How to become a school principal
From training teachers to having heart-to-heart talks with students, principals are the people who keep schools running smoothly on a daily basis. Being the principal of a school is not a 9-to-3 job with summers off, however. These professionals work long hours, weekends and during the summer. They may also be expected to keep pace with the changing nature of education in our country through taking continuing education courses, attending conventions and more.
Some school districts are facing budgetary troubles, but even with this fact the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that there will be job growth for school principals, though it's not as fast as the average for all occupations. Elementary, middle and high school principals are expected to see about 6 percent growth nationally through 2022, which is not much more than half the 11 percent average for all jobs.
What are some of the responsibilities of a school principal?
Principals might have varying job responsibilities depending on whether they work in an elementary, middle or high school, but some tasks are part of the job regardless of the education level. These might include:
- Recruit, train and hire staff
- Observe teaching methods and materials
- Meet with parents to discuss the behavioral problems of particular students
- Help with establishing personal development opportunities for teachers in the school
- Interact with the student body of their school
- Set school standards and develop methods to achieve them
What are the educational requirements for becoming a principal?
Initially, the path to becoming a school principal can be very similar to becoming a teacher. Some of the first steps might include:
- Earning a bachelor's degree in the subject you wish to teach or earning a bachelor's degree in education or school counseling. These degrees are often offered online, from sponsored schools such as: University of Phoenix, Colorado Technical University and Post University.
- Earning a teaching certificate
- Completing student teaching hours under the supervision of a master teacher
- Earning a teaching license and pass state exams
- Gaining 1-5 years of experience as an educator
At that point, teachers who want to become principals might pursue the following steps:
- Earn a master's degree in education, education leadership, or educational administration
- Complete a school administrator licensing program
However, these requirements may vary by state. Please consult your state board of education for specific information or visit Teach.org, the Department of Education's website for educators.
How much can school principals make?
The BLS reports that the annual mean wage for school principals was $90,670 in 2013. The following five states had the highest annual mean wage for the same period:
- New Jersey: $124,040
- Connecticut: $117,420
- New York: $111,790
- Delaware: $108,180
- Maryland: $103,640
If you are interested in pursuing a career as a principal, explore degrees in education administration, teaching and education leadership from these sponsored schools:
Colorado Technical University Degrees include: Teaching, Education Leadership
University of Phoenix Degrees include: Education Leadership, Teaching, Education Administration
Post University Degrees include: Teaching
To find out more about working in the educational field and for a complete list of sources, check out the infographic found below.
Summary report for Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School, O*Net OnLine,
Occupational Employment and Wages: Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Elementary, Middle and High School Principals, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,