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Top 10 Middle School Principal Certifications

This article provides an overview of the most popular and respected principal certifications for middle school administrators.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 18 min read

Certifications are important for a middle school principal in the job market because they demonstrate that the individual has the necessary qualifications and credentials for the job. They provide evidence that the candidate is knowledgeable about best practices, current educational trends, and state and federal laws governing education. In addition, certifications can give an edge to potential candidates over those who do not possess them. They can also help employers determine if a candidate is capable of leading a school effectively and efficiently. Finally, certifications are often required by many states in order to be eligible for certain positions within the education system.

The purpose of this article is to review some of the top certifications for Middle School Principals and explain how these certifications can help strengthen a middle school principal's career.

What are Middle School Principal Certifications?

Middle school principal certification is a formal credential that allows an individual to become a certified administrator of a middle school. This certification is typically earned after completing an accredited program of study at the college or university level and/or meeting state requirements for certification. The program of study typically includes courses in educational leadership, management, human resources, finance and budgeting, curriculum development, instructional strategies, and school law.

The benefits of earning middle school principal certification are significant. Principals must have the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively manage a middle school environment. This includes understanding how to create and maintain safe learning environments; promote respectful student behavior; develop positive relationships with faculty, staff, parents, and community members; ensure high academic standards; cultivate effective communication among all stakeholders; design meaningful curricula; implement instructional strategies for diverse learners; recruit, hire and evaluate teachers; manage budgets and resources effectively; collaborate with other schools in the district or state; and comply with federal laws such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Earning this certification can help individuals demonstrate their commitment to providing quality education to students in their care. In addition, many states require middle school principals to hold this credential in order to be employed as a principal. As such, earning this certification can open up more opportunities for those seeking career advancement in educational administration roles.

Pro Tip: When obtaining your middle school principal certification, be sure to complete all of the necessary requirements in a timely manner. This includes completing additional courses and attending workshops to stay up-to-date on the latest educational trends and best practices.

Related: What does a Middle School Principal do?

Top 10 Middle School Principal Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Middle School Principals today.

1. National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) Certification

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) Certification is a professional credential that recognizes the knowledge and skills of school administrators. It is designed to provide recognition to those who have demonstrated excellence in the field of school administration. The certification is valid for five years and can be renewed through continuing education activities.

To obtain NASSP Certification, individuals must first complete a minimum of three years of successful experience as a principal or assistant principal in an accredited secondary school. Once this requirement has been met, applicants must submit an application form along with official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions attended, two letters of recommendation from current or former supervisors, and a current resume.

Once these materials are received and reviewed by NASSP, applicants may be invited to take the NASSP Professional Certification Exam. This exam consists of multiple-choice questions related to educational leadership and management topics such as curriculum development, personnel management, budgeting, legal issues, technology integration, and more. A passing score on this exam is required for certification.

The cost for the NASSP Certification process varies depending on the number of years since initial certification was obtained. For those seeking initial certification, the cost is $385; for those renewing their certification every five years thereafter, the cost is $195.

2. National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Certification

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Certification is a voluntary certification process that recognizes and honors teachers who demonstrate advanced knowledge, skills, and practices in their profession. It is the highest professional credential available in teaching.

The certification process requires teachers to demonstrate their knowledge and practice of teaching through a series of assessments. The assessment process includes submitting written work samples, taking tests, responding to open-ended questions, and completing an online portfolio. The assessment typically takes about two years to complete.

In order to become certified, teachers must meet certain requirements such as having three years of teaching experience, holding a valid teaching license or certificate from an accredited institution, and completing an approved education program. Additionally, they must also pass the NBPTS assessment process.

The cost of the NBPTS Certification process varies depending on the state in which you are applying for certification. Generally speaking, it can range from $2,500-$4,000 USD.

3. Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Certification

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Certification is a professional certification program designed to recognize and promote excellence in the field of education. It is an acknowledgement of an individual's commitment to the highest standards of teaching and learning, as well as their dedication to improving student outcomes.

To become certified, applicants must have a minimum of five years’ experience in public school education, including at least three years in a leadership role. They must also demonstrate knowledge and understanding of current educational issues, research-based best practices, and CCSSO standards for effective practice. In addition, applicants must demonstrate successful completion of professional development activities related to their area(s) of expertise.

The process typically takes between six months and one year from start to finish. Applicants must submit an application packet that includes a resume or curriculum vitae; an essay describing their philosophy on education; letters of recommendation from colleagues; transcripts or other evidence of academic credentials; and any additional materials required by the state they are applying in.

Once all materials have been submitted, applicants will be invited to take part in an interview with members of the CCSSO Certification Board. This interview is intended to assess the applicant's knowledge, skills, and abilities related to educational leadership. If approved by the board, applicants will receive their certification within two weeks after the interview.

