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

Written by Rebecca Turley

south dakota elementary principal

It’s been a rough ride for education in South Dakota over the past few years. Like every other state in the nation, the COVID pandemic took its toll, and everything from student achievement to teacher retention suffered as a result.

But dedicated educators like you, along with state legislators and school and district leaders, have been steadfast in your commitment to rebuilding the state’s post-pandemic education system. Staying the course has paid off, and today, South Dakota is proud to be among just a few states that have managed to stave off considerable volatility.

The results of the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (better known as the Nation’s Report Card) revealed that South Dakota’s reading and math test scores stayed above the national average – a significant achievement, considering that many states have experienced double-digit declines. But no one in the Mount Rushmore State is ready to take a deep breath just yet, and the Department of Education is in the process of developing a number of new programs, including a statewide literacy initiative that includes educator training to help teachers incorporate best practices focused on research-based strategies.

Like the Department of Education, your sights are firmly set on a bright future. You’ve earned your chops in the classroom as an educator; now it’s time to consider the opportunities that lie ahead. Becoming a principal or superintendent will allow you to climb the educational career ladder and prepare for new and exciting professional experiences and opportunities.

Adding an educational leadership master’s, educational specialist (EdS), or doctoral degree to your resume is one of the best ways to meet the requirements for adding a South Dakota K-12 Principal endorsement to your Professional Teaching Certificate and make the move into educational leadership and administration.

How to Become a Principal or Superintendent in South Dakota – School-level Educational Leadership

To become a principal or superintendent in South Dakota, you’ll need to add a K-12 Principal endorsement or School Superintendent endorsement to your Professional Teaching Certificate through the South Dakota Department of Education.

Before you can pursue a K-12 Principal or School Superintendent endorsement, the Department of Education requires you to have at least three years of verified teaching experience on a valid teaching certificate in a K-12 school, one year of which includes classroom experience or direct services to student.

Once you meet this requirement, you can begin taking the steps to earn a K-12 Principal or Superintendent endorsement to become a principal or superintendent in South Dakota.

Step 1. Complete a Principal Preparation or School Superintendent Preparation Program

To become a principal or superintendent in South Dakota, you’ll need to complete a principal preparation or school superintendent program that includes the required coursework and practical experiences.

There are many principal and school superintendent preparation programs, both in South Dakota and throughout the country, that are offered as part of a master’s, educational specialist, or doctorate program. These programs are often designed as:

These programs take about two years to complete, and many feature either hybrid or fully online formats that offer significant convenience and flexibility for busy, working educators.

Step 2. Apply for a K-12 Principal or School Superintendent Endorsement

To serve as a principal in South Dakota, you must make a request to add a K-12 Principal endorsement (assignment code 7001) or School Superintendent (assignment code 7000) endorsement to your current certificate. Choose “Add Endorsement or Update Existing Certificate.”

The Department of Education released a new SD Educator Portal on March 3, 2023. All certification records have been transferred, thereby allowing you to apply for the K-12 Principal or School Superintendent endorsement through the new system.

It is free to add the K-12 Principal or School Superintendent endorsement when you renew your educator certificate; outside of your certificate renewal, the cost to add the endorsement is $50.

Step 3. Renew and Maintain Your Certificate with K-12 Principal or Superintendent Endorsement

You’ll need to renew your certificate every five years. To qualify for renewal, you’ll need to complete:

Specialized learning experiences may include:

School Principal and School Superintendent Salary and Jobs in South Dakota

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), principals in South Dakota earned a median salary of $76,950 as of May 2021. The top earners in the state earned about $97,680 during this time. Superintendents in South Dakota earned about $98,320 as of May 2021.

Principals in the Sioux Falls earned a median salary that was much higher than the state median, at $97,680 as of May 2021. Superintendents here earned about $101,880 during this time. The Sioux Falls School District encompasses 23 elementary schools, six middle schools, and four high schools, along with a an alternative high school, a project-based learning academy, and a career and technical education academy. The school district serves about 24,000 students.

Educational Leadership Degree Options in South Dakota: EdS, Doctorate, and Master’s in Educational Leadership

Job growth among South Dakota’s principals and superintendents is projected to remain largely stagnant in the ten years leading up to 2030. However, the state should see about 10 annual job openings for principals and superintendents during this time due to a blend of new job growth, retirements, and natural job turnover.

South Dakota’s commitment to its public education system is strong, so you can feel good about recommitting your career to education and advancing into educational administration and leadership. And thanks to the growing number of colleges and universities throughout the state and across the country that offer educational administration and leadership graduate degrees, you’ll enjoy outstanding opportunities to advance your education to the master’s, educational specialist, or doctorate level and become a principal or superintendent who’s ready to make positive, lasting changes for South Dakota’s public education system.

Dakota Wesleyan University

Accreditation: HLC

dakota wesleyan university


University of Sioux Falls

Fredrikson School of Education
Online, hybrid

university of sioux falls


Also offers:

Ed.S-Principal or Superintendent

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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