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K-12 Principal Certification

Graduate students who qualify can pursue K-12 certification for school principalship.  This certification is an integral part of the M.S. in Educational Leadership and Administration degree program.

The certificate program requires an internship and a three-credit Action Research Project in a school setting.  The 12-month school cycle is observed during this experience.  Upon completion of requirements, students earn a School Principal K-12 Pennsylvania Certification and ACSI Principal K-12 Private School Certification.


Program Strengths

  • Principal certification coursework is based on a cohort model and is designed to be completed in one year if the internship is also completed within that year. The cohort model provides professionals the opportunity for support and collaboration, along with face-to-face guidance of a University professor during the first semester of coursework.
  • Online coursework is combined with extensive hands-on access to the life of PK-12 schools. Courses are offered as seven-week online modules with at least 15 hours of field placement required for each course. If candidates can document current work experience meeting the field placement objectives for a particular course, hours may be deducted from this requirement.
  • Extensive field work allows students to gain experience in data management, budget development, daily operating procedures, and human interactions. Students will be able to complete academic requirements while still attending to their professional responsibilities at their own school site.
  • At the discretion of the program advisor, three to six credits for prior learning (“CPL”) can be awarded for students with extensive background in areas addressed by specific courses.
  • Advance standing may be granted for Bible or theology credits earned at an accredited Bible college, Christian liberal arts college or university, or seminary. Credits will be granted on a course by course basis.
  • The K-12 internship takes students out of their current grade level or discipline and places them in alternate environments where they will be involved in board meetings, after-school and evening student clubs and activities, curriculum development, mentoring programs, school improvement committees, advancement/donor visits, parent-administrator conferences, and more. These experiences will give the candidate a broad exposure to the diverse skills required to be a principal at any grade level.
  • In addition to PA and/or ACSI Principal Certification, a Master of Science in Educational Leadership and Administration degree can be earned with the completion of an additional 18 credits of online coursework as long as these credits do not duplicate coursework taken for the original master’s degree in Education.
  • Educators working in Christian schools will receive a 50% tuition discount.
  • Routes leading to PA certification (for U.S. citizens) and/or ACSI certification are available, making this an attractive option for professionals working nationally or internationally.

Program Curriculum

Fall*EDL 741 Principalship K-12
EDL 745 Organizational Theory and Team Building
SpringEDL 742 Data Management and Technology Integration for School Leaders K-12
EDL 743 Financial and Business Management
SummerEDL 744 School Law
SPE 664 Issues in Special Education for School Leaders
OngoingEDL 784 K-12 Internship

Note: EDL 791 (Action Research Project) or additional coursework may be required if the Master’s project/thesis does not meet the guidelines given above.

*Cohorts meet face-to-face at least once during the fall semester.

Frequently Asked Questions

To begin taking courses leading to principal certification, the candidate will:

  • Apply and complete Cairn University’s Graduate Program enrollment process
  • Hold a master’s degree in Education and submit proof in the form of official transcripts from an accredited college or university
  • Provide an electronic copy of his/her master’s degree project or thesis. NOTE: A project or thesis meeting the following requirements (as determined by the program advisor) exempts the candidate from an additional 90 hours of fieldwork:
    • Is in the field of education
    • Evidences at least 90 hours of field experience
    • Evidences that a study was undertaken or an intervention was conducted leading to school improvement
  • Submit a copy of a state or Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) teaching certification
  • Document five years of professional experience in education including school name(s); supervisor(s) name and contact information; length of employment; nature of duties
  • Provide a chief school administrator’s verification of the completion of three years of teaching experience.


To complete the requirements for certification, the student will:

  • Successfully complete all required coursework including 270 hours of field experiences
  • Complete the PK-12 internship under the supervision of a state or ACSI certified principal(s). (NOTE: PA requires that all supervising principals be certified by any state; ACSI K-12 Principal Certification candidates may serve under ACSI-certified administrators.)
  • Document field experience in supervision at all educational levels (Elementary, Middle, and Secondary)
  • Take and pass the Praxis II exam for Educational Leadership
  • Apply for the PA School Principal PK-12 Certificate; additionally, candidates will receive ACSI Principal Certification (All Levels) upon request.