Principal Credentials

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Credentialing school leaders in North Dakota is the responsibility of the NDDPI Office of School Approval & Opportunity. The NDDPI processes several types and levels of Principal Credentials: 

  • Level I Elementary, Secondary, and K-12 Principal Credentials
  • Provisional Elementary, Secondary, and K-12 Principal Credentials
  • Elementary, Secondary, and K-12 Principal Credential Renewals

While each credential level has its own set of requirements, NDDPI has an online application process for all Principal Credentials. The online credential applications can be accessed on NDTeach.

For questions on North Dakota Principal Credentials, please contact the Office of School Approval & Opportunity at (701) 328-4571.

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Level I Principal Credentials

The NDDPI issues three types of Level I Professional Principal Credentials:

  • The Elementary Principal Credential (for individuals serving grade levels K-8).
  • The Secondary Principal Credential (for individuals serving grade levels 5-12).
  • The K-12 Principal Credential.

*Please note that an internship is required at BOTH the elementary and secondary grade levels for individuals to be eligible for the K-12 Principal Credential.

In North Dakota, Level I Professional Principal Credential applicants must fulfill the following requirements:

  • At least three years of teaching or administrative experience at the grade levels applicable.
  • A Master's degree in Educational Administration or another field certifiable by the Education Standards and Practices Board with course preparation aligned to the following standards:
    • Mission, vision, and improvement.
    • Ethics and professional norms.
    • Equity, inclusiveness, and cultural responsiveness.
    • Learning and instruction.
    • Operations and management
    • Building professional capacity.
    • Internship specific to the grade levels of the credential being applied for (Elementary, Secondary, K-12).

The NDDPI has partnered with several universities in our area and online to create a coursework alignment worksheet. This worksheet helps applicants in coursework planning and ensuring all content requirements are met.

*For individuals who hold a Master's degree in another certifable education field (special education, school counseling, etc.), a full Master's degree in Education Leadership is not required. Individuals falling into this category will only need to complete coursework in the content areas outlined above.

Provisional Principal Credentials

Applicants can apply for a Provisional Principal Credential that will allow them to serve as a principal for a term of three years while completing the Level I coursework requirements. To obtain a Provisional Principal Credential, applicants must submit the following documentation via email to the Office of School Approval & Opportunity:

  • A completed Principal Credential application on the ND Teach portal. There is no specific application for the Provisional Principal credential, so applicants should navigate to and complete the regular Elementary/Secondary/K-12 Principal Credential application. 
  • Proof of acceptance into an Education Leadership Master’s degree program.
  • 2 letters of recommendation from education professionals the applicant currently works with or has worked with in the past willing to attest to teaching experience and any leadership competency the applicant possesses.
  • The applicant must enroll in a peer-to-peer mentorship program.

Aside from the online application, the required documentation for a Provisional Principal Credential can be sent to the Office of School Approval & Opportunity via email

If need be, the Provisional Principal Credential can be renewed for an additional year if at least 20 credits in the Education Leadership Master's degree program has been completed.

*Note: Those looking to obtain a Provisional Principal Credential must still have at least three years of teaching experience to qualify. There are no exceptions.

Principal Credential Renewals

In North Dakota, the teaching license and Principal Credential are renewed at the same time, but through separate processes. Most individuals fall under a five-year renewal schedule for both their teaching license and Principal Credential. In some cases, Principal Credentials are renewed on a prorated schedule, depending on when the Credential was first issued in correlation to the teaching license. Along with a renewal application filled out on the ND Teach portal, below is the full renewal schedule for Principal Credentials in North Dakota:

Five-year renewal (most common)

8-semester credits earned
OR
6-semester credits earned AND verification of attendance a 6 education-based workshops or conferences

Four-year renewal

4-semester credits earned
OR
Verification of attendance at 6 education-based workshops or conferences
OR

3-semester credits earned AND verification of attendance at 4 education-based workshops or conferences

Three-year renewal 4-semester credits earned
OR
2-semester credits earned and verification of attendance at 2 education-based workshops or conferences
Two-year renewal

2-semester credits earned
OR
Verification of attendance at 2 education-based workshops or conferences
OR
1-semester credit earned AND verification of attendance at 1 education-based workshop or conference

One-year renewal (or less) Renewal application on ND Teach with no further credits or documentation required


For Principal Credential renewals, unofficial copies of transcripts are acceptable. Renewal documentation, including unofficial transcripts and conference verifications, can be sent to the Office of School Approval & Opportunity via email

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does an assistant principal or dean of students need a Principal Credential? 
A: No; there is nothing in the North Dakota Administrative Rules requiring an assistant principal or dean of students to hold a Principal Credential. This is left up to the hiring district to decide.

