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

administrator taking time with the kids in class

Kentucky’s P-12 public education system is impressive just by the numbers:

Over 638,000 P-12 students
171 districts
1,477 schools, including 255 high schools
52,637 full-time certified staff
42,526 teachers
2,632 principals
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Successfully educating over half a million P-12 students makes herding cats look easy, especially on a $5 billion state budget.

Now add these challenges to the mix and it makes Kentucky’s educators and administrative leaders look like miracle workers:

When it comes to average spending per student, Kentucky’s $11,291 is more than Indiana’s, Missouri’s, and Tennessee’s, but less than its four other remaining neighbors.

It’s a lot to juggle, but leadership at both the principal and superintendent levels pull it off every school year. They do such a fine job that Kentucky has a better high school graduation rate than all neighboring states. In fact, it ties with two other states for having the best high school graduation rate in the nation at 94%.

As an experienced teacher you know what it takes to manage a classroom successfully. Now you want to try your hand at the next-level challenge: being a principal or even a superintendent.

To pursue this goal you’ll need a good head on your shoulders, experience, and the knowledge you’ll find in a graduate-level educational leadership program.

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

As an experienced teacher you know what you can accomplish in the classroom; now you’re curious to have an even wider impact as a school principal.

Throughout the process you’ll be working with the Kentucky Department of Education (KYDOE) and the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board (EPSB).

Step 1. Meet the Experience Requirements

Before you can become certified as a principal you need to meet these requirements:

Step 2. Complete a Principal Educational Preparation Program

The Kentucky EPSB maintains a list of schools it approves to offer qualifying principal preparation programs that you must complete before you can apply for Principal Certification. Currently there are 14 approved schools offering qualifying programs.

The principal preparation program itself can be offered as a stand-alone graduate certificate, or combined with graduate degrees like these:

Courses in your program will cover topics like:

Step 3. Pass the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA)

The company ETS sponsors the exam you must pass in order to apply for Principal Certification: the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA), Test Code 6990.

You can schedule your exam online at a nearby testing center. The KYDOE has set the passing score at 146 and above.

You have 165 minutes to complete 120 select-response questions and 75 minutes to complete four constructed-response questions. The constructed-response questions are weighted to count for 25% of the exam.

The SLLA covers six content areas as they pertain to leadership:

Step 4. Apply for Your Principal Certificate with the Kentucky DOE

At this point you’re ready to submit a Certification Application (CA-1) to the KYDOE’s Division of Educator Licensure and Quality. You can also submit application materials online through EPSB’s Kentucky Educator Credentialing System (KECS).

Upon successful application, the KYDOE will issue you a Level I Certification Statement of Eligibility. This is valid for five years, which should give you enough time to find employment as a principal and complete a Kentucky Principal Internship Program (KPIP) during your first year.

After completing your KPIP your Principal Certification will remain Level 1 until it’s up for renewal. At this point you must complete continuing education and a few more graduate-level courses to renew and upgrade your license to Level II, which is valid for five years and is renewable.

School Principal Salary and Jobs in Kentucky

According to the Kentucky Department of Education there were a total of 2,632 principals statewide during the 2022-2023 school year.

The median number of principals employed by district throughout Kentucky is 10. There are fifteen school districts that employ at least 30 principals, and the top-five districts that employ the most principals are:

Represented by the 75th percentile salary figure for K-12 administrators in Kentucky as reported by the US Department of Labor, the general 2022 principal salary in Kentucky was $101,610.

And according to those figures, principals in the following Kentucky census locations earned these annual salaries which differ considerably depending on location:

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

What it would be like to lead an entire district as a superintendent? What’s stopping you from finding out and reaching your full professional potential?

Step 1. Fulfill the Experience Requirements

To qualify for Superintendent Certification you need at least two years of experience as a school principal or in a role as a program director, counselor, administrator, or supervisor. That’s on top of three years of teaching experience.

You also need a Statement of Eligibility for a Teaching Certificate. This is issued by the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board (EPSB) and basically acknowledges that you’ve fulfilled the education and exam requirements for becoming a licensed teacher. This requirement is in lieu of requiring a current valid Teaching Certification in recognition of the fact that you’re already probably in a non-teaching leadership role.

Step 2. Complete the Education Requirements

Having a master’s degree is the minimum education requirement for the Superintendent Certificate.

If you’re taking the school principal route to become a superintendent, then you’ll already have completed the education requirements for a Level I and Level II Principal Certificate. That’s good because you need those to qualify for the Superintendent Certificate. Fulfilling the education requirements for a Level I and Level II Supervisor of Instruction Certificate additionally qualifies.

You also need to complete a Superintendent educational preparation program. These are graduate-level programs offered by schools that are approved by the EPSB. Currently there are 12 such schools offering these specific programs throughout the state.

These superintendent preparation programs can be stand-alone 12-credit graduate certificates, or they can be combined with graduate degree programs like:

Courses in your program cover content like:

Step 3. Pass the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA) and Apply

The SLLA, Test Code 6990, is the same ETS exam you took to become a principal. Since you already passed it once you don’t need to take it again. Passing scores are still 146 and above for the Superintendent Certificate.

At this point you’ll be ready to apply online for Superintendent Certification through EPSB’s Kentucky Educator Credentialing System (KECS). Now you can put the theory you learned in school into practice as a leader who’s responsible for the success of students across an entire district!

Superintendent Salary and Jobs in Kentucky

From all of Kentucky’s school districts, the average superintendent salary has increased by 41% over the decade leading up to the 2022-2023 school year when it clocked in at a notable $145,842.

During the 2022-2023 school year the Kentucky Department of Education reported a total of 277 superintendents employed across all districts.

The districts with the highest superintendent salaries that year were:

Altogether there are 64 school districts in Kentucky where the superintendent salary is at least $150,000, and seven where it’s above $200k.

The districts with the most superintendents are:

16 school districts employ three superintendents, 46 employ two superintendents, and the rest employ one superintendent.

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

In recognition of the fact that you’re a busy working professional, many of these programs offer online options plus a traditional classroom format. We’ve gathered information on every private non-profit college and university in Kentucky that offers a graduate degree in educational leadership. Now you can choose which program best fits your career goals!

Bellarmine University

Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education

bellarmine university

M.Ed in Higher Education Leadership and Social Justice

Campbellsville University

Accreditation: SACSCOC

campbellsville university

MA.Ed Teacher Leader

MA in Special Education-Teacher Leader

Georgetown College

Accreditation: SACSCOC

georgetown college

MA.Ed in Instructional Leadership

Also offers:

MA in Teacher Leader (ESL, Gifted-Talented, Instructional Computer Technology, Moderate-Severe Disabilities, no endorsement option)
Certificate in Instructional Leadership P-12
Supervisor of Instruction Certificate
School Superintendent Certificate
Director of Pupil Personnel P-12
Director of Special Education P-12 Certificate

Spalding University

Accreditation: SACSCOC

spalding university

M.Ed in Teacher Leader

Also offers:

Ed.D in Leadership

Union College

Accreditation: SACSCOC

union college


Also offers:

MA (Educational Leadership, Teacher Leader, Educational Leadership Rank 1, Teacher Leader Rank 1)

University of Pikeville

Patton College of Education

university of pikeville

MA.Ed Teacher Leader

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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