PRINCIPAL LEADERSHIP
GRADUATE CERTIFICATE

Mercyhurst’s Principal Leadership graduate program is recognized as one of the most affordable and practical programs of its kind in Pennsylvania. This innovative program provides a selective, practical, and evidence-based path to principal preparation and certification for aspiring school leaders through an innovative blend of online coursework and school-based clinicals. Available either as a standalone certificate or as part of the Teaching Excellence Master of Science program, this program prepares candidates for Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) principal certification through PDE-aligned coursework. All coursework is offered online, plus a one-year, career-embedded residency experience with a mentor principal and leadership supervisor in a Pennsylvania school near you. 

Coursework includes theoretical foundations of leadership and practical PDE integrated modules, taught by experienced Mercyhurst faculty and current practitioners (principals). Whether you’re a teacher, counselor, instructional coach, or department chair, through this six-course (18-credit) program, you’ll grow into a collaborative, data-informed, reflective leader focused on equity and increasing achievement for all students.

Program Overview

  • Options: Standalone certificate or part of the Teaching Excellence M.S.
  • Location(s): Online coursework; school-based clinicals
  • Credits: 18
  • Duration: One year (career-embedded program)
  • Deadline: May 1
  • Start term: Summer semester

With a reputation for preparing the region’s best educators, Mercyhurst is on the cutting edge in developing leaders with a rich background in action research. The Principal Leadership program satisfies all PDE Principal PK-12 certification requirements and is ideal for aspiring leaders looking for a modern, flexible, affordable path to career advancement. 

Already have a master’s degree? You can apply for admission as a non-degree candidate, seeking principal certification only. The standalone certificate is a one-year, six-course (18 credits) program that formally begins in the summer semester. 

Summer Semester (16 weeks)

Summer Mini 1 (8 weeks)

  • OL 502: Leadership and Organizational Behavior

Summer Mini 2 (8 weeks)

  • EDUC 600: Curriculum, Assessment, & Instruction

Fall Semester (16 weeks)

  • EDSP 673: Internship

Fall Mini 1 (8 weeks)

  • OL 500: Leadership Theory and Practice

Fall Mini 2 (8 weeks)

  • EDUC 601: School Finance, Law, and Assessment

Spring Semester (16 weeks)

  • EDUC 675: Principal Internship

Candidates complete two internships (EDSP 673 in the fall and EDUC 675 in the spring), with clinical hours that total 360 hours of field work. The field work experience emphasizes leadership in the areas of special education, assessment and data-informed practice, technology implementation, staff training, and curricula development for diverse learners. From this field work experience, candidates will complete a final project intertwined with PDE competencies. 

If desired, this program can be taken on a less expedited timeframe, with candidates taking half the courses each semester. All courses are 3 credits each.

The master’s in Teaching Excellence is a 30-credit (minimum) program. All students complete a set of core courses, which focus on the theoretical underpinnings of education, innovative pedagogy to meet the demands of diverse learners, and analysis and conduction of educational research. You can also elect to include the six courses required for principal certification as part of the master’s program.

Summer Semester (16 weeks)

Summer Mini 1 (8 weeks)

  • OL 502: Leadership and Organizational Behavior
  • EDSE 500: Foundations of Pedagogy and Practice

Summer Mini 2 (8 weeks)

  • EDUC 600: Curriculum, Assessment, & Instruction
  • WL 501: Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners

Fall Semester (16 weeks)

  • EDSP 673: Internship
  • EDSP 502: Education Research

Fall Mini 1 (8 weeks)

  • OL 500: Leadership Theory and Practice

Fall Mini 2 (8 weeks)

  • EDUC 601: School Finance, Law, and Assessment

Spring Semester (16 weeks)

  • EDUC 675: Principal Internship
  • EDSE 676: Thesis

Recognized for its flexible and adaptable approach, the Teaching Excellence master’s program also accepts up to nine transfer credits that you may have already earned through graduate or continuing education, as well as up to six credits for teaching experience (based on a portfolio review).

Candidates complete two internships (EDSP 673 in the fall and EDUC 675 in the spring), with clinical hours that total 360 hours of field work. The field work experience emphasizes leadership in the areas of special education, assessment and data-informed practice, technology implementation, staff training, and curricula development for diverse learners. From this field work experience, candidates will complete a final project intertwined with PDE competencies. 

If desired, this program can be taken on a less expedited timeframe, with candidates taking half the courses each semester. All courses are 3 credits each.

Admissions Requirements

To apply for the Principal Leadership program — either the standalone certificate or as part of the master’s in Teaching Excellence — the following are required:

  • A completed Mercyhurst application, available for free at apply.mercyhurst.edu 
  • All official transcripts from accredited higher education institutions
  • An undergraduate or graduate grade point average of 3.0 overall
  • 2 years of teaching experience prior to enrollment
  • A personal statement outlining the candidate’s career path, career aspirations, and professional interests
  • A professional resume or curriculum vitae
  • Academic, scholarship and leadership potential as evidenced by a positive recommendation from a supervisor (requested electronically as part of the application)

Cost and Financial Aid

Mercyhurst’s Principal Leadership program is recognized as one of the most affordable programs of its kind in Pennsylvania; the 18-credit program is priced at or below state tuition. Whether pursuing principal certification as a standalone certificate or as part of the Teaching Excellence master’s, Mercyhurst alumni, teachers working in schools in Pennsylvania, or teachers who are U.S. veterans (regardless of where they teach), are eligible for a special tuition rate: $515 per credit, plus an $85 distance learning fee per course. Standard per-semester registration and IT fees ($185) also apply. For educators outside of Pennsylvania, the tuition rate is $830 per credit. After fees, the cost of our program is lower than that of other regional institutions. 

Certified teachers pursuing principal certification as part of the Teaching Excellence master’s can also save money toward the program’s cost via:

  • Teaching experience credit (up to six credits; portfolio-based)
  • Graduate transfer credits for equivalent coursework (up to nine credits)

For additional information on graduate tuition and aid, please consult the Graduate Cost and Financial Aid webpage.


Contact Us

Amy Burniston
Chair, Graduate Secondary Education
Office: Hirt 300D
Phone: 814-824-2437
Email: aburniston@mercyhurst.edu

Kseniya Kampova
Graduate Admissions Coordinator
Phone: 814-824-3384
Email: kkampova@mercyhurst.edu


Meet the Faculty

Education
Christina Riley-Brown, Ph.D.
Dean, Hafenmaier College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Jeffrey Roessner, Ph.D.
Associate Dean, Hafenmaier College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Professor
Susan Johnson, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Education, Associate Professor
Amy Burniston, Ph.D., Ed.D.
Assistant Professor, Chair, Graduate Secondary Education
Phillip J. Belfiore, Ph.D.
Chair, Graduate Special Education, Professor
Amy Bauschard, M.Ed.
Director, Carpe Diem Academy, Instructor