Q: If an individual has teaching experience at several grade levels (i.e., k-12) and applies for a Principal Credential, does this count as the three years of experience in both elementary and secondary levels?
A: Grades 5-8 can be counted as both elementary and secondary. So, if the years of experience include any combination in grades 5-8, yes, this counts as both elementary and secondary experience.

Q: Does a Doctorate degree or a Master’s degree in another education field other than Educational Leadership qualify for a Principal Credential?
A: If an individual earns a degree in any education-related area, another full Master’s degree in Educational Leadership is not required. However, the required coursework for the Principal Credential still needs to be completed. In addition, the applicant must have three years of experience at the appropriate grade level(s) for the credential(s) they are applying for.

Q: I am a new principal coming to North Dakota from another state. Do I need to take coursework in North Dakota to obtain a credential?
A: It depends. Individuals coming from out of state with a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership will be issued a credential without any additional coursework requirements. Three years of teaching or administrative experience is still required at the appropriate grade level.

Q: I currently have an Elementary Principal Credential, and I would like to add on a Secondary Principal Credential. Can I just apply because I am already a principal with a Master’s in Educational Leadership?
A: No. North Dakota Administrative Rules state that an applicant must have 3 years of experience at the grade level for which they are applying, and a completed internship course at that level.

Q: If an applicant has only 2 years’ experience in grade levels 5-12 and is asked to serve as a high school principal in addition to already serving as the elementary principal, can a provisional credential be issued?
A: No. North Dakota Administrative Rules are very specific on the requirement of 3 years of teaching experience. In this situation, the district must find a qualified principal at the appropriate grade levels, however, the applicant can serve as the assistant principal to gain experience.

Q: An applicant has completed a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership, has the elementary and secondary coursework (including internship), and is employed as an elementary principal. The school has become a K-12 school. The elementary principal is now asked to be the secondary principal as well, but only has experience at the elementary grade levels. Can a Provisional Secondary Principal Credential be issued?
A: No. Even though the required coursework in Educational Leadership is complete for both Elementary and Secondary Principal Credentials, the elementary principal still needs 3 years of experience at the secondary grade levels to be eligible for a Secondary Principal Credential.

Q: Are official transcripts required?
A: If you are applying for a credential for the first time, official copies are required. For all renewals, unofficial transcripts are acceptable, and can be submitted via email. 

Q: I already sent transcripts to the ESPB office for my teaching license renewal. Do I really need to send them again for my Principal Credential Renewal?
A: The teaching license renewal and the Principal Credential renewal are handled by separate entities. You can request ESPB forward a copy of your transcripts to NDDPI, or you can email an unofficial copy to NDDPI for faster processing. 

Q: How andemailwhen will I receive my Principal Credential?
A: Credentials will no longer be printed and mailed to you. Once you apply and are approved for a credential, you will receive an email with a letter of congratulations and a PDF of the certificate. The letter will announce the specific credential approved with the expiration date and directions and requirements to renew the credential. 

Q: I have a lifetime teaching license. Do I still need to renew my Principal Credential?
A: Yes. An individual who holds a lifetime North Dakota educator’s professional license must still renew their Principal Credential every five years.

Q: I just received my Initial Principal Credential, but my certificate shows it expires next year already. Why?
A: Level I Principal Credentials always follow the expiration date of the regular teaching license but for those who have a credential that has a shorter expiration period than five years, there is a prorated renewal requirement schedule.

Q: Now that I have a Principal Credential, do I still need to keep my regular teaching license current?
A: Yes, it is required for all North Dakota principals to hold a valid North Dakota teaching license.