The tide is turning for Tennessee’s educational system, and it’s bringing the type of monumental change the state hasn’t seen in three decades.
In May 2022, Governor Bill Lee passed the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act (TISA) – a massive overhaul of the state’s education funding formula, the likes of which haven’t been seen in thirty years. Through TISA, state funding for education will be decidedly student-based, not systems-based, essentially changing how the money is allocated and certainly how much of the money reaches the school districts and schools themselves.
More money making its way to the classroom is music to the ears of tireless educators like you and to the school leaders who will now have more control over their own budgets. It’s an exciting time to be an educator, but perhaps an even more exciting time to be a school administrator or leader. The state’s school leaders will be the captains of their own ships, directing money and resources where they’re needed most.
This type of significant change to Tennessee’s public education system has made your decision to transition into education administration and leadership an easy one. Now it’s time to earn the education that will take you to the next phase of your career in education. Whether you have your sights set on becoming a principal or superintendent, you’ll find a growing number of master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral degrees in educational leadership designed with your career goals in mind.
How to Become a Principal in Tennessee – School-level Educational Leadership
You’ll need to earn an Instructional Leader License (ILL) through the Tennessee Department of Education to become a principal in Tennessee.
But before you can begin taking the steps to become a principal in Tennessee, you’ll need to have at least three years of qualifying experience as an educator.
Once you meet this requirement, you can begin pursuing the education and training that will allow you to become a principal in Tennessee.
Step 1. Earn a Minimum of a Master’s Degree and Complete a State Board-Approved Instructional Leader Preparation Program
To become a principal in Tennessee, you’ll need to complete a minimum of a master’s degree and a State Board-approved Instructional Leader Preparation program. In most cases, instructional leader preparation programs are embedded into master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral degrees in educational administration and leadership, thereby allowing you to satisfy both of the requirements at the same time.
These programs include all of the necessary coursework and practical experiences required for licensure as a principal in Tennessee and are often designed as:
If you already hold a master’s degree, you may also satisfy the coursework and practical requirements to become a principal in Tennessee by completing a post-master’s school leadership certificate program with an embedded instructional leader preparation program. These programs require the completion of about 27 graduate school credits and a field experience of about 450 hours.
Once you complete the Board-approved instructional leader preparation program, either as a graduate degree or as a graduate certificate program, you’ll need to receive a recommendation from the instructional leader preparation provider.
Step 2. Take and Pass the School Leaders Licensure Assessment
You’ll need to take and pass the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (6990), which is administered through Praxis.
This exam includes questions on the following topics:
You can take your chosen Praxis exam either online or at one of the testing centers located throughout the state.
Step 3. Apply for and Maintain Your Instructional Leader Licensure (ILL)
You will apply for the Instructional Leader License (ILL) through the TNCompass system. Your education preparation provider will submit an application on your behalf. Once the application is submitted, you’ll receive an email advising you to complete your personal affirmation statement through TNCompass.
The ILL is valid for two years and is renewable upon the completion of at least 14 Tennessee Academy for School Leaders (TASL) credits completed and approved for each school year cycle.
Step 4. Advance Your Instructional Leader License (ILL) to the Instructional Leadership License – Professional (ILL-P)
Once you hold the ILL for at least two years, you’ll have the option to advance to an ILL- Professional (ILL-P) by completing one of the following:
(most common route) Tennessee Academy for School Leaders (TASL) Pathway –
Complete the Beginning Principals’ Academy and be recommended by the educator’s director of schools.
The TASL program, which supports instructional leadership development for new administrators, features a combination of online and in-person learning experiences. Upon completion of the TASL program, you’ll earn 14 TASL credit hours and be eligible for advancement to the ILL-P. New TASL programs start at the beginning of each school year and are completed during that same year. Each program consists of about one to three in-person meetings and seven asynchronous online modules, and it culminates in a summative case study.
You can register through your local school district or through the TASL website.
Individual Professional Learning Plan (IPLP) Pathway –
Successfully complete an IPLP in coordination with an approved instructional leader preparation program and earn recommendation by the educator’s director of schools.
School Principal Salary and Jobs in Tennessee
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), principals in Tennessee earned a median salary of $77,190 as of May 2021. The top-earners in the state— likely those with extensive experience —earned about $97,930 during this time.
While most metro areas of Tennessee reported median salaries that were similar to the state median, the Clarksville and the Memphis metro areas reported much higher median salaries, at $98,340 and $94,380, respectively.
How to Become a Superintendent in Tennessee – District-Level Educational Leadership
Tennessee superintendents are hired by school districts and are not licensed. Tennessee has 145 school districts, each of which is led by an appointed superintendent. Currently, there are no requirements to become a superintendent documented in Tennessee code, with the exception of a minimum of a bachelor’s degree: “Any director of schools who is appointed by the local board of education elected by the general public is only required to have a baccalaureate degree” (49-2-301).
While no specific education or training requirements exist, the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents does offer a Superintendent Leadership Institute (SLI), which offers a variety of professional development opportunities throughout the year. These events, workshops, conferences, and other training programs are designed to bring superintendents together to learn and share from one another.
Superintendent Salary and Jobs in Tennessee
According to the BLS, superintendents in Tennessee earned about $118,900 as of May 2021. The Memphis metro area reported the highest average salary for school superintendents during this time, at $125,510, followed by those in the Clarksville, Cleveland, Nashville, and Kingsport-Bristol metro areas, all of which reported an average salary of about $118,900.
Educational Leadership Degree Options in Tennessee: EdS, Doctorate, and Master’s in Educational Leadership
In the ten years leading up to 2030, the number of jobs for principals and administrators in Tennessee is projected to increase by 5%, rising from 5,360 jobs to 5,630 jobs. During this time, the state should see about 420 annual job openings for school administrators and leaders due to a blend of new job growth, retirements, and natural job turnover.
The slow but steady growth among Tennessee’s school principals and administrators is great news for educators looking to make the transition into educational administration. And thanks to a growing number of colleges and universities offering master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral degrees in education leadership and administration, many of which are offered in convenient and flexible online formats, you’re sure to find a program that aligns with your career goals.
Ed.D (Administrative Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction Leadership)
Ed.S (Administrative Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction Leadership)
Christian Brothers University
Rosa Deal School of Arts, Education Department
MS in Educational Leadership
Fast Track Educational Leadership Program
M.Ed-Teacher Leadership track
Labry School of Science, Technology, and Business
Campus, online, hybrid
M.Ed with an emphasis in Instructional Leadership
Department of Education
M.Ed in Instructional Leadership
(Ed.S, Ed.S) in Instructional Leadership (Administration and Supervision concentration, Teacher Leadership concentration)
Helen DeVos College of Education
Ed.S in Educational Leadership
Lincoln Memorial University
Carter and Moyers School of Education
Ed.D with a concentration in Instructional Leadership
M.Ed with a concentration in Instructional Leadership
College of Education
M.Ed in Educational Leadership
(Ed.S, Certificate) in Educational Leadership
(M.Ed, Ed.S) in Leading in Curriculum and Instruction
Ph.D in Leadership and Policy Studies
Southern Adventist University
School of Education and Psychology
Trevecca Nazarene University
School of Education
Ed.S in Accountability and Instructional Leadership
College of Education
Ed.D (Higher Education, P-12 School Administration)
Ed.S in Educational Leadership
M.Ed with a Teacher Leadership focus
Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
(MS, Ph.D) in Leadership and Policy Studies
Master of Public Policy in Education Policy
Ed.D in K-12 leadership and policy
Ed.D in higher education leadership and policy
Ed.D in Leadership and Learning in Organizations
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.