The cost for CCSSO Certification varies by state but typically ranges from $200-$500 USD depending on the requirements for each state’s program.

4. International Association of K-12 Leadership (IAKL) Certification

The International Association of K-12 Leadership (IAKL) Certification is a professional certification program for educational leaders in the K-12 system. It is designed to recognize and validate the knowledge and skills of those who lead schools, districts, and other educational organizations. The certification provides an opportunity for professionals to demonstrate their commitment to excellence in educational leadership and to receive recognition from their peers.

The IAKL Certification process typically takes three months or less to complete. To get certified, applicants must meet certain criteria including having at least five years of experience in K-12 education leadership, completing a series of online courses, and passing an exam. After successful completion of the program requirements, applicants will receive an official certificate from IAKL that is valid for three years.

The cost of the IAKL Certification varies depending on the level of certification sought. For example, the basic certification costs $495 while more advanced certifications can cost up to $995. In addition to this fee, there may be additional fees associated with taking the exam or completing any required coursework.

Overall, obtaining an IAKL Certification is a great way for educational leaders to demonstrate their expertise and commitment to excellence in K-12 education leadership.

5. Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) Certification

The Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) Certification is a certification program that is designed to recognize educational leaders who have demonstrated the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to be successful in school leadership roles. The ELCC Certification is awarded by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP).

The ELCC Certification process takes approximately one year to complete. The first step is to submit an application for review and approval by the NAESP. Once approved, applicants must complete a series of courses and assessments that cover topics such as school finance, curriculum development, instructional leadership, and school law. Upon completion of these courses, applicants must pass an assessment administered by the NAESP in order to earn their ELCC Certification.

The cost for the ELCC Certification varies depending on the number of courses taken and assessments completed. Generally speaking, it can range from $500-$2,000 USD.

In addition to completing the coursework and assessments required for certification, applicants must also meet certain eligibility requirements such as having at least three years of experience in a K-12 educational setting or holding a master’s degree in education or related field.

6. American Association of School Administrators (AASA) Certification

The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) Certification is a professional certification program designed to recognize and validate the knowledge, skills, and abilities of school administrators. This certification is widely recognized by educational institutions, government agencies, and employers as a mark of excellence for school administrators.

To obtain the AASA Certification, applicants must meet the following criteria: have a minimum of three years of successful experience in an administrative role within a public or private school setting; possess a master's degree in educational leadership or its equivalent; complete at least 30 hours of approved continuing education activities; and pass the AASA Certification Exam. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions that cover topics such as school law, finance, curriculum development, personnel management, technology integration, and instructional leadership.

The process typically takes six months to one year to complete. During this time period, applicants must submit their completed application form along with all required documentation to AASA for review and processing. Once approved by AASA staff, applicants will be notified via email when they can register for the exam.

The cost of the AASA Certification program varies depending on whether you are an AASA member or non-member. For members, the cost is $495 while non-members pay $595. This fee includes access to study materials and practice exams as well as registration for the certification exam itself.

7. National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) Certification

The National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) Certification is a comprehensive program designed to help school leaders develop the skills and knowledge needed to lead successful schools. The program focuses on developing leadership skills in key areas such as instructional leadership, organizational change management, and data-driven decision-making.

The NISL Certification Program consists of three courses: Foundations of Leadership, Leading Change, and Strategic Thinking & Decision Making. Each course is designed to be completed in eight weeks. Participants must complete all three courses within 24 months in order to receive their certification.

In order to get the NISL Certification, participants must first register for the program online at nislcertification.org. The cost of the program is $2,000 per participant and includes access to all three courses as well as additional resources such as webinars and coaching sessions with experienced school leaders.

Once registered, participants will have access to an online platform where they can take part in interactive activities and discussions with other participants from around the world. They will also receive feedback from experienced facilitators throughout the program who will help them develop their leadership skills. Upon completion of all three courses, participants will receive their NISL Certification and be able to use it when applying for new positions or promotions within their current organization.

8. National Middle Level Education Leadership Academy (NMLELA) Certification

National Middle Level Education Leadership Academy (NMLELA) Certification is an online professional development program designed to help middle school educators develop the skills they need to become successful school leaders. The certification is offered by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

The NMLELA Certification program consists of six courses that cover topics such as educational leadership, curriculum and instruction, school culture and climate, data-driven decision making, and communication. Each course takes approximately 10 hours to complete and can be completed at your own pace. Once all six courses are completed, you will receive a certificate of completion from NASSP.

