Education Administration

Which California Schools Offer a Master’s in Educational Leadership?

Which California Schools Offer a Master’s in Educational Leadership?
Having a master's in educational leadership can launch a career as a principal, superintendent, or even high-ranking college administrator. Image from Unsplash
Lucien Formichella profile
Lucien Formichella November 6, 2020

With a Master of Educational Leadership, you can help shape schools' future policies and administrative practices. In doing so, you'll improve student outcomes as surely as teachers do.

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In many ways, California offers optimal opportunities to work in education. California elementary and high school education administrators earn an annual mean income of $128,880, fourth-highest in the nation (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). For those looking to advance their career, the Golden State also offers excellent graduate education opportunities. Alongside several revered private institutions, the California State University system is one of the best in the nation, providing high-quality education at a fair price.

Still, the state faces numerous hurdles to improving its school system and urgently needs to add quality educational leaders. According to an article in a 2019 article in The Guardian, “funding for California schools falls 38 percent short of where it should be to meet needs defined by the state itself.” Public elementary and secondary school educators are frequently asked to take on roles they cannot perform; student learning suffers as a result.

Completing a master’s in educational leadership can enable you to effect significant change within the educational system itself far beyond what one teacher can do in a classroom. Having a master’s in educational leadership can launch a career as a principal, superintendent, or even high-ranking college administrator.

Learn how earning a master in educational leadership in California can help create change at the source. This article covers:

  • What do you learn in a master’s in educational leadership program?
  • What jobs can you get with a master’s in educational leadership?
  • Why complete a master’s in an educational leadership program in California?
  • Where can you complete a master’s in educational leadership program in California?

What do you learn in a master’s in educational leadership program?

Though programs can differ in focus, all master’s in educational leadership degrees lead to school administration roles. Students may complete a Master of Arts (MA), a Master of Education (MEd), or even a Master of Science (MS) in Educational Leadership, depending on their career goals and the preferences of the conferring institution. Graduates frequently earn a California Administrative Services Credential, which allows qualified individuals to perform duties like creating and evaluating education programs, hiring teachers, and managing school finances.

Teachers are top candidates for a master’s in educational leadership; several years of teaching experience is a common admission requirement to these programs. Some schools do let non-teachers apply, especially those with strong backgrounds in other areas.

Many educational leadership programs are designed for the working professional, with classes held on nights or weekends. Though most full-time master’s programs take two years, master’s in educational leadership programs commonly can be completed in one.



University and Program Name Learn More

What jobs can you get with a master’s in educational leadership?

Many educational leadership students aspire to become school principals, but that’s hardly the only job open to someone with this degree.

Other positions include:

  • College provost: Educational leaders exist beyond K-12 schools. Provosts are high-ranking university officials who help shape school policy and programming.
  • Dean: Like the provost, a dean helps to shape programming and policy, though through a narrow focus on their department or division.
  • Instructional designer/coordinator__: A curriculum doesn’t just fall from the sky; it needs to be conceived, developed, implemented, and (if required) revised.
  • Superintendent: These professionals oversee an entire school district, supervising teachers and staff, addressing parental concerns, managing budgets, and implementing curriculum and instruction policies.
  • Teacher: A master’s in educational leadership helps teachers increase their responsibilities as school leaders. They may help train new teachers or work in tandem with school administrators to improve the student learning experience, either throughout the school or in a specific department (like special education).

Administrator salaries can vary widely. High-ranking officials at universities usually earn more than their peers in public school systems. The median salary for a dean of students is just over $100,000, while a college provost earns just under $150,000.

California superintendents are an exception. They earn a median salary of around $180,000, nearly $20,000 higher than the nationwide median salary for the position. On the low end of the spectrum, California instructional coordinators usually earn between $61,000 and $80,000. This is still a good salary that is above the national median for the position, which ranges from about $55,000 to $72,000.

Why complete a California master’s in educational leadership program?

State-driven standards define the education employment market. Which is to say: California degrees prepare you for California jobs. To become an administrator, you need to meet the state’s education standards and earn a Preliminary Administrative Services Credential. Applicants for the credential must have a bachelor’s degree, a valid teaching (or related professional) license, and five years of full-time teaching (or related) experience at a private or public school.

Certification guidelines also stipulate that applicants “complete a specialized and professional preparation program in administrative services, complete an intern program in administrative services, or receive a passing score on the California Preliminary Administrative Credential Examination (CPACE).” Finally, they must provide proof of an administrative job offer.

