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

Written by Alex Dorian

maryland principal reading to young class

Since 2011, Maryland’s academic achievement scores have fallen faster than that of any other state. A former Baltimore City teacher, writing for Maryland Matters, noted that Maryland’s 4th grade students score the lowest on reading and math across the nation. Middle school students aren’t faring much better, scoring 51st out of 51 states in math and 48th in reading.

A pessimist would throw up their hands, lamenting Maryland’s education system as a lost cause. A realist such as yourself could see this as an opportunity. Student capabilities aren’t going to improve overnight, but you can be the leader who launches the climb to the top. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It matters that you’re committed to improvement.

You won’t be alone on that journey, either. Maryland’s education leaders and legislators are serious about improving student performance. The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future aims to increase school funding to $3.8 billion annually by 2030. This money will:

The Blueprint Act is in its infancy, which means you have the opportunity to help spearhead this initiative within your own school or district. As a teacher, you know how schools can use the Blueprint’s resources to improve student wellbeing and outcomes. Now, all you need is to pursue a path that empowers your action by earning a master’s, educational specialist (EdS) degree or doctorate in educational leadership. If you’ve never worked in administration, it starts with becoming a principal.

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

Given your experience teaching in Maryland, you’re already familiar with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), Division of Educator Certification and Program Approval.

Much like with your teaching credential, the Division oversees two certifications for educational leaders: Administrator I and Administrator II.

You must first earn the Administrator I certificate before going on to earn the Administrator II certificate.

Here are the steps to achieving both certificates:

Step 1. Document 27 Months of Experience as a Teacher or Certified Specialist

In order to qualify for the Administrator I certificate, you must prove that you have worked as a teacher or certified specialist for at least 27 months. You’ll use the Verification of Experience form to confirm the duration of your tenure.

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) states that you must have performed at a satisfactory level throughout your tenure. Your department heads and principal can help you gather the documentation needed to prove you did so.

Step 2. Earn a Master’s Degree or Higher that Meets MSDE’s Certification Requirements to Qualify for Your Administrator I Certificate

Since it’s likely you’ve already been working in the schools and likely already meet the experience requirement, the first big step to qualifying for your Administrator I certificate is to find a master’s degree that satisfies the Maryland State Department of Education’s post-baccalaureate coursework requirements.

This coursework must include at least 18 months of instruction in:

Graduate degrees that satisfy the aforementioned requirements come with titles that include:

You along with the university through which you earned your graduate degree and completed your administrator certification program will furnish the Maryland State Department of Education with all supporting documents necessary for the Administrator I certificate.

Step 3. Acquire your Administrator II Certificate

This Administrator II certificate qualifies you to work as a school principal in a Maryland school.

To earn this credential, you must not only possess your Administrator I certificate, but also achieve a qualifying score on the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA).

The SLLA is administered by the Educational Testing Service. It’s a four-hour assessment comprised of 120 multiple-choice questions and four constructed response questions. The assessment is based on the 2015 Professional Standards for Educational Leaders.

You can study for this exam using resources provided by the ETS School Leadership Series. The website has a study companion, videos, an interactive practice test, and more.

You along with ETS will furnish the Maryland State Department of Education with all supporting documents necessary for the Administrator II certificate.

School Principal Salary and Jobs in Maryland

How much could you expect to earn as a principal in this state? Maryland’s school leaders reported a median salary of $123,340 annually. The top 25 percent of principals earn around $5,000 more – the median being $128,160 per year.

Keep in mind that where you work will impact your salary as well. For example, the median pay for principals working in Baltimore-Columbia-Towson is $122,810 per year, while those working in Cumberland earn a median of $84,880.

But is demand for principals rising in Maryland? Absolutely. The number of education administration jobs is expected to grow 9.9 percent from 2020 to 2030. The state is committed to turning its education system around.

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

Now may just be your time to move into a district-level leadership position where you can serve the needs of far more students and faculty throughout an entire country district. As a superintendent or other district leader, that’s exactly what you can do after earning the Superintendent I certificate or the Superintendent II certificate.

