preparation – may offer the best combination of versatility, vital importance and value. And, before you even say it, we know not all teachers want to be principals, but that doesn’t mean an educational leadership degree might not be a good fit for you.

As educators, we are passionate people, and we often follow those passions in our own education and professional development. We’ll pursue degrees in what we teach or within where we work, such as special education, literacy or curriculum and instruction. We cultivate our expertise in our domains. But what happens next?

As teachers mature in their careers, many feel the urge to do “something else,” to broaden the scope of their influence or just change the way they impact kids. They want to leverage their experience, passion and expertise to do more, which often means moving out of the classroom and into a different role.

For a special education teacher, it might mean looking into special education director positions. A literacy teacher now wants to be a literacy specialist. Someone with a degree in curriculum and instruction might be looking for their next step in positions like curriculum director, instructional specialist or assessment coordinator. The options for advancement are as numerous as the schools we serve.

However, what many teachers don’t know, or don’t anticipate, is that in many schools, for many of these types of positions, expertise and experience simply aren’t enough. Interested candidates also need to hold administrative certification, which means “principal certification” or the equivalent in most states. You may be the most knowledgeable person in your school about curriculum, but many schools simply can’t promote you to curriculum director without that administrative certification. This is why the educational leadership degree is such a worthwhile degree to pursue:

It’s versatile.

A preparation program in school leadership equips you with the skills needed to lead and manage all the situations that arise in schools. Just consider some the anticipated outcomes of the M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program at American College of Education:

  • Collaboratively lead, design and implement a school mission, vision and process for continuous improvement.
  • Understand and demonstrate the capacity to advocate for ethical decisions.
  • Develop and maintain a supportive, equitable, culturally responsive and inclusive school culture.
  • Evaluate, develop, and implement coherent systems of curriculum, instruction, data systems, supports, and assessment.
  • Engage families, community and school personnel.
  • Improve management, communication, technology and school-level governance.
  • Build the school’s professional capacity.
  • Conduct, synthesize and apply research.

Which of those skills is not important for any of the roles we’ve discussed? More to the point, which of those skills would you not want to master? A solid principal preparation program does fundamentally prepare you to fill almost any role in a school, hence the versatility.

It’s vital.

Staffing schools with qualified, prepared and effective people is more important now than ever. The skills needed to bring people together, to develop the capacity and self-efficacy of others, and to advocate for change are paramount in creating the schools our kids deserve. The preparation you receive in these programs is vital to our schools.

It’s valuable.

Many schools offer salary bumps for those with advanced degrees. In fact, the master’s in educational leadership tends to have more promotion potential than any other degree you can obtain, making it the most valuable degree for both compensation and future career opportunities.

And if you haven’t before, consider the value a master’s in educational leadership may provide for you and your school. The administrative certification provides a strong foundation to build the remainder of your training upon. Get the certification, then focus professional development activities around your passion.

A program with an administrative certification, like a master’s in education leadership, is often the key to opening doors in education, even if your goal is not to be a future principal. It gives you the knowledge and skills you need to lead a team and school community with confidence, which is applicable to many different leadership roles within education.

American College of Education is the nation’s third largest conferrer of M.Ed. in Educational Leadership degrees. For those who already hold a specialized degree and are interested in pursuing just an administrative certification, explore ACE’s Certificate in Principal Preparation.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Scott Bailey
Scott Bailey, Executive Faculty, Assistant Provost, Education Professions, Department of Leadership and Administration

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