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

kids running down the stairs at school

If your kid brought home a report card that looked anything like Hawaii’s current educational situation, you’d be concerned.

Declining test scores, fewer high school graduates going on to college, and increasing levels of poverty are not good indicators. But there are some silver linings.

Though the last few years have been tough for Hawaii’s K-12 students it’s premature to draw any long term conclusions on the heels of a pandemic, and the $690.6 million education dollars the state received from federal recovery funds –money that must be spent by 2024– will undoubtedly go a long way.

Ultimate success or continued decline will be determined in large part through Hawaii’s administrative leadership, and if you’re up to the challenge then the students across the state could more than use your help.

The importance of quality educational leadership in Hawaii, the net value it adds, is thankfully already appreciated. Of all states Hawaii ranks fifth in the nation for having the highest concentration of jobs in K-12 education administration.

You can make leadership even more effective as you prepare for the role of principal and even superintendent with the right experience and education in a master’s or doctoral-level program like educational administration or educational leadership.

The Hawaiian word pu’a means to feed. It’s the responsibility of today’s leaders to feed the minds of the next generation of students graduating from high school and going on to be the future leaders of tomorrow.

How to Become a Principal in Hawaii – School-level Educational Leadership

As an experienced licensed teacher in Hawaii you’re already familiar with how the Hawaii Department of Education certifies principals through its Office of Talent Management in coordination with the Professional Development and Educational Research Institute (PDERI).

You reach the level of principal once you’ve earned PDERI’s Professional School Administrator Certificate (PSAC). But this is the top-level of school leadership; before you can qualify for PSAC certification you need to first gain experience as a vice principal which means earning an Initial School Administrator Certificate (ISAC).

Step 1. Consider a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership or Educational Administration

A relevant master’s degree is quickly becoming a baseline standard for leaders in education. It opens up career doors and demonstrates competence.

If you’re not a tenured teacher in Hawaii, then you’ll need a relevant master’s degree to be eligible to apply for a vice principal (ISAC) certification program.

If you’re making an out-of-state lateral application for a Hawaii principal license (PSAC) then you need a master’s degree in educational leadership or educational administration.

Regardless, as you work your way up through the ranks within the Hawaii Department of Education, a relevant graduate degree in educational leadership can give you an important advantage over your peer-level competition.

Step 2. Earn a Vice Principal Initial School Administrator Certificate (ISAC)

Eligibility for the ISAC certificate means having four years of full-time licensed public school K-12 teaching experience, along with satisfactory performance evaluations and recommendations.

On top of this you also need to complete the ISAC certification program through PDERI.

Make your ISAC application between April and August; this is the only window for application submissions annually, and you submit your application online with the Hawaii Certification Institute for School Leaders (HICISL). Through that link you’ll find these supporting documents that you must include with your application:

If you’re not a tenured teacher, then you need to have at least a master’s degree in educational administration or educational leadership and include your transcripts with your application.

The ISAC certification program progresses over a spring semester and summer institute with pedagogy, and an additional school year during which time you’ll complete an internship under the guidance of a mentor principal.

Step 3. Earn a Principal Professional School Administrator Certificate (PSAC)

With an ISAC certification you can qualify for a principal PSAC certificate once you have:

Once you’ve earned the PSAC certificate you’re qualified to apply for principal and equivalent positions throughout Hawaii.

The PSAC certificate application will appear on this portal during the fourth quarter of the school year.

If you’re applying as an equivalent out-of-state candidate, you’ll need transcripts that show completion of at least a master’s degree in educational administration or educational leadership.

School Principal Salary and Jobs in Hawaii

Principal salary data, represented by the top-25th percentile salary data for K-12 education administrators, is tracked closely by the US Department of Labor. In 2022 it reported the Hawaii principal salary was $109,160.

Metro areas favor an even higher principal salary. Principals in the Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina metro area earned $129,740 in 2022, while those in urban Honolulu earned $126,330.

When it comes to long term job growth prospects between 2020 and 2030 for K-12 education administrators, Hawaii is stronger than the national average at 9.0% versus 7.8%, respectively. In Hawaii this translates into 80 new job openings over the decade.

The largest high schools in Hawaii, James Campbell, Waipahu, and Mililani, are on O’ahu. Opportunities begin at high-demand crucibles like these where the best and brightest principals are highly sought.

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

Hawaii’s superintendent is considered the CEO of its entire public school system. The state’s Board of Education decides who will be the superintendent by vote.

The superintendent is responsible for appointing:

All appointments involve careful consideration of a candidate’s credentials, experience, and record. The typical profile of a superintendent in Hawaii includes decades of teaching experience, exceptional performance reviews, demonstrated professional growth, and leadership that has risen through the ranks.

The current superintendent has over three decades of experience within the Hawaii Department of Education, experience as a complex area superintendent, and was most recently serving as a principal at Waipahu High School on O’ahu. His education includes two M.Ed degrees: one in curriculum and instruction and one in educational administration.

All of the current 15 complex area superintendents have prior experience as principals, and they all hold at least a master’s degree in relevant fields like educational administration and educational leadership.

Superintendent Salary and Jobs in Hawaii

Gaining the experience and advanced education it takes to move up the leadership ranks within the Department of Education warrants a higher salary. That’s why the US Department of Labor’s 90th-percentile wage figures for K-12 education administrators is the perfect stand-in for Hawaii’s superintendent salary statistics.

In 2022 Hawaii’s annual superintendent salary was $132,820. In urban Honolulu the salary rose to $150,690, while in the Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina metro region it was roughly on-par with the state level at $132,690.

Some of the most challenging superintendent work takes place at Hawaii’s largest complexes like the Kaimukī-McKinley-Roosevelt complex area and the Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani complex area, both in the Honolulu District. The Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua complex area in O’ahu’s Central District is also large, comprised of 21 schools.

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

Hawaii’s upcoming generation faces a unique set of challenges, and there’s no one in a better position than you to lead them through these. With this responsibility, you have an obligation to maximally leverage the skills you gain in a master’s or doctoral program in educational leadership.

We’re ranking and researching non-profit private schools that do the best job of preparing you for the educational administrative leadership positions of today so you can best serve the upcoming leaders of tomorrow.

Chaminade University of Honolulu

School of Education and Behavioral Sciences

Chaminade University of Honolulu


Also offers:

M.Ed in Instructional Leadership
M.Ed in Instructional Leadership Teach For America Cohort

2022 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 May 2023.

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