Step 1. Document Your Teaching and Supervisory/Administration Experience

To meet the basic experience requirements to be considered for either the Superintendent I or II certificates, you will need to deliver documentation confirming that you performed well in both of the following roles for the minimum durations show here:

If you possess your Principal I or Principal II certification, add it to your application. Either will supplement the evidence you submit to the MSDE of your teaching or supervisory experience.

It’s possible that some supervisory or administrative experience you gain to meet this requirement will come as part of your graduate program, in which case completing and documenting that experience would run concurrent with the following step.

Step 2. Enroll in a MEd Program Specializing in Superintendent Roles

Maryland requires all those wishing to work as superintendents to possess a master’s or higher degree that has a built-in superintendent certification program. The university you attend can be in-state or out-of-state (including online). Degrees you can pursue include:

Specific coursework requirements for each of the two certificate options are:

Step 3. Obtain Either the Superintendent I or Superintendent II Certificate

The Superintendent I certificate qualifies you to work as a county deputy superintendent, associate superintendent, and assistant superintendent.

The Superintendent II certificate qualifies you to work as a county superintendent

In Maryland, the superintendent oversees the administration of an entire district. There are 25 school districts in the state of Maryland, one for each county. For example, Mr. W. David Bromwell is the superintendent of Dorchester County Public Schools, overseeing 13 public schools. His leadership influences educational policy affecting 5,000 students.

That’s a lot of responsibility. The quality of education a student receives will determine the course of their lives. So it’s imperative that you have the requisite training and experience to help create school environments where students thrive.

You along with the university through which you earned your graduate degree and completed your superintendent certification program will furnish the Maryland State Department of Education with all supporting documents necessary for either the Administrator I or Administrator II certificate.

Superintendent Salary and Jobs in Maryland

With more responsibility can come greater pay. In Maryland, superintendents earn a median salary of $157,240 per year. That’s $4,000 more than the median salary for superintendents across the country. No matter what county you’re living in, that salary will make for a comfortable living.

Even in Hagerstown-Martinsburg, superintendents can make $119,500 annually despite this county offering lower wages across all occupations. If you work in Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, you can expect to earn more. The median salary for superintendents in this metropolitan area is $155,460 per year.

Educational leadership Degree Options in Maryland: EdS, Doctorate, and Master’s in Educational Leadership

Some of the best educational leadership programs can be found along the Chesapeake Bay. There’s no need to travel out of state for a master’s or doctorate in education. We’ve compiled a list of schools within Maryland that will set the foundation for your career in education administration.

Hood College

Department of Education

Hood College


Also offers:

Graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership
MS-Mathematics Instructional Leadership

Johns Hopkins University

School of Education

Johns Hopkins University

MS.Ed in International Teaching and Global Leadership

Also offers:

Graduate Certificate in Leadership in Technology Integration
Ed.D (Entrepreneurial Leadership in Education, Urban Leadership)

Loyola University Maryland

School of Education
Online, hybrid

loyola university maryland

M.Ed in Educational Leadership

McDaniel College

Graduate and Professional Studies Division

mcdaniel college

MS in Educational Leadership

Also offers:

Graduate Certificate in (Elementary Math Instructional Leader, STEM Instructional Leader)
MS in Reading Specialist Literacy Leader

Mount St. Mary’s University

School of Education

mount st. mary's university

M.Ed in Instructional Leadership

Also offers:

Certificate in Instructional Leadership

Notre Dame of Maryland University

School of Education
Campus, hybrid

notre dame maryland university

MA in Leadership

Also offers:

Ph.D in Instructional Leadership for Changing Populations
Ph.D in Higher Education Leadership for Changing Populations
MA in Leadership-Leadership Teaching (Culturally Proficient Leadership, Digital Technology Leadership, Mathematics Instructional Leader)
MA in Leadership-Leadership in Special Education (Exceptionalities)

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.

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