K-12 Principal Certificate

A principal speaks with other colleagues in a school

Become a school leader who makes a positive impact across their entire school community through the K-12 Principal Certificate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. Our online graduate certificate offers an accelerated pathway for aspiring principals (e.g. current teachers, school counselors, curriculum directors) and meets all principal certification requirements of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The program develops your principal leadership skills and prepares to be a school leader who strives to improve the lives of children, families, and local communities. 

Quick Facts

Course Requirements: 18 credits
Format: Online
Program Duration: Three terms (Summer, Fall, and Spring) 
Time Commitment: Part-time 
Term of Enrollment: Summer 
Application Deadline: Priority Deadline is March 1. However, applications are accepted year-round pending space in the program. 
Admissions Requirements: GRE Exam Not Required

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Program Details

The K-12 Principal Certificate is an 18-credit graduate certificate that develops educational leaders of character who are inspired by a sense of equity and justice to improve learning experiences for all students.

Online Classes

The certificate is offered 100% online in an asynchronous format. You never have to log on for a live lecture and can complete courses on your own time. 

Principal Certification

Our program is fully aligned with the Pennsylvania Department of Education standards for principal certification. 

Work-Life Balance

Designed for working educators, the program offers one course at a time in seven-week increments. This ensures students can fit the program into their busy lives. 

Acclaimed Faculty

Courses are taught by faculty who have experience in administrative school leadership as principals and superintendents. The program coordinator is Dr. Tom Ralston, former superintendent of Avonworth School Distrct.

Career Advancement

For many students, the K-12 Principal certification results in a higher salary while providing a pathway to someday become a superintendent. 

Internship Experience

Based on state certification guidelines, students complete a 360-hour field based experience that includes a 180-hour internship experience and 180 hours of professional development. 

Networking Strength

Bolster your education with optional professional development experiences that draw on the strength of Pitt’s global alumni network. Students can complete mock interviews with superintendents and exclusive networking events with the Tri-State Area School Study Council and the Forum for Western Pennsylvania School Superintendents.

Pharlan Ives alumni testimonial image

Curriculum Overview

The K-12 Principal Certificate is an 18-credit, online graduate certificate that can be completed in as a little as one year.

Through courses in instructional and institutional leadership, school law, mental health and safety, and systemwide support systems, you will receive a well-rounded education that prepares you to lead as a principal across all types of school environments. 


  • Instructional Leadership (3 credits)
  • School Law (3 credits)
  • Institutional Leadership (3 credits)
  • Multi-Tiered System of Support (3 credits)
  • Health, Mental Health, and Safety (2 credits)
  • Internship (4 credits)

Related Program

The K-12 Principal Certificate can be completed as a standalone certificate or as part of our Master of Education (MEd) in Education Leadership. Students who complete the MEd program will complete an additional 12 credits. 

Degree Requirements

A four-credit internship (one credit per term) and fieldwork as part of the internship and coursework. Based on state certification guidelines, students complete a 180-hour internship experience and 180 hours of professional development. 


Minimum of two years teaching or professional school experience


The program prepares students for the Principal PK-12 Certificate from the Pennsylvania State Department of Education (PDE).

Please review the PDE Principal Certification Requirements for all certification requirements. 

Career Pathways

Many career opportunities exist for principals due to the nationwide shortage of principals in K-12 schools. 

The program prepares students for roles as a K-12 Assistant Principal and K-12 Principal.