School Administration, M.S.A.

Program Description


The M.S.A. program is a nationally recognized and accredited leadership preparation program that prepares individuals to lead schools and other educational organizations. Most MSA graduates move into leadership positions at a school site, while others assume influential roles within state, regional, or national organizations that focus on educational professional development, research, or policy-making. Completion of this program leads to eligibility for licensure as a K-12 Principal from the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction and qualifies one for principal licensure in most states.

There are two MSA strands that a student studying on campus may follow. The first course of study involves two years of full-time study. The second strand is a part-time strand that allows students to pursue on-campus study by enrolling in one or more courses per semester until his/her study is complete. Both strands integrate coursework and significant field-based activities in initial courses. Each strand requires that the student complete a full year leadership/school executive internship. Full-time students engage in a full-time, paid internship and internship seminar. Part-time students engage in an unpaid part-time internship and seminar.

The course of study is aligned with the UNC School of Education's conceptual framework; the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's Standards for School Executives; the 21st Century Skills standards; the Interstate Leaders Licensure Consortium standards; the Educational Leadership Constituent Council and National Professional Board for Educational Administration standards. The program is fully accredited by the National Council on Accreditation of Teacher Education and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. The program is fully authorized by the University of North Carolina system's General Administration.

The MSA program is housed within the Educational Leadership Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. US News & World Report ranks UNC’s Educational Leadership offerings in the top 10, or top 5%, of similar degree granting programs nationwide---the only ranked leadership program, whether public or private, in North Carolina. North Carolina’s school superintendents have consistently ranked UNC’s educational preparation programs #1 over the years. Recent revisions in the MSA program led the UNC system schools’ General Administration to commend the revisioned program for the innovative approach that it has taken to the preparation of school executives.

As the centerpiece of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Educational Leadership programs, the courses and field experiences of the M.S.A. reflect the stated mission of the Educational Leadership faculty.

As you explore the MSA program at UNC on these web pages, we invite you to contact us with any questions you may have. We also strongly encourage eligible candidates who plan full-time study to explore and apply for the NC Principal Fellows Program.


Prospective applicants in either strand must hold a B.A. or B.S. degree from an accredited college or university and provide official transcripts of all undergraduate study. An undergraduate GPA of 3.2 is desirable.

Full-time study must begin in the fall semester. Applications for fall admission open in August of the preceding year and close in March.

Part-time study may begin in either the fall or spring semester. Applications for fall admission open in August of the preceding year and close in March. Applications for spring admission are available in August and close in November.

Click here for Special Provisions for Teach for America applicants
With respect to the UNC-TFA partnership:
  1. The third year of required teaching is waived for purposes of program admission. Current TFA corps members in their second year of teaching are therefore eligible to apply to the MSA program.
  2. North Carolina requires three years of teaching in order to secure a Professional teaching license, and also requires that candidates for K-12 Principal licensure hold this license.
  3. TFA corps members who wish to enroll in the MSA program have several options if they apply to the MSA program during their second year of TFA service:
    • For those who wish to enroll in the full-time, on campus program: Request a DEFERRAL and complete a third year of teaching. The deferral reserves your spot in the MSA program for one year while you teach for a third year.
    • For those who wish to enroll in the off-campus (FLEX) program: This program begins in the spring semester. Students take three courses per semester for five semesters and are eligible for a full-time, paid internship in the final two semesters of the program. Students in this program continue to work full time. TFA corps members who wish to pursue this option are eligible to begin study in the spring following their second year of TFA service. During their enrollment, they continue to teach and therefore complete their third year of teaching while they are enrolled in the MSA program. Students are eligible for and recommended for Principal licensure upon successful completion of their MSA program.
    • For those who wish to enroll in the part-time, on campus program, TFA corps members may begin study in the fall immediately upon concluding their second year of teaching. Because they continue to teach while enrolled part-time, they earn their third year of teaching service while enrolled and are recommended for Principal licensure upon successful completion of their MSA program.

Most M.S.A. candidates do not have administrative experience, nor have they completed prior graduate study in educational administration. Admission is competitive. Successful applicants typically are currently employed, have a minimum of three years of school-based professional experience and possess a state license/certification.

Students are selected on the basis of their academic preparation, professional experience and intellectual and leadership potential. An interview may be required.