Earning a Graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership Online

With the ever-changing political landscape and other challenges professionals in education face, teachers rely on administrators and college deans to guide them through professional highs and lows.

Becoming an educational leader does not always require a lengthy degree program. In most cases, individuals with a master's degree can pursue a graduate certificate in educational leadership online. The program's convenient, accelerated format can help boost career options in a quick manner. Keep reading to learn about this certificate and how to select the right school and program to fit your needs.

Overview of Graduate Programs in Educational Leadership

Although the requirements of graduate certificate programs for education leadership vary from school to school, each program provides similar classes and coursework.

Common Classes and Coursework

Leadership Foundations and Ethics

This class offers a broad overview of core leadership principles. Students dive into resolving ethical scenarios, conflict resolution, best communication practices, and advocating for student success. Students should leave this class with a general understanding about how to positively influence a school's culture.

School Law

Education laws change often. Leaders in the education field must stay on top of these changes and relay them to their employees. This class gives future educational leaders foundational knowledge of current educational law, and tips for staying on top of and communicating the latest changes.

Financial Leadership

School budgets vary depending on location and available government funds. Educational leaders must make difficult decisions to keep the school out of debt. In this class, students learn how to make financial decisions with confidence and balance a budget.

People and Talent

An educational leader's job includes keeping teachers and other staff members motivated to do their best work. This class gives students the skills they need to attract and keep talent at their school. Course topics include interpersonal communication, employee development, and professional growth.

Leadership of Curriculum Design and Instruction

This course prepares students to evaluate, implement, and facilitate quality curricula and select technologies that enhance the learning experience and monitor progress. Students gain the skills to successfully collaborate with teachers to create effective curricula.

Skills You Will Gain

Through their online graduate certificate in education leadership studies, students gain the skills they need to succeed as educational leaders, administrators, department directors, deans, and even college presidents. These skills and competencies prepare future professionals to succeed in careers in education by equipping them to successfully handle personnel issues and create a positive school culture.

Educational leaders must know how to engage in professional conversations

Studies focus on interpersonal and organizational communication skills. Educational leaders must know how to engage in professional conversations and problem solve through one-on-one interactions with teachers and to convey information to large groups of people through email or staff newsletters.

Learners also acquire hard skills, such as how to create a fiscal year budget and use educational software. However, much of what a graduate certificate in educational leadership online covers includes soft skills, including how to effectively discipline students, evaluate teachers, and choose curriculum.

In addition, this program covers interviewing job candidates and retaining talent. Although educational leaders rarely handle hiring responsibilities entirely on their own, they often get to participate in the job interview process.

Average Program Length

Graduate certificate programs typically take two semesters to complete, although full-time professionals can sometimes face difficulty attending in-person classes in addition to work and home commitments. Online education certificate programs allow professionals the flexibility to complete coursework from anywhere, even from home.

Most students complete the online certificate program in just one year. Although some certificate programs require more credits than others, the majority of programs include 12-18 credits.

Colleges and universities typically stick to three common timelines for certificates:


In this format, students complete the certificate program in as little as one semester by enrolling in 15 credits over three months. Due to the rising cost of tuition, this option can save students money.


Students enroll in approximately seven credits per semester to complete the certificate in just two semesters.


Some schools allow students to complete a degree program on a part-time basis, which generally takes two years.

Careers After Earning an Educational Leadership Graduate Certificate

Earning an educational leadership graduate certificate paves the way for many different career paths in the education sector. Earning this certificate helps provide current professionals and educators with a unique specialization. Take a look at the chart below to learn more about the different positions you can hold with a certificate in this field.

Some of these jobs may require additional education, such as a doctorate. Regardless, this certificate program can help you develop the leadership skills you need to thrive in these positions. Although all of the jobs in the chart below relate to education, you can still earn leadership positions outside the education sector with this degree.

