Principal Certification

As our society and student population changes, the importance of ensuring all students will achieve is vitally important. The principal is a central figure of this learning experience. As the leader for learning, the principal must focus on shaping the culture and leading change, engaging families and communities in meaningful ways, being committed to the equity of opportunities for all students, and guiding ethical and moral actions. After completing the principal certification program at Seattle Pacific University, students will be prepared to lead schools that focus on student achievement, build capacity for learning, and ensure that resources are focused to provide equitable experiences.

Teacher and students

Who Should Pursue This Program

To be eligible for the Principal Certification program, you must have at least a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and one of the following certificates: a Residency Teacher Certificate, an Educational Staff Associate Certificate, or a CTE Certificate. All candidates must have at least three years of documented successful school-based experience in an instructional role with students. Individuals who have a master's degree or other advanced degree do not need to complete a second master's degree in order to obtain certification as a school principal.


Success in increasing student achievement often hinges upon a principal's ability to create a shared vision within the school community and new organizational structures that engage teachers and parents in meaningful, site-based learning strategies. The Principal Certification program offers current research and best practices to enable you to become an effective leader within a broad range of constituents: students, teachers, parents, and the community.

Principal Certification candidates in Western Washington can earn their Residency P–12 Principal Certificate from SPU in a convenient non-cohort program at one of three sites: Seattle, Stanwood, or Olympia. The Educational Leadership department chair will build a personalized study plan in consultation with each student.

Applicants can complete their Principal Certificate in as few as five quarters, although completing in two years is typical. SPU offers all administrator certification candidates a "Summer-Only" option for completing the seven required classes. Under this plan, students will take four courses one summer and three the next and complete their internship in the school year between the two summer sessions. The university offers on-campus summer room and board for students who wish to take advantage of this Summer-Only option. 

Program Components

The Principal Certification program requires 30 credits, which include seven core courses and an internship.

Major Core

  • EDAD 6580   Leadership in Education (3)
  • EDAD 6581   Leadership for School Culture (3)
  • EDAD 6584   School Finance (3)
  • EDAD 6585   School Law (3)
  • EDAD 6586   Human Resources Management (3)
  • EDAD 6588   Supervision of Instruction (3)
  • EDAD 6589   Engaging Communities (3)


The Principal internship (9 credits, 3 per quarter) allows you to engage in leadership and administrative activities under the supervision of a mentor principal or assistant principal in a school setting. Over the course of a full school year, you will acquire and practice skills that are crucial to your future success as a school leader. In conjunction with SPU's Educational Leadership faculty, you are responsible for securing the site mentor and district approval for your internship. While the Principal internship requires 540 hours of experience during the entire school year, it is designed to be completed in conjunction with a full-time contract. It is not necessary to take a leave of absence.


Upon successful completion of the program, you will be recommended to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) for a Residency Principal Certificate in Washington state. Most states have reciprocal agreements that will allow certificates to be transferred between states.

Locations and Schedule

The seven core courses for the Principal Certification program are offered in-person on the main campus and online via a synchronous meeting platform. Both in-person and synchronous online classes meet one evening per week from 4:40 to 7:15 p.m. Classes offered during the Summer Session meet at SPU during weekdays between late June and mid-August. All seven core courses are offered during the day in the summer over a two-year sequence for a “summers only” option.

Option for a Second Certificate

Applicants who have earned Residency Principal certification from SPU may earn a Program Administrator Certificate by completing 6 additional internship credits. Students must complete all coursework for the second certificate within three years of earning the previous certificate.

Application Requirements

Applicants must submit the following items to Graduate Admissions:

  • Application and $50 application processing fee.
  • Copy of Residency Teacher certificate or Educational Staff Associate (ESA) certificate or Career Tech Educator (CTE) certificate. 
  • Official transcript documenting bachelor's degree (including official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended).
  • Official transcript documenting master's degree (including official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended).
    • Note, to be considered official, transcripts must be received in a sealed envelope from the college or university. Transcripts may be delivered to Graduate Admissions as long as they remain in their original, unopened university envelope. Electronic transcripts received via eSCRIP-SAFE or Parchment Exchange are also acceptable. 
    • If your degree is not from a US college or university, please arrange for your transcript to be evaluated by an accredited transcript-evaluation company, such as FIS or WES. Have the report forwarded directly to Graduate Admissions. 
  • Personal statement (1–2 pages).
  • Résumé.
  • Two letters of recommendation (one supervisory, one professional).
    • A recommendation must come from the current administrative supervisor (principal and/or other school administrator) who has direct knowledge of the applicant's abilities and potential for a leadership position and will recommend support of the applicant's pursuit of administrative certification.
    • The second letter of recommendation must come from another school administrator or if possible a district–level administrator who affirms the applicant’s abilities and potential for an administrative internship.    
  • Prerequisite Experience for a Principal's Certificate Form is required for anyone pursuing a Washington State Principal Certificate.
  • District Acknowledgment of Future Administrative Internship Form is required for all applicants pursuing an internship for a Washington State Administrative certificate. 

Application Deadlines

Autumn Quarter: August 15
Winter Quarter: November 15
Spring Quarter: February 15
Summer Session: May 15

Faculty Chair

John B. Bond

Professor of Educational Administration and Supervision; Chair of Educational Leadership
EdD, Seattle Pacific University

Phone: 206-281-2554
Office: Peterson Hall 419


Graduate Admissions

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Because your needs are specific to fit your career, our graduate programs are not “one size fits all.” Graduate Admissions is your source for information on all SPU graduate programs, as well as admissions and events.