School Principal: Career Profile, Job Outlook, and Education Requirements

Research what it takes to become a school principal. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average salary and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Principal Licensure degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a School Principal?

A school principal is the chief administrators in primary and secondary schools. They hold authority over and bear ultimate responsibility for all aspects and operations of their school. They oversee the safety of students and teachers and supervise the coordination of all school activities. While public school teachers are required to be state-certified, private school principals are not subject to that stipulation. Principals may advance to become superintendents and have jurisdiction over an entire school system.

The following chart gives an overview of the career field.

Degree Required Graduate
Education Field of Study Education, education leadership, education administration
Key Responsibilities Hiring and evaluating teachers, budgeting, working with and disciplining students, working with the community
Licensure Required in public schools
Job Growth (2014-24) 6% (slower than average) for elementary and secondary school principals*
Median Salary (May 2015) $90,410 for elementary and secondary school administrators*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is the School Principal Career Profile?

School principals are employed in public and private schools at the primary and secondary levels. As a school principal, you manage all aspects of a school's operations, including staff hiring, teacher evaluation, budgeting, monitoring building repairs and fund-raising. Your duties are not limited to budgeting and faculty; you also work closely with the students and community. Other duties include disciplining students, enforcing rules, planning teacher workshops and community outreach programs, evaluating student progress and mediating teacher-student-parent issues.

You'll often work more than 40 hours per week - sometimes during evening and weekend hours. You'll also oversee summer school, so you won't have summers off as teachers do. You'll have to attend meetings after school hours with your superintendent and education boards to deal with budgeting, school matters and state regulations. The job can be very stressful because of the amount of responsibility you must shoulder.

What Should I Know about this Career?

This job includes a lot of responsibility, so teachers don't often seek promotion to this position. Job opportunities for primary and secondary school administrators were expected to grow at a rate of six percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. While the BLS projected student enrollment would increase during this time period, it also said that the school budget restrictions might slow growth in the field relative to enrollment.

In May 2015, the median income for school administrators at primary or secondary schools (including school principals) was $90,410 per year. The top five states for employment of principals and other school administrators were Texas, California, New York, Illinois and Ohio.

What Should I Study?

Some principals start out as teachers or school administrators who have earned at least a bachelor's degree. Public schools typically require principals to have completed a graduate degree program, such as a Master of Education or Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership or Education Administration.

As a public school principal, you must become licensed as a school administrator in your state and periodically complete continuing education courses to maintain your license. Since they aren't subject to government stipulation in the same ways, many private schools don't have specific post-baccalaureate degree or licensing requirements. You may also want to consider earning voluntary national board certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another important non-classroom position in a school is that of the instructional coordinator. Armed with a master's degree, an instructional coordinator works to develop and monitor the school curriculum and the standards of the instruction. They often act as the conduit between teachers and principals to facilitate efficient communication, which in turn helps to ensure teacher and student productivity and accomplishment.

The position of postsecondary education administrator is somewhat more specific than that of high school principal. Postsecondary administrators are generally in charge of a certain area in the operation of a college, such as student life, admissions or faculty research. Either a master's degree or Ph.D. is the preferred education qualification for this position.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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