High School Principal

High school principals work in public and private schools, helping teachers create a safe, effective learning environment for students. These professionals also communicate the goals for their institution to staff, students, parents, and other community stakeholders.

Average Annual Salary: $91,199

Dean of Students

A dean of students most often works at a college or university, collaborating with teachers and students to create a positive learning environment. Deans typically focus on one academic department within an institution. A Ph.D. is often required for this position.

Average Annual Salary: $62,586

Registrar, College Or University Salary

These professionals work for universities and colleges, responsible for distributing student grades, maintaining student academic records, updating and coordinating class schedules, and overseeing transcript processing.

Average Annual Salary: $55,637

School Superintendent

School superintendents oversee staffing for an entire school district. They also work with school boards to decide how to manage funds and maintain school buildings. Earning a Ph.D. can help you earn a job as a school superintendent.

Average Annual Salary: $116,145

Director of Career Services and Alumni Relations

Colleges must maintain positive relationships with their alumni to secure donations. Directors of career services and alumni relations help graduates find jobs and stay connected with the university.

Average Annual Salary: $59,000

Source: PayScale

Additional Certifications for Education Leaders

Although completing an education leadership certificate program can expand job opportunities, earning additional certifications can open even more doors. After all, part of being a successful educational leader includes pursuing lifelong learning. Consider these three common certifications you can use to pad your resume and cultivate even more knowledge.

State Principal Certification

Before you can start working in a public school setting as a principal, you must check with your state's requirements on certification. Most states require you to complete a certification program that covers topics like foundations of educational administration and school supervision. However, most online graduate certificates in education leadership can fulfill this requirement.

Curriculum Certification

Helping teachers create a meaningful curriculum and understanding how to evaluate it doesn't always come easy. Earning a curriculum certification can significantly enhance your ability to oversee curricula within an institution. You can choose to earn certification for creating curricula for a particular subject or age group.

Professional Organizations & Resources for Education Students

After graduating from an accredited education leadership certificate program, many people choose to join organizations and seek help from resources to stay on top of advancements in the educational field.

  • The National Association of Secondary School Principals NASSP seeks to motivate and educate secondary school principals. They also advocate for professionals on a state and national level. Members benefit from conferences, on-site professional learning opportunities, and access to useful publications.
  • The National Association of Elementary School Principals This organization works to help its members improve their schools, providing them with best practices for early learning, inspiring conferences, and a magazine that contains relevant and helpful articles surrounding this profession.
  • The National Education Association The NEA advocates for educator rights and provides teachers and school administrators with helpful resources, including articles written by principals across America and classroom activity ideas.
  • International Society for Technology in Education This organization helps school administrators and teachers stay up-to-date with technological advancements so they can provide students with the best learning technology. This organization hosts a digital leader summit tailored to school administrators.
  • American Conference of Academic Deans ACAD provides networking and educational opportunities to college deans. Members benefit from resources like a reading list, newsletter, annual meeting, and conference. ACAD also facilitates a mentorship program that pairs deans together.
  • The National Association of College Deans, Registrars & Admissions Officers NACDRAO brings educational leaders together by hosting annual events and providing a forum where professionals can discuss ideas. The organization originally began as a forum for leaders of black colleges to share mutual opportunities.
  • The School Superintendents Association This organization brings school superintendents together for networking opportunities. Members also benefit from legal support, an exclusive magazine related to the profession, and exclusive meetings and conferences.
  • The National Association for College Admission Counseling The NACAC brings together more than 15,000 college administrators worldwide. This organization hosts national conferences and an annual advocacy meeting. The organization also provides continuing education opportunities like webinars and professional development days.
  • SchoolLaw This website is a free resource that provides school leaders access to legal information and resources about the education field, hosting webinars and providing a resource library with training videos and publications.
  • Education Week Education Week is a go-to resource for school leaders who want to learn about news stories that impact education. You can read archived issues on the site and subscribe to their blog.
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