Learn How to Become a Principal, Superintendent, or Other Administrator in Alabama with a Doctorate or Master’s in Educational Leadership

Written by Rebecca Turley

alabama principal with student in the hallway

You’re an educator, it’s in your blood. You’ve committed to be a lifelong advocate for education in Alabama, and you’ve been an integral part of Alabama’s success in recent years. Thanks to educators like you, stats show that Alabama’s seniors are graduating at record rates – 91 percent as of 2022. Equally impressive is that 76 percent of all graduates during this time were rated as being college and career-ready.

But there’s still more work to be done. Teacher shortages still plague the state, and persistent poverty continues to affect educational outcomes. With a poverty rate of 16.8 percent, Alabama trumps the national average by nearly 3 percent and represents one of the state’s biggest drivers of poor educational outcomes. Funding disparities are also far too common here, with some of the poorest school districts in the state struggling to meet the educational needs of its students.

As you renew your commitment to the state’s K-12 system, you’ve narrowed your career focus on a role in administration. Moving out of the classroom will allow you to continue making a difference in Alabama’s school system in new and exciting ways and tackle the issues that are near and dear to you.

Whether you hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree, you’re ready for the educational leadership training that will prepare you to become a principal or superintendent. Applying the same vigor and energy you’ve always given to your classroom, you’re now ready to forge ahead and become an administrator capable of effecting real change.

How to Become a Principal in Alabama – School-Level Educational Leadership

The classroom is all you’ve ever known, so the school is where you’ll stay. Your professional evolution is firmly focused on school-level leadership and becoming a committed and focused principal who has a keen understanding of the needs of today’s educators.

To become a principal in Alabama, you’ll need to earn a Class A or Class AA Professional Leadership Certificate (P-12) through the Alabama State Department of Education.

You’ll need to have a valid teaching license (class B or A) to begin taking the steps necessary to become a principal in Alabama.

Step 1. Earn a Master’s Degree, Educational Specialist, or Doctoral Degree from a Regionally Accredited University and Complete a Sixth-Year Program with Practicum

Most programs are offered as state-approved administrator preparation programs, which include all of the components leading to an initial Class A or AA Professional Leadership Certificate.

Completing a master’s degree principal prep program will qualify you for a Class A certificate, while completing an educational specialist prep program will qualify you for a Class AA certificate.

According to the Alabama State Department of Education, students seeking a professional leadership certificate should pursue a master’s degree or higher in one of the following areas of study:

Some of the programs in Alabama include:

These programs include a required ten-day residency (practicum) that provides students with a valuable, hands-on learning experience in a school district near them. Admission standards include a valid Class A or B certificate and at least three years of full-time teaching experience.

A number of schools in Alabama also offers post-master certificates (also referred to as reduced-hour options) leading to the professional leadership certificate. Consisting of about 18 credits, these programs are designed for teachers who already hold a master’s degree in another area but want to acquire the skills leading to work as an assistant principal or principal.

Step 2. Pass the Praxis Educational Leadership: Administration and Supervision Exam

To earn a Class A or AA Professional Leadership Certificate, you’ll need to take and pass the Praxis Educational Leadership: Administration and Supervision exam (5412), which is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). You’ll need a qualifying score of 146.

Step 3. Apply for a Class A or AA Professional Leadership Certificate Through the Alabama State Department of Education

Your degree will determine whether you qualify for a Class A (master’s) or Class AA (sixth-year/education specialist (Class AA) Professional Leadership Certificate.

Step 4. Maintain Your Class A or AA Professional Leadership Certificate

Like your educator certificate, you’ll need to renew your professional leadership certificate every five years on June 30.

You’ll need to complete at least five Professional Learning Units (PLUs) during your five-year certificate period. At least two of the PLUs must be earned through Alabama Council for Leadership Development (ACLD)-approved Professional Studies.

School Principal Salary and Jobs in Alabama

According to May 2021 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), principals earned a median salary of $78,910 and a top salary of about $98,440.

Some of the highest paying cities in Alabama for principals include Decatur and Tuscaloosa, both of which reported a median salary of $94,120.

