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A Principal Preparation/Education Specialist (Ed.S.) program that connects you with school leaders from across Kentucky – on day one

Do you aspire to become a principal/school leader who leads positive transformation of the learning experience in schools? Our five-semester, 30-credit hour program meets Level I and Level II principal certification requirements and leads to either a Masters in Education (M.Ed.) or an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree.

Ambitious leaders across Kentucky enroll in our principal preparation program because they aspire to lead positive transformation of the learning experience in schools. With our faculty as your guide, you work in small groups with your cohort and, from home, complete weekly graduate coursework online. As part of the program, you also have the opportunity to attend the Next Generation Leadership Academy at no additional cost. Academy days offer the chance to learn and interact with school leaders from across the state. There are a total of seven Academy days per year, with two of these days scheduled during the summer before your begin your coursework.

What is the Next Generation Leadership Academy?

The Next Generation Leadership Academy is often referred to as a foundation for innovative educational work, a social network, and a catalyst for change. It is within the environment of the academy that school leaders find a time, place and network of innovative colleagues with whom they can think about the futures of their communities and how they can improve their schools to meet evolving needs. Seventy-five districts in Kentucky have taken part in the academy, with new districts joining each year.

Educational innovations are taking place across the nation. Schools (and their leaders) must be nimble. You will develop an understanding of leadership for current and emerging issues: technology shifts, economic uncertainty, safety concerns and global challenges.

Schools are busy, fast-paced environments. Teachers and leaders are busy keeping up with a lengthy list of expectations already in place. The Next Generation Leadership Academy team helps school leaders develop plans to respond to current and emerging needs, moving beyond the status quo.

Next Generation Leadership Academy schools and districts across the Commonwealth are supporting one another as they prototype new approaches to ensure that every child and youth experience deeper, more personalized learning that will prepare them to be successful.

The Academy Year

Twelve graduate credit hours will be earned in your first year, with optional participation in the Next Generation Leadership Academy. Faculty mentors ensure a personalized experience while interweaving course content with the nine deeper learning and equity of opportunity structures that form the foundation of the Next Generation Leadership Academy.

After Your Academy Year

Once you have completed your first 12 graduate hours in your Academy year, the remaining 18 hours required for principal certification will be earned via synchronous online sessions delivered by UK faculty.

The course sequence is structured to allow you to begin in the fall semester (August) to complete Level 1 certification by December of the following year (approximately 16 months). See the curriculum plan for the principal program in the chart below.

Diverse learning experiences across the program prepare teachers to serve as a:

  • Principal
  • Assistant principal
  • Administrative dean
  • Academic dean
  • Instructional coach
  • District leader (various positions)
We are available to help during your application process.

Questions About the Application Form, Checking for Completeness, Uploading Materials

Questions About the Programs, Materials or Qualifications Related to the Application, or Entrance to the Programs



Year 1




Principal Certification/Degree/Rank Change

  • EDL 706
  • EDL 709
  • EDL 638
  • EDL 707


  • EDL 627
  • EDL 708

Deeper Learning Instructional Coach/Non-Admin/Degree/Rank Change

  • EDL 706
  • EDL 709
  • EDL 638
  • EDL 707


  • Elective course
  • EDL 708


Year 2




Principal Certification/Degree/Rank Change

  • EDL 628
  • EDL 634
  • EDL 646
  • Elective course

Deeper Learning Instructional Coach/Non-Admin/Degree/Rank Change

  • EDL 662
  • EDL 664
  • EDL 669
  • Elective course





Our Program Experience

Skills in Leading School Transformation Through the Next Gen Leadership Academy

High-Quality Online Courses with Nationally Respected Professors

Relevant, Authentic Problems of Practice in School Contexts


We value:


Our program prepares teachers to assume formal roles (e.g., department chair, grade-level team leader, technology coordinator) or informal roles (e.g., instructional model, peer mentor) and lead from within and beyond the classroom.


Because collective leadership by administrators and teachers is essential for successful 21st century schools, our program emphasizes developing interpersonal relationships and interdependence to achieve shared visions and goals.


Because teacher leaders build organizational capacity through their shared instructional leadership and collegial support for sustainable change efforts, our program is delivered through cohorts that function as communities of practice.


Our program develops requisite knowledge and skills teachers need to foster learning-centered leadership and conduct action research while simultaneously engaged in individualized professional development.


All courses integrate individual and group learning, field-based activities and virtual class meetings, and research and reflection to assure relevance and applicability.


Students evidence their learning through creation and oral defense of their unique electronic portfolios.





Test-Free Policy

GRE scores are not required for admission to programs in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies.

The test-free admission policy applies to all graduate certificate, master’s degree, education specialist, and doctoral programs in the department.

We recognize the challenges prospective students experience because of the inequities these tests perpetuate. The Department of Educational Leadership Studies is able to evaluate applicants for admission without the use of test scores through non-test factors that honor the spectrum of experiences our applicants have. A test-free policy is one part of our ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (read more about that here).