To get the NMLELA Certification, you must first register for the program on the NASSP website. After registering, you will be able to access all six courses and begin your journey towards becoming a certified middle level education leader. The cost for the program is $399 USD.

9. National Principals Academy (NPA) Certification

The National Principals Academy (NPA) Certification is a professional development program designed to help school administrators become more effective leaders. It is offered through the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). The NPA certification consists of three levels: Level I, Level II, and Level III.

Level I focuses on the fundamentals of school leadership, including setting expectations for staff and students, developing a culture of collaboration, and managing resources. It takes approximately one year to complete this level and includes online courses, webinars, and an in-person seminar.

Level II builds on the knowledge gained in Level I by exploring topics such as instructional leadership, data-driven decision making, and school improvement. This level also requires one year of study and includes online courses, webinars, and an in-person seminar.

Level III culminates with a capstone project that applies the knowledge gained from Levels I & II to develop a school improvement plan. This level also requires one year of study and includes online courses, webinars, and an in-person seminar.

In order to receive the NPA certification, applicants must complete all three levels within five years. The cost for each level varies depending on whether you are a member or non-member of NASSP; however it typically ranges from $500-$1,000 per level.

10. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Certification

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) is a professional organization that provides certification to educators who demonstrate their commitment to excellence in teaching, learning, and leading. The ASCD Certification program recognizes the knowledge and skills of educators who have demonstrated a mastery of the core competencies required to make a difference in the lives of students.

The ASCD Certification program consists of two levels: Certified Professional Educator (CPE) and Certified Master Educator (CME). To obtain CPE certification, applicants must have at least three years of teaching experience, complete an approved course or workshop related to curriculum and instruction, pass an online assessment, and submit a portfolio demonstrating their mastery of the core competencies. To obtain CME certification, applicants must have at least five years of teaching experience, complete an approved course or workshop related to curriculum and instruction, pass an online assessment, submit a portfolio demonstrating their mastery of the core competencies, and demonstrate leadership in their school or district.

It typically takes about six months to complete all requirements for either level of certification. To get started with the certification process, applicants should visit the ASCD website (www.ascd.org/certification) for more information about eligibility requirements and application instructions.

The cost for each level of certification varies depending on whether you are an ASCD member or non-member. For members, CPE certification costs $495 and CME certification costs $595; for non-members, CPE costs $695 and CME costs $795.

Do You Really Need a Middle School Principal Certificate?

The short answer to this question is no, you do not need a middle school principal certificate in order to be an effective and successful middle school principal. While it is true that some states require certification or licensure for principals, the majority of states do not have any specific requirements for the position.

In addition to state requirements, most schools also have their own set of expectations when hiring a principal. These expectations can include having extensive experience as a teacher or administrator in a school setting, having a master's degree in education or educational leadership, and/or having special training related to the specific needs of middle school students.

So while certification may be helpful for certain positions, it is not necessarily required for all middle school principals. Ultimately, what matters most is that the person hired has the necessary qualifications and skills to effectively lead the middle school and its students. This includes having knowledge of educational theory and practices, strong interpersonal skills, organizational abilities, and problem solving skills.

At the end of the day, having a middle school principal certificate is not essential for success in this role but rather an added bonus that may make one more competitive in the job market. It can certainly provide valuable information about best practices and regulations related to being a principal but ultimately it will come down to other factors such as experience and skill set when determining who will be the best fit for the position.

Related: Middle School Principal Resume Examples

FAQs About Middle School Principal Certifications

1. What qualifications do I need to become a Middle School Principal?

Answer: To become a Middle School Principal, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in education and a teaching certificate, as well as several years of successful teaching experience. You may also need to complete a master’s degree or other advanced educational program in school administration or leadership and pass applicable tests for certification.

2. How long does it take to become certified as a Middle School Principal?

Answer: The amount of time it takes to become certified as a Middle School Principal varies depending on the individual's educational background and prior work experience. However, it typically takes two to four years of study and/or work experience before certification can be obtained.

3. What type of continuing education is required for Middle School Principals?

Answer: Most states require that Middle School Principals obtain ongoing professional development or continuing education credits throughout their careers in order to maintain their certifications. In many cases, these credits must be earned through approved courses, seminars, workshops, or conferences related to educational leadership and policy.

4. Are there any special requirements for becoming a principal in my state?

Answer: Yes, each state has its own requirements for becoming a principal which may include additional exams or other certifications beyond those required for national certification. It is important to research the specific regulations in your state before beginning the process of becoming certified as a principal.

5. Is there an age limit for becoming a Middle School Principal?

Answer: Generally speaking, there is no age limit for becoming certified as a Middle School Principal; however, some states may have age-based restrictions on obtaining certain types of certifications or licenses related to school administration and leadership roles.