Principal Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a principal's job duties, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a career as a principal. Read on to learn more.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Principal

Principals in the public or private sector manage schools and direct their staff members and teachers. You can learn the pros and cons to being a principal by reading below.

PROS of Becoming a Principal
Income is above the national average (around $91,000 a year)*
Work provides benefit of helping students*
Options to work in the public and private sectors*
Career advancement opportunities, such as to superintendent*

CONS of Becoming a Principal
Many states require principals to be licensed*
Licensure may require a graduate degree*
Extended hours can be required to meet with parents*
State and local budgets can limit the number of jobs available per term*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Duties

On an everyday basis, principals ensure that librarians, school counselors, teachers and all other employees at a school are performing their job duties efficiently. If necessary, a principal can evaluate an employee's performance or offer them advice. As a principal, you want to ensure that your school's employees have the necessary resources to do their work. However, you have to ensure that the school remains within its given budget. Oftentimes, principals meet with students and parents if a problem arises at the school. You'll occasionally examine data and test scores related to the success of your school and see where improvements can be made. You'll implement these improvements as necessary to make sure that your school meets the required federal, state and local standards.

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2014 reported that elementary and secondary school education administrators made $91,000 or so on average annually. Principals who were in the top ten percent of wage estimates earned around $129,000 on average per year. Delaware, California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the top-paying states for principals.

Job Outlook

From 2012 to 2022, the BLS expects to see employment growth of 6% for principals. As the population grows and more students are enrolled in school, more principals may be needed. Overall, employment can be