In 2017 we announced this policy for our master’s and education specialist degrees and for our graduate certificates. In March 2021, we announced that this policy is being extended to our doctoral programs.

You must meet the admission requirements established by the UK Graduate School and by the Department of Educational Leadership Studies. Additional information about admissions to the University of Kentucky Graduate School is posted at

All Applicants

To be eligible for admission to this graduate program, you must:

  • Qualify for or hold a Kentucky teaching certificate,
  • Have successfully completed at least three years full-time teaching in P12 setting
  • Have successfully completed a master’s degree in education with cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Be recommended by a superintendent or other district-level administrator who attests to applicant’s educational leadership and professionalism
  • Aspire to serve as a principal in a P12 school
  • Highly recommended, but not mandatory: Have completed a graduate-level basic statistics course with a grade of B higher

Kentucky Candidates

To earn a Principal Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in Kentucky you must:

    • Have successfully completed an approved program of preparation
    • Have three years of full-time teaching experience
    • Have successfully completed the appropriate assessment requirements outlined in 16 KAR6:030 or qualify for a one year period of completion for assessments under KRS 161.027(6)*
    • Hold a Master’s degree in education
    • The statement of eligibility allows the candidate to obtain employment in a principal/assistant principal position and complete one year in the Kentucky Principal Internship Program (KPIP)
    • Upon successful completion of KPIP, the 5-year Professional Certificate is issued


Application Documents

  • UK Application for Admission
  • Transcripts: Copies of all transcripts from all postsecondary institutions that you attended. Uploaded transcripts may be official or unofficial, however If you are offered admission and decide to enroll you will then be required to submit official transcripts to the Graduate School.
  • Copy of your valid K12 teacher certificate.
  • Resume: Limited to 2 pages, providing your name and contact information as well as postsecondary education (all degrees, years awarded, institution names, emphasis area), work experiences, education certifications, professional memberships. If you are seeking a P12 Administrator Certificate (principal or superintendent), be sure it’s clear within your resume that you have at least three years of full-time experience as a classroom teacher.
  • Personal Statement: Please write 2-3 double‐spaced pages, word‐processed in either Times New Roman 12‐point or Arial 10‐point, page numbers and your name in upper right corner. If you cite literature/resources to support your comments, adhere to the academic writing guidelines provided in 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.Part I: Provide background about your experiences as an educational leader and share how these experiences have prompted you to enroll in a graduate program in educational leadership studies. Share your career aspirations and explain how completing an EDL program will assist you in achieving your professional goals.

    Part II: Articulate your beliefs, perceptions, and reflections about each of the following four themes related to effective educational leadership: (a) a vision of success, (b) a focus on learning and teaching, (c) an engagement of all stakeholders, and (d) a demonstration of ethical practice.

  • Writing Sample: Prepare a Professional Reflection (2-3 double-spaced pages, word-processed in either Times New Roman 12-point or Ariel 10-point, page numbers and your name in upper right corner). Describe how your classroom evidences the components of highly effective teaching and learning (i.e., learning climate, classroom assessment and reflection, instructional rigor and student engagement, instructional relevance, knowledge of content). If you cite literature or resources to support your comments, then you must adhere to the academic writing guidelines provided in 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
  • Provide following supporting documentation with your application:
    • Statement of your dispositions for educational leadership
    • Evidence of your improving student learning
    • Evidence of your advanced knowledge of curriculum, instruction and assessment
    • Evidence of your leadership at the building level within a school
  • Recommendations: Two recommendation forms from persons (e.g., principal, supervisor, superintendent or designee) who have direct knowledge of your skills/ability related to (a) leadership; (b) curriculum, instruction and assessment; and(c) improving student learning. One recommendation must be from your superintendent or their designee.

International Teachers

If your native language is not English, you must submit either a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score.

  • Minimum TOEFL score of 550 (paper-based), 213 (computer-based), or 79 (internet-based)
  • Minimum IELTS mean band score of 6.5
  • Please note that the language score for international applicants who have received a degree from a U.S. institution is waived.

Kentucky rank change is also governed by EPSB. For more information see:


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply?

Detailed information about the application process can be found at

How long is the program?

The Principal Education Specialist (Ed.S.) program consists of 10 courses spread out over a period of 21 months.

What is the cost of the program?

For information regarding current program cost please refer to the UK Graduate Tuition and Fees page.

How can I get more information about this program?

Application Questions

Program Questions

Feel free to use the form at bottom of this page to submit any questions you may have!

What degree is earned at the end of this program?

Upon completion of the appropriate courses, you will have a Principal Education Specialist (Ed.S) degree.

What are your refund policies?

You can find tuition refund policies, deadlines, amounts, and other important information on the UK Student Account Services website.

State Authorization and Licensure

If you plan to complete a University of Kentucky online program while living outside of Kentucky, you should check the Out-of-State Students page to determine if the University of Kentucky is authorized to provide this program in your state of residence. If you plan to use the degree to seek licensure, you should also determine if the degree meets the educational requirements for licensure in your state.