It is possible to complete the experience requirement outside of California as long as you have completed the requirements, including a basic skills proficiency test, and graduated from a preparation program at a regionally accredited school. Although many schools are regionally accredited, this requirement does limit the number of institutions you can attend to ones approved by one of seven regional bodies.

Even though it’s possible to move to California and pursue a preliminary Administrative Services Credential, you should earn your degree at a California school if you know you want to work there. Not only should it help you avoid the need to be double-credentialed, but many California master’s programs prepare students for the CPACE.

Where can you complete a master’s in educational leadership program in California?

Mills College

School of Education

Oakland, CA

Mills College has several master’s degree options, including one that allows you to work with academic advisors to create a customized degree. Students can also complete an EdLead: MA in Educational Leadership with concentrations in either early childhood leadership or independent school leadership. Another option: a joint Master of Business Administration (MBA) and MA in educational leadership. Finally, students can complete an administrative services credentialing program, which prepares them for the administrator exam. You can also complete the credential alongside a master’s or Doctorate in Educational Leadership (EDD).

Like most leadership programs, Mills emphasizes helping students get field experience. They hone leadership skills in administration, advocacy, policy, and even financial services. The school encourages self-reflection through writing assignments about fieldwork experiences.

San Diego State University

Global Campus

San Diego, CA

SDSU is ranked eighth in US News & World Report‘s Best Online Master’s in Education programs list. The school offers a 30-unit Master of Arts in Teacher Leadership that’s “designed to help current teachers take on leadership roles in their school communities without affecting their impact in the classroom.” Graduates enter roles training new teachers and evaluating school programs.

Students complete the online program in 12 and 14 months. The online format allows for a flexible course schedule, allowing students to balance classes with their teaching careers. Students complete 21 units of core courses and nine units of research courses.

San Jose State University

Connie L. Lurie College of Education

San Jose, CA

San Diego State is in the process of revamping its educational leadership master’s programs. The graduate school is not currently accepting new applicants to the MA in Administration and Supervision. However, it is starting an MA in Higher Education Leadership and an MA in Emancipatory School Leadership.

The MA in Emancipatory School Leadership consists of a curriculum based around ​​Leaders in Educational Administration Program (LEAP) standards. It is a part-time 30 unit degree that takes 14 months to complete. Students work in a hybrid format, which means they take classes in person and online. Applicants must hold a teaching credential and have at least three years of experience in a public or private education setting.

Students complete courses like:

  • Emancipatory Leadership as Praxis
  • Epistemologies of Educational Leadership: Personal, Political, & Intellectual
  • Equity & Access: Practices, Policies, & Pedagogies

Stanford University

Graduate School of Education

Stanford, CA

Stanford has one of the best education schools in the country— it’s ranked third by US News & World Report. The Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies (POLS) Master’s Program, which takes nine months of full-time study to complete, leads to careers like:

  • Academic dean
  • Admissions counselor
  • Assistant principal
  • Educational policy analyst
  • School partnerships manager

Required courses include at least two classes on research methods (such as statistics or data analysis) and two quarters of field experience at a school or educational organization. Students may take classes at other Stanford colleges, including the law and business schools.

University of California – Berkeley

Graduate School of Education

Berkeley, CA

In addition to leadership credentials geared to current administrators, Berkeley offers a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration, which provides graduates with a recommendation for a tier-one Administrative Services Credential.

Students complete the degree through Berkeley’s Principal Leadership Institute (PLI), established in 2000. The program focuses “on equity, social justice, and the formation of leadership identity and relationships, [and] develops administrators into instructional leaders who are skilled in working collegially with teachers, parents, students, and the community to improve the quality of teaching and learning.”

University of California – Los Angeles

Graduate School of Education and Information Studies

Los Angeles, CA

Another program based around the tier one Administrative Services Credential, UCLA’s Master of Education degree (MeD) “is designed to attract outstanding educators who have administrative interests and recognized potential.” Students spend 14 months learning and working to pursue parity in the education system. Courses focus on subjects like school law, leadership, and conducting research as a principal.

Graduates frequently become:

  • Principals
  • District leaders
  • Assistant principals
  • Teachers (K-12)

University of San Francisco

School of Education

San Francisco, CA

USF’s Master in Organization and Leadership is a 30-credit (including a three-credit thesis or field project) program. In addition to leadership, students study organizational roles, including identifying harmful power structures that impede educational equality. Students take classes every other weekend, which allows for some flexibility.

Students complete coursework in:

  • Advocacy & Policy
  • Human Resources, Law & Finance
  • Methods of Ed Research

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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