Wisconsin Idea Principal Preparation Program

Be an equity leader

The Wisconsin Idea Principal Preparation Program is an online master’s degree for educators dedicated to equity and justice for all children. It’s designed for those who aspire to be leaders and make a difference.

How the program works

In the Wisconsin Idea Principal Preparation program, you will learn with a cohort of peers from leading scholars in the field over a period of 15 months. Academic year courses meet online five weekends (Friday evenings and Saturdays) each semester, and summer courses are delivered during designated online sessions spread throughout the summer months. 

Upon successful completion, you earn a master’s degree and are eligible to apply for the Wisconsin principal license (WI 5051). You may choose to pursue additional coursework required for the Director of Instruction (WI 5010) (2 courses) and/or Director of Special Education and Pupil Services (WI 5080) (2 courses).

Educators from across the state and country now have access to this highly ranked online leadership program within the School of Education. Leadership matters and K-12 education needs educational leaders whose focus is on creating more equitable opportunities for students to thrive.

Now accepting applications for the 2024 cohort


Degree at a Glance


Online (for information about the in-person program click here)

Program Type

Master’s Degree


15 months


30 graduate Credits


$800.00 per credit

Application Deadline

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis until the cohort reaches capacity. The final deadline for applying is April 15 for a summer start.

Degree Conferred

Master of Science in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis

Program Page in the UW Guide


UW–Madison No. 5 in U.S. News’ ranking of Best Online Master’s in Educational Administration and Supervision Programs

U.S. News and World Report on Feb. 7 put out its annual ratings of Best Online Programs, and UW–Madison’s School of Education is ranked fifth in the category of Best Online Master’s in Educational Administration and Supervision.

UW–Madison No. 2 in U.S. News’ ranking of Best Online Master’s in Education Programs for Veterans

U.S. News and World Report on Feb. 7 released its annual rankings of Best Online Programs, and UW–Madison’s School of Education is No. 2 in the category of Best Online Master’s in Education Programs for Veterans.

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Why choose this master’s degree

Equity focused. You will develop an equity toolkit to ensure that schools follow equitable practices and work toward eliminating inequities.

Informed by research. Benefit from the transformative research being done by UW–Madison experts to address contemporary challenges in our education system.

Embedded in practice. Engage in application-focused coursework. Courses thoughtfully build on each other, with opportunities to apply your knowledge as you learn.

Leading for change. Build a cycle of equity-focused continuous improvement. Learn how to mentor and empower passionate teachers to bring lasting change to our education system.

Program Schedule

Year One Courses


3 courses/9 credits

847 Instructional Leadership and Teacher Capacity
735 Leadership for Equity and Diversity
832 Resource Allocation for Equity and Social Justice

5 weekends (Fri/Sat)/7 credits 

863 Race, Class, and Educational Inequality
845 School Level Leadership
900 Field Experience in Educational Leadership

Spring Year 1 
5 weekends (Fri/Sat)/8 credits 

840 Public School Law
770 Community, Opportunity, and Justice
900 Field Experience in Educational Leadership

Year Two Courses


2 courses/6 credits

703 Evaluation and Supporting Quality Classroom Teaching
844 Technology & School Leadership

OPTIONAL Fall Year 2 

Students may also enroll in additional coursework for the Director of Instruction (2 courses) and/or Director of Special Education and Pupil Services (2 courses). 


Frequently Asked Questions

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Where are the classes held?

Beginning in 2022, all academic courses in the Wisconsin Idea Principal Preparation program are delivered in an online format.

How much is the Tuition?

All courses are three credits with the exception of the practicums. Course information is outlined in the above program schedule. Tuition is $800 per credit. To learn more, visit the tuition and fees section of the Bursar’s Office. If you have further questions about tuition, email tuition@bussvc.wisc.edu.

Is funding available?

Department funding is unavailable for this program. However, we understand that paying for college can be a daunting task. Here are some options to consider as you plan your finances for graduate school. 

  • Student Loans: With low-interest rates, the Federal Direct Unsubsidized loan is the most common loan in many financial aid packages, but it may not cover all of your master’s degree expenses. Your next best loan option will be the Federal GradPLUS loan, which is approved based on your credit and can fill the gap between your other financial aid and your total cost. Private loans can be used to fill the gap as well, but they have fewer safeguards than the federal GradPLUS loan. When shopping for private loans compare interest rates, repayment terms, as well as lender incentives. The Office of Student Financial Aid has a loan comparison link for private loans on its website, here.
  • Scholarships and Grants: Explore the Wisconsin Scholarship Hub to see if you qualify for any graduate student scholarship or grant opportunities. 
  • Claim Tax Credits: Some graduate students can trim $2,000 from their tax bill every year with the Lifetime Learning Credit. Check the IRS website to see if you qualify
  • Student Loan Forgiveness: You may be eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness or Public Service Loan Forgiveness depending on your employer and job title. 

Explore all education financing options through the Office of Student Financial Aid

When will I be eligible for an administrative license?

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) requires six semesters of successful full-time classroom teaching experience, or six semesters of successful experience as a pupil services professional including 540 hours of classroom teaching experience, to be eligible for an administrative license. You can learn more about the requirements here

What are the admission requirements?

In addition to the minimum graduate school requirements, applicants must hold or be eligible for a teaching license and are required to upload the following items to the application. (see guide)

  • An essay statement (not to exceed two pages) that addresses the following: 
    • Describe evidence in your educational practice of your commitment to addressing equity/social justice issues and a desire to lead with a focus on eliminating inequities.
    • Describe evidence of your instructional excellence with a range of diverse learners.
    • Describe evidence of leadership excellence related to equity and diversity.
    • Is there anything else you would like us to know about why you would be an excellent candidate for this program on social justice?
  • Unofficial transcripts. Official transcripts will be requested prior to Graduate School admission.
  • Resume or CV
  • Three letters of recommendation. We require recommendations from three (3) people who are qualified to evaluate the academic and professional competence of the applicant. When completing the online application, submit names and emails of those requesting recommendation from.
  • Supporting document if undergraduate GPA is below 3.00. In statement, explain why GPA does not accurately reflect high potential to serve in leadership roles.

How do I apply?

The program application is completed online via the Graduate School. You can learn more about specific steps, timelines, and other related information here. Attend one of our “application assistance” webinars for live Q&A and application assistance. 

How can I add the director of instruction and/or the director of special education and pupil services certifications?

If someone does not hold a principal license, all courses required for principal certification plus the two courses per additional certification are required (860 & 875 for the director of instruction and 835 & 842 for the director of special education and pupil services). If seeking any of these licenses as an initial administrative license, a 150-hour field experience is required.

If someone currently holds a principal license, adding any of these licenses requires the completion of two additional courses plus a 75-hour field experience.

You can find further information in this link.

Contact Information

For program and curriculum information, contact:
Tina Salzman, Ph.D.
Program Director 

To inquire about admission, contact:
Shari Smith
Senior Student Services Coordinator