Public School Principal: Salary and Career Facts

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

What is a Public School Principal?

Public school principals oversee the operation of elementary and secondary schools. They supervise students and staff, maintain budgets, implement school policies and manage curricula. Some of their daily responsibilities may include observing teachers while they are giving lessons, dealing with discipline issues and meeting with students and parents. They may also organize professional development events for staff and hire new teachers. The following chart is an overview of this career.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Education administration, education leadership
Key Skills Leadership, conflict resolution, organizational skills
Licensure State licensure is required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (for all elementary, middle and high school principals)*
Median Salary (2015) $90,410 (for all elementary and secondary school education administrators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Will I Need for a Career as a Public School Principal?

You may want to start out as a teacher before becoming a public school principal. With experience and advanced education, you can become an assistant principal and eventually take on the role of principal, but you may also transition from teacher to principal. To begin, obtain a 4-year bachelor's degree in the subject you'd like to teach; for example, English, math or history. Teaching in public schools will require you to become licensed. You may earn licensure for the grades you want to teach, including early childhood, elementary, middle and secondary grades.

Most public schools prefer to hire principals who have a master's degree, so you'll want to enroll in a master's degree program in educational leadership or education administration. Both allow for an emphasis in principal certification. In an educational leadership program, you can take such classes as school ethics, leadership development, school finance and personnel administration. The curriculum in an education administration concentration includes courses in curriculum assessment, school business, governance and supervision. You'll most likely be required to complete a practicum for either degree program.

What Other Qualifications Will I Need to Fulfill?

To become a public school principal, you'll need to be licensed as a school administrator. Requirements vary according to the state you reside and work in. Typically, you'll need to have acquired a master's degree. You may also need to pass an exam to receive licensure, depending on the state.

Since a large part of the job involves interacting with students, faculty and other administrators, you may want to possess excellent communication skills. You can also benefit from having organizational skills, delegating work and motivating others. Computer proficiency will also help in accomplishing your daily job duties.

What Job Responsibilities Could I Expect to Have?

Some of your job duties will entail meeting with parents and staff members to discuss student performance and offering academic and personal guidance to students. You might give presentations and speeches and allocate funds for salaries and school equipment. Other responsibilities involve communicating by e-mail and telephone, evaluating teacher performance, hiring staff and setting academic standards. You'll also ensure that students adhere to disciplinary and attendance rules.

What Salary Can I Possibly Earn?

Salaries for public school principals vary according to category and geographic location. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in general, elementary and secondary school education administrators earned a median income of $90,410 per year in May 2015. Principals working in schools in the Northeast earned some of the highest salaries in the field, per the bureau. In 2015, principals in New Jersey schools were paid an average of $124,560, while those employed in Connecticut earned an average of $124,330.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in working with students in the classroom, you could choose to become an elementary or high school teacher instead. With a master's degree in educational leadership, you would also be able to teach at the postsecondary level, possibly at a community college or university. You could pursue a career as a school and career counselor as well. These professionals have a master's degree and work with students to develop social and academic skills for success in the classroom and the future.

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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