Principal Certification Program (PCP)

School of Behavioral Sciences and Education

The Penn State Principal Certification Program (PCP) is a statewide program offered at two locations: University Park and Harrisburg. The program has been evaluated by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) and is in compliance with their current requirements as well as all requirements by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).

The program has three important features:

  1. A standardized Principal Certification Program is offered so that all students receive a consistent, high-quality, and uniform program.
  2. The specific designated courses cover all NCATE and PIL (Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership) standards. All course assignments and student results are aligned with NCATE/ELCC and PIL standards.
  3. A student management system using an electronic portfolio approach is utilized to allow all students to maintain a record of their progress through the Principal Certification program. The portfolio provides documentary evidence of student proficiency in all ELCC and PIL standard elements, an evaluation of student progress, and an evaluation of program outcomes.

Degree Conferred: Certification only

Required Courses 

The Principal Certification Program (PCP) at Penn State consists of six specific courses (see Table 1) consistent across the University Park and Harrisburg programs. These courses cover both the mandatory ELCC standards and the PDE certification requirements. The main themes present throughout the PCP courses include diversity, professional development, instructional leadership, ethical and moral leadership, school improvement, change processes, and social justice. All of the courses are offered at Penn State Harrisburg in a blended delivery of face-to-face and online instruction.

Table 1. Principal Certification Program required core courses
Course Title
EDLDR 559 School Improvement
EDLDR 560 Principles of Instructional Supervision
EDLDR 568 Principalship
EDLDR 576 The Law and Education
EDLDR 579 Financial Management in Schools
EDLDR 595 Internship for Principals

Admission Requirements

Enrollment in the Principal Certification Program requires admission to Penn State’s Graduate School and to the program in Educational Leadership in the College of Education.

To be admitted students must:

  • Hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university;
  • Schedule a personal interview with the program coordinator prior to submission of application materials;
  • Submit an online Graduate School application and application fee;
  • Submit two official transcripts from each college and university attended;
  • Obtain three references using the forms provided.
  • Have achieved a minimum GPA of 3.0 in previous graduate work and/or a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the last two years of undergraduate work;
  • Submit an affidavit documenting three years of teaching experience upon completion of the program.

Application Deadline

Candidates are encouraged to enter the program at the beginning of the fall semester; however, students can be admitted on a rolling basis throughout the academic year. Enrollment will close when the maximum of 25 participants has been reached.

Academic Requirements

Penn State will make an institutional recommendation to the Pennsylvania Department of Education when a candidate shows evidence of satisfactory completion of the requirements listed below. It is important to note that Penn State endorses successful candidates for certification; the Pennsylvania Department of Education officially grants the certification.

Candidates must

  • Complete 15 credits of course work in the Educational Leadership Program with at least a 3.0 (See Table 1).
  • Complete a 3-credit internship spanning a full calendar year that is planned with the faculty internship supervisor and administrative mentor.
  • Pass the required Praxis exam.

Courses will be scheduled in cooperation with the Educational Leadership Program at University Park. For the convenience of participants, there will be evening and weekend courses varying in length from six weeks to 15 weeks. Many of the courses are offered in blended instruction; that is, both face-to-face and online instruction.

Course Sequence at Penn State Harrisburg


EDLDR 568 The Principalship (3) Prerequisite: teaching or school administrative experience; 18 credits in education at least 5 of which are methods of teaching

EDLDR 559 School Improvement (3)


EDLDR 579 Financial Management for Schools (3) Prerequisite: teaching, administrative, or supervisory experience

EDLDR 560 Principles of Instructional Supervision (3)


EDLDR 576 The Law and Education (3)Prerequisite: administrative or supervisory experience

EDLDR 595 Internship(3) Prerequisite:teaching experience and a professional certificate

The Pennsylvania Department of Education now requires a 360-hour internship/field experience for Principal Certification candidates. These hours must stretch across a full-year school cycle, including fall, spring, and summer (June and August) in order to meet PDE requirements.

The internship is normally completed at the end of the Principal Certification Program. Students should work with their assigned EDLDR 595 Internship instructor as well as their designated on-site coordinator/supervisor to construct an appropriate sequence of experiences that cover the full school year. Candidates for Principal Certification should see their advisor for internship requirements, as well as for further information regarding the Performance-based Internship.


All faculty in the Principal Certification program have excellent credentials as scholars, practitioners, and researchers. Their backgrounds, active involvement, and continuing research ensure that participants will be exposed to the most current practices.


Each participant will be assigned an adviser at Penn State Harrisburg.

Master's Degree

It is possible to complete the 30-credit master’s degree program in Teaching and Curriculum in combination with the K-12 Principal’s Certificate. Those interested in doing so would need to be admitted to both the Teaching and Curriculum program as well as to the Principal Certification program. Core course requirements in Teaching and Curriculum include 18 credits. The other 12 required credits are electives, all of which are fulfilled in the Principal Certification program.


Certification candidates must meet Qualifying Scores in effect at the time their application is received by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Effective April 2, 2012, a Qualifying Score of 163 has been established for School Leadership Licensure Assessment - SLLA 6011.  For additional information, please visit the Educational Testing Services web site. The fee for this four-hour exam is $425.00.  The PDE certification application for all new certificates is $125.00

Praxis Exam

All principal candidates must take and pass the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA) Exam. Additional information can be obtained by visiting the Praxis Pennsylvania Test Requirements site

This page is not a part of the official Penn State University Bulletin.