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

getting on the school bus

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) has a lot on its plate, and thanks to the skilled leadership of everyone from district superintendents to principals at local grade schools, it succeeds in meeting challenges as it educates successive generations.

The 2023 school year saw 173,907 students enrolled in publicly funded PreK-12 schools in Maine. Their support network consisted of over 48,000 full-time teachers and school staff, who worked out of 603 public schools and 104 private schools.

As every teacher knows, students throughout the state face a gauntlet of challenges:

In light of these challenges policymakers, with the support of voters, have consistently increased funding for the Maine DOE. In fact for the first time in history this agency’s allocated budget has risen over $2 billion for the 2022-2023 biennium.

You’ve seen how these statistics and funding levels play out in the classroom on a day-by-day basis, individual by individual. You understand how policy from the top can have an effect –for better and worse– on students. You’re thinking about moving up into leadership positions so you can be on the creative end of making policy, rather than the receiving one.

There are several pathways to becoming eligible for administrative leadership certificates in Maine and they all involve graduate degrees and coursework in educational leadership.

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

You’ve seen how you impact your students as a classroom teacher. Now you want to take the next step and apply your leadership talents to an entire school as a principal.

The credential you’ll need to do this is the Building Administrator Certificate (Certificate 40). This will allow you to serve in any of these positions:

There’s an internship/practicum requirement you must fulfill to be eligible for the Building Administrator Certificate, and one of the most common pathways for doing this is to serve as an assistant principal for at least one year.

Throughout this process you’ll be working with the Maine DOE, and make your application through its online portal MEIS (Maine Educator Information System).

Step 1. Obtain an Assistant Building Administrator Certificate

The Assistant Building Administrator Certificate (Certificate 45) makes you eligible to serve as an assistant principal.

Qualifying for both the Assistant Building Administrator Certificate and the full Building Administrator Certificate means meeting all of the following requirements:

To become an assistant principal you also must have at least a bachelor’s degree.

At this point you can opt to apply for a certificate and work as an assistant principal for one year. This will fulfill the internship/practicum requirement for gaining a full Building Administrator Certificate, and in the meantime, you can also work on fulfilling its education requirements.

Or, you can also opt to fulfill the internship/practicum requirement another way and skip serving as an assistant principal.

Step 2. Earn a Graduate Degree in Education or Leadership

The education requirement for the Building Administrator Certificate starts with an advanced degree in the field of education or leadership.

Your degree program must be aligned with the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL), developed by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration. These standards are widely regarded and prevalent in the educational leadership academic community and cover topics like school operations, effective management, cultural responsiveness, and ethics.

Advanced degree programs will result in academic credentials like:

Courses that make up a graduate program in educational leadership or administration cover topics like:

If for some reason your advanced education program wasn’t aligned with the PSEL standards, you can still fulfill the education requirement through one of the following:

Schools offering graduate programs in educational leadership in Maine typically include an internship or practicum as part of their program. In addition to giving you valuable hands-on experience, this also fulfills the practicum/internship requirement to qualify for the Building Administrator Certificate.

Step 3. Fulfill the Practicum or Internship Requirement

The Maine DOE offers three pathways, any one of which you can take, to fulfill the requirement to complete a practicum or internship and gain supervised experience in the role of a principal:

At this point you’re all set to apply for the Building Administrator Certificate through your MEIS account with the Maine DOE!

School Principal Salary and Jobs in Maine

According to figures released by the Maine DOE for fiscal year 2022, a principal’s salary is tied to the student enrollment at a school. The following shows Maine’s principal salaries detailed next to student enrollment numbers:

In 2023 there were nine schools with enrollment over 1,000:

A 2020 count from the Maine DOE revealed a total of 507 principals employed throughout the state, earning an average annual salary of $83,517. By 2022 the DOE reported the total number of public schools throughout the state at 603.

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

Moving up the career ladder to higher levels of leadership and responsibility is a natural progression for principals who want to become superintendents. If this is your calling, then you need to obtain a Superintendent Certificate (Certificate 10). This allows you to work in any of the following capacities:

Step 1. Fulfill the Experience Requirement

To demonstrate your track record of leadership success you must show the following:

Step 2. Earn a Graduate Degree

The Maine DOE requires all its superintendents to have an advanced degree. This can be in any field, but earning a graduate degree in educational leadership or educational administration will simplify things for your later on down the road.

You can fulfill both the education requirement and the internship/practicum requirement by earning a graduate degree from a Maine school that offers a DOE-approved superintendent preparation program. This can result in credentials like:

These programs are aligned with the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL), developed by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration. Demonstrated knowledge of these PSEL standards is a requirement for obtaining the Superintendent Certificate, and graduating from a Maine-DOE approved superintendent preparation program fulfills this.

PSEL-aligned graduate courses cover topics like:

Your Maine DOE-approved graduate program will also likely include a superintendent administrator internship or practicum that’s at least 15 weeks in length. This fulfills the internship/practicum requirement to become eligible for the Superintendent Certificate.

Non Maine DOE-Approved Graduate Superintendent Programs

If your graduate degree program is not aligned with the PSEL standards, then you must fulfill this requirement through one of the following:

If your graduate degree program did not include a Maine DOE-approved superintendent administrator internship or practicum, then you can fulfill this requirement through one of the following:

If you meet all other requirements except for graduating from a program that’s PSEL-aligned and completing an internship/practicum, then you may still qualify for a temporary Conditional Superintendent Certificate.

Step 3. Apply with the Maine DOE

At this point you’re ready to submit an application for the Superintendent Certificate through your online MEIS account with the Maine DOE!

Superintendent Salary and Jobs in Maine

According to the Maine DOE, in 2023 there were:

The nine school districts with student enrollment over 3,000 were:

When it comes to superintendent salaries, the locale where you work has a lot to do with how much you can expect for a salary. Represented by the 90th percentile for K-12 administrators in Maine, superintendent salaries throughout the state break down as follows according to 2022 figures from the US Department of Labor:

In 2020 the Maine DOE reported a total of 144 superintendents employed throughout the state, and by 2022 it reported hosting a total of 278 public school units.

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

Schools recognize that you’re busy with your career which is why many offer flexible study options like online courses or classes that meet evenings and weekends. 

We’ve done the legwork of analyzing the private non-profit schools in Maine that offer graduate degree programs in educational leadership and administration. Now it’s up to you to choose the degree that best aligns with your professional goals. It’s time to take action to reach your full potential and maximize your impact!

Saint Joseph’s College of Maine

Accreditation: NECHE

saint joseph's college maine


Thomas College

Peter and Paula Lunder School of Education

Thomas College

MS in Educational Leadership

University of New England

College of Professional Studies

university of new england


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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