Pursue your passion for leadership with an expedited, highly customizable curriculum tailored to your — or your district’s — goals through the Principal Leadership program at Mercyhurst University.

Designed for working K-12 educators, the program positions you to achieve the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Principal Certification and earn a higher salary. Core courses on leadership and organizational behavior, curriculum, and school finance will prepare aspiring principals to make a difference in their schools. The online principal leadership courses, combined with in-school internships, ensure that you are prepared to address the day-to-day challenges you’ll encounter as an educational leader.

Our flexible program is offered as either a standalone certificate or as part of our Teaching Excellence Master of Science degree. It provides a selective, practical, and evidence-based path to effective principal leadership preparation. If you want an innovative, practical, and rapid path to principal certification, Mercyhurst is the best choice.

Program Overview

  • Options: Graduate certificate
  • Location(s): Online
  • Credits: 18
  • Duration: 1 year
  • Cost: $894 per credit; $11,000-16,500 total (special rates available for veterans and Pennsylvania teachers)
  • Deadline: Rolling admissions
  • Start term(s): Fall semester
  • Careers: Principal, education adminstrator

Personalize Your Degree

Learn From Local Educators

Fulfill PDE Requirements

Why a Principal Leadership Certificate from Mercyhurst?

Looking for a principal leadership academy where you can earn a master’s degree while also receiving the credentials needed to become a principal? This certificate is for you! 

Learn online from experienced educators.

Hone your skills as you learn from accomplished instructors and active educators steeped in principal leadership standards. Our 100% online coursework and 360 hours of field experience give you access to the academic and practical support needed to advance in your career.

Develop principal leadership qualities!

Classroom practice lets you bring your online learning to life. Field work experience in our principal leadership programs emphasizes special education, assessment and data-informed practice, technology implementation, staff training, and curricula development for diverse learners.

Maintain balance while enhancing your principal leadership skills.

Our six-course (18-credit) program lets you develop effective principal leadership techniques without stepping away from the work you love. You’ll become a collaborative, data-informed, and reflective leader while making a positive impact in your school.

Receive reimbursement for your coursework.

Aspiring leaders looking for a fast, flexible, affordable path to career advancement are ideal candidates for the principal leadership certificate. Our program is competitively priced and meets most districts’ reimbursement policies.

Earn a master’s degree or a standalone certificate!

The Principal Leadership Certificate is fully embedded within our Teaching Excellence Online master’s degree. It can be taken as a separate certificate. Completing the program satisfies all PDE Principal PK-12 certification requirements.

What can you do with a Principal Leadership Certificate?

Our principal leadership program opens a range of career opportunities for you. As a principal you’ll impact PK-12 students’ lives in myriad ways, from creating universal access to early childhood education to ensuring that high school graduates are career ready. You’ll be a thought leader in your school and community as you drive change and shape the future.

Mercyhurst Principal Leadership graduates hold titles such as: 

Mercyhurst Principal Leadership graduates earn titles of: 

  • Principal
  • Assistant Principal
  • Community School Director
  • Finance Director
  • Assistant Superintendent
  • Superintendent

Career outlook with a Principal Leadership Certificate

Many graduates of the Principal Leadership program gain the skills necessary to earn a higher salary and become a principal. The Mercyhurst certificate opens the door to opportunities that will further your professional growth and enhance your career. Hear from one of our recent program alumni about her career in education and success following graduation:

“I have been truly blessed to get positions so quickly with both of the degrees I earned from Mercyhurst. As someone who stepped away from being in school after so many years, the faculty in the Principal Leadership program made things easy and comfortable; I appreciated the fact that I personally knew my professors and they helped me succeed. The affordability of Mercyhurst’s program made a big difference to me as well. If you are considering pursuing your Principal Leadership Certificate, be prepared to work hard, but it is worth it. Being an administrator is a lot of work, but you get to give back in a different and rewarding way; there is a lot of good that comes with it. As a two-time graduate, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity from Mercyhurst.” — Dina Hathaway ‘99M ’21 

While earning her master’s degree in Special Education from Mercyhurst in 1999, Dina had secured a job before she graduated. This began a lifelong career in education that would culminate in her current role as assistant principal at North East Middle School after she earned her Principal Leadership certificate in 2021.  

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 via our free online application
  • 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)

Get started on your Principal Leadership Certificate!

Earn your Principal Leadership degree and use your leadership skills to drive results in your school. 

Apply Today

Ready to get started? Submit your online application today for the Principal Leadership Certificate at Mercyhurst University.

Explore Financial Aid

Earn an affordable graduate certificate with competitive per-credit costs. Special rates are available for veterans and Pennsylvania teachers. To learn more, visit our Graduate Cost and Financial Aid webpage or contact us at or 814-824-3351.

Request More Information

Complete this quick form to get more information about the Principal Leadership certificate.

Contact Us

Amy Burniston, Ph.D., Ed.D.
Chair, Department of Education
Office: Hirt 300D
Phone: 814-824-2437

Colleen Hordych
Assistant Director, Graduate Admissions
Phone: 814-824-2297

Meet the Faculty

Maria Garase, Ph.D.
Dean, The School of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Associate Professor, Criminology & Criminal Justice
Susan Johnson, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Education; Associate Professor
Phillip Belfiore, Ph.D.
Program Director, Graduate Special Education, Professor
Amy Bauschard, M.Ed.
Instructor of Early Childhood Education, Director, Mercyhurst Early Learning Innovation Academy
Amanda Boots, M.S.
Program Director, Carpe Diem Academy