The Birmingham-Hoover metro area, home to the Hoover City School District, the Birmingham City School District, Jefferson County Schools, Vestavia Hills City Schools, the Homewood City School District, and more reported one of the highest salaries for top-earning principals, at $100,820.

How to Become a Superintendent in Alabama – District-Level Educational Leadership

If making the move into an educational leadership role and landing the role of superintendent is part of your career trajectory, you’ll need the right experience and education to get you there.

To qualify for a superintendent position, you’ll need a valid Class A or Class AA Professional Leadership Certificate (P-12).

You’ll also need at least five years of experience in the public school system, three of which must be as a teacher, principal, supervisor, superintendent, educational administrator, or instructor in school administration.

With that experience under your belt, you can begin taking the steps to become a superintendent in Alabama.

Step 1. Consider Earning a Doctoral Degree

Though you already have a master’s or educational specialist degree, you’ll want to consider earning a doctoral degree. While it’s not a requirement to become a superintendent in Alabama, a doctoral degree (EdD) has become a common pursuit for those transitioning into this position.

Programs recognized by the Alabama State Department of Education are in the following areas:

Doctoral programs offers in-depth study in the areas of strategic and instructional leadership, organizational theory, and data-driven decision-making, along with research courses that prepare students for their dissertation. Many of today’s programs are offered in a online format that allows students to pursue their doctoral degree while continuing to work.

Many EdD programs offer a superintendent letter of eligibility/endorsement for students to pursue superintendent roles in state school districts.

Alabama’s aspiring superintendents may also qualify to complete the Alabama Superintendents’ Academy – a collaborative effort of the College of Education at the University of Alabama and the Alabama State Department of Education. The program is open to all resident Alabama educators who are eligible to be an elected or appointed superintendent in this state.

Step 2. Apply for a Class AA, Educational Administrator Certificate Through the Alabama State Department of Education

Before applying for the Educational Administrator Certificate, you’ll need to submit a supplemental form (Supplemental EXS) to the State Department of Education that verifies your professional education experience. This form should be received at least one week prior to applying for the certificate.

Step 3. Apply for Election, if Required

Alabama and Florida are the only two states in the nation where superintendents are elected. However, many school districts appoint superintendents.

If you live in a county where superintendents are elected, you’ll need to submit proof to the county board of your knowledge in school administration.

Superintendent Salary and Jobs in Alabama

According to the BLS, Alabama superintendents earned about $101,730 as of May 2021.

While nearly all metro areas in Alabama reported average salaries for superintendents that were at or near $100,000, superintendents, on average, earned the most in the Huntsville and Mobile metro areas, at $103,870 and $103,380, respectively.

In Huntsville, this includes superintendents with the Huntsville City Schools and Madison County Schools, among others. In Mobile, this includes superintendents with the Mobile County Public Schools, which includes no less than 91 schools and nearly 53,000 students. 

Educational Leadership Degree Options in Alabama: Doctorate and Master’s in Educational Leadership

You’re sure to feel good about pursuing a degree that will advance your career in Alabama, where the number of jobs in education administration is projected to increase by 6.6% in the years leading up to 2030. Between 2020 and 2030, the number of administrator jobs will rise from 3,350 to 3,570. During this time, the state expects 270 annual job openings due to retirements, new job growth, and natural job turnover.

And thanks to a bevy of master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral programs available both in Alabama and across the nation, a move into administration is easier than ever. Whether you’re seeking to transition into principalship and become a fierce teacher advocate or you want to begin making a difference as a district superintendent, you’ll find plenty of graduate programs to get you where you want to be.

Many programs are now offered in convenient and flexible online formats that allow you to reach your academic goals while you to continue to meet your professional and personal obligations. There’s nowhere but up in education in Alabama!

Samford University

Orlean Beeson School of Education
Accreditation: SACSCOC

samford university

MSE in Instructional Leadership

Also offers:

Ed.D in Educational and Organizational Leadership
Ed.S in Instructional Leadership
Ed.D in Educational Leadership

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for education administrators, kindergarten through secondary. Job growth projections from the US Department of Labor-sponsored resource, Projections Central. Figures are based on state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2023.

Scroll to Top