Learn How to Become a Principal, Superintendent, or Other Administrator in Washington D.C. with a Doctorate or Master’s in Educational Leadership

Written by Rebecca Turley

washington, d.c. elementary school

You’ve always been at home in the classroom. It’s where you nurtured your passion for education and became an educator who didn’t just teach – you made positive, lasting changes in the lives of your students.

But now your attention has turned to administration, and for good reason. While DC Public Schools have become the model for education reform – ranked among the fast-improving of all large urban school districts in the nation in recent years – there’s more to accomplish. But you’re ready take on a new chapter in your career… while also taking on some of the district’s most pressing issues, from student achievement gaps to aging school infrastructure.

You know the DC Public Schools System inside and out, and you know what it needs to succeed. Now is your time to take your passion for education and your knowledge of the public school system and make a difference at the administrative level.

As you continue in your commitment to advancing DC Public Schools, you’ll want to consider how you’re going to accomplish the switch to administration. With a master’s, educational specialist, or doctorate degree as your foundation, you’ll be prepared to become an innovative, forward-thinking principal or instructional superintendent in our nation’s capital.

How to Become a Principal in Washington D.C. – School-level Educational Leadership

To become an assistant or lead principal in the District of Columbia, you’ll need to earn an Administrative Services Credential (ASC) through the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

To become a principal in Washington D.C., you’ll need to show proof of at least four years of full-time employment as a regular teacher, student services provider, or principal/assistant principal. Or, if don’t have four years of experience, you may also satisfy this requirement by providing your final end-of-year performance rating reports verifying that you have achieved an “effective” or equivalent performance rating for at least two school years.

Once you’ve met the experience requirements, it’s time to complete the steps required to become a principal in Washington D.C.

Step 1. Complete a DC-Approved Leadership and Administration Education Program

You’ll need to complete a state-approved P-12 school leadership and supervision program, which are often designed as:

These programs include an internship on-site at a local educational institution, under the mentorship of a practicing principal or supervisor.

Step 2. Take and Pass the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA)

Educational Testing Service (ETS) develops and produces the School Leadership Series Assessments. The School Leaders Licensure Assessment, which can be taken online or at a testing center near you, will test your knowledge on the following topics:

Step 3. Apply for an Administrative Services Credential (ASC) through the Office of the State Superintendent of Education

You’ll apply for the Administrative Service Credential (ASC) through the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s Educator Credential Information System (ECIS). You’ll complete the application electronically, upload all of the necessary supporting documentation, and pay online.

Step 4. Maintain your Administrative Services Credential (ASC)

The Standard ASC is valid for four years from the date of issuance and is renewable based on either:

School Principal Salary and Jobs in Washington D.C.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), principals in Washington D.C. earned a median salary of $125,430 as of May 2021 – that’s about $40,000 more annually than the national median for this profession. Top-earning principals earned about $136,290 during this time.

How to Become a Superintendent in Washington D.C. – District-Level Educational Leadership

Washington D.C. operates in a different fashion than other states with traditional, superintendent-led school districts. The DC Public Schools system employs instructional superintendents who oversee school “clusters” throughout the District.

There are currently nine clusters and therefore nine instructional superintendents. There are about 12 schools within a cluster, and they’re separated by grade level – elementary, middle, and high schools.

All schools within the district are overseen by a single superintendent, Lewis D. Ferebee, who is now referred to as a chancellor.

Instructional superintendents are not licensed or credentialed under this title, but they are credentialed as principals.

To qualify to become an instructional superintendent in Washington D.C., you’ll also need to have at least ten years of related experience, five of which must be in the role of principal or head of school.

Highly qualified candidates have experience in urban school district leadership, previous experience in the education sector, and knowledge of best practices in adult learning theory.

Now may also be the time to consider advancing your master’s degree and earning an educational specialist or doctoral degree. There are a number of programs, both in Washington D.C and throughout the nation, that will prepare you with the knowledge and skills needed to assume this leadership role with confidence, such as:

Superintendent Salary and Jobs in Washington D.C.

According to the BLS, instructional superintendents in Washington D.C. earned about $165,360 as of May 2021, which is about $12,000 more than the national average. 

Educational Leadership Degree Options in Washington D.C.: Doctorate and Master’s in Educational Leadership

Whether you have your sights set on becoming a principal or an instructional superintendent, our nation’s capital is home to exciting career opportunities in administration. In fact, in the years leading up to 2030, jobs among education administrators in Washington D.C. are expected to increase by 16.9%, rising from 1,300 jobs in 2020 to 1,520 jobs in 2030.

You’ll find a bevy of master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral programs in administration and leadership that are designed to meet your professional goals. Plus, many of them are now offered in convenient and flexible online formats that make earning your graduate degree in educational administration easier and more accessible than ever.

American University

School of Education
Accreditation: MSCHE

american university

M.Ed. In Education Policy and Leadership

Also offers:

Ed.D in Education Policy and Leadership

George Washington University

The Graduate School of Education and Human Development
The Department of Educational Leadership
Campus, online

george washington university

MA in Educational Leadership and Administration

Also offers:

Graduate Certificate in Educational Technology Leadership
Master’s in Higher Education Administration
MA in Education and Human Development in the Field of Educational Technology Leadership

Howard University

School of Education
Accreditation: MSCHE

howard university

M.Ed in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Also offers:

Ed.D in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Ph.D in Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies

Trinity Washington University

College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education


MS in Administration, School Leadership

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.

Scroll to Top