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Master's Programs

School Leadership

America needs transformative school leaders. In the School Leadership Program (SLP), you will join a dynamic and diverse cohort of experienced teachers and education professionals ready to develop and hone their leadership knowledge, practice, and skills. SLP provides an exciting learning experience that combines rigorous academic work with a practice-based internship. This combination of research, theory and practice prepares students to lead schools and organizations, to lead people and to lead learning.

Within SLP, you may choose between the Principal Licensure Strand, which prepares you to earn a license to serve as a principal, and the School Development Strand which prepares you to lead nonprofit, for-profit, philanthropic and other educational organizations, or to launch your own school or educational enterprise.

Faculty Director Mary Grassa O’Neill on SLP:

Message from the Director

Welcome to the School Leadership Program where we learn to change the world.

In an age of burgeoning innovation and research, challenging inequities and changing policies, the role of leadership is more vital than ever. In Harvard’s School Leadership Program, you’ll engage in an ecosystem of learning experiences that will enable you to effectively lead schools, organizations, people and learning.

Our enthusiasm for leadership is demonstrated through an academically exhilarating program with a focus on research-based practice. You will develop critical leadership skills to make a real difference in the lives of students, families, teachers and other stakeholders. You will develop the knowledge and skills to lead change for improved results by harnessing the full potential of faculty, staff, students, and families.

You will engage in invigorating work and lively conversations with distinguished faculty, a diverse group of talented, thoughtful and accomplished students and other educators in this cohort-based program. In addition, you’ll develop real-world skills and experiences during two 250-hour internships where you will work with talented educational leaders as you learn to implement best practices. You will be prepared for professional and personal growth and advancement.

Permeating the program will be a focus on race, equity, and excellence.

If you want to change the world through equitable and excellent education for all, then Harvard Graduate School of Education's School Leadership Program is the place to learn how to make it happen.

Mary Grassa O'Neill, Ed.D
Faculty Director, School Leadership Program
Senior Lecturer on Education

Program Highlights

The School Leadership Program is divided into two strands: Principal Licensure and School Development.

The Principal Licensure Strand is for those students interested in earning a license to serve as a principal. After completion of the Principal Licensure Strand requirements students earn a Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Principal License.

The School Development Strand is for those students interested in leading nonprofit, for-profit or philanthropic organizations, independent and faith-based schools, and for those who want to launch their own schools or educational organizations.


Curriculum Requirements 

Course information reflects the 2017-2018 academic year and is subject to change.

Principal Licensure Strand - 32 credits

School Development Strand - 32 credits

Sample Electives include:

View all courses in the Academic Catalogue.


Treasure the opportunity to work with outstanding leaders in two different semester-long internships at a district, charter, pilot, faith based or independent schoos or at  an educational organization in the Greater Boston area. 

Cross Registration

Students can opt to cross-register for a course outside of HGSE. Learn more about course offerings at other Harvard schools, including:


SLP faculty members are experienced teachers, influential researchers, and passionate education reformers who are dedicated to developing the next generation of transformative school leaders. The SLP faculty includes experts in organizational behavior, networks and partnerships, and school and district improvement. They are former very successful school principals, superintendents, researchers, and philanthropists exploring the best methods for developing effective school practices, and scholars who are pioneering new ways to improve instruction and student outcomes.


SLP students are experienced educators with a minimum of three to four years as teachers, leaders, or in other roles. Students come from traditional public schools, charters, independent and faith based schools. Most have taken on leadership roles as teacher leaders, department heads, community based leaders and have been involved in school-wide initiatives such as curriculum development, professional development, and inclusive education. The majority of SLP students see themselves working as principals or other educational leadership roles in schools or organizations — many in high-need districts. Others aspire to launch their own start-up schools and organizations. All SLP students share a desire to be influential agents of change, turning around underperforming institutions and making already good schools and organizations even better.


Sample Careers of Recent SLP Graduates

  • Head of School, charter high school, San Francisco
  • Principal, charter K–12 international school, Salt Lake City
  • Principal, district elementary school, Boston
  • Founder and School Leader, charter middle and high school, Honolulu
  • Dean of Lower School, Chicago
  • Director of Education and Leadership of an Arts Society, Washington, DC
  • Director of Program Resource and Development for Children’s Social Growth, San Francisco
  • Leadership Development Director at a Philanthropic Organization, Dallas

If you are ready to be a transformative agent of change in American schools, we want to hear your story. Visit HGSE admissions to learn more about Ed.M. application requirements and deadlines, and to get information about financial aid. Please note that you must choose between the Principal Licensure strand or the School Development strand on your application. Applications are due in January of the academic year you plan to enroll.


If you have questions about the admissions process or want to learn more about the School Leadership Program, please contact the Office of Admissions at If you have specific questions about program requirements or experience, please contact program administrator Abbie Bloom at or 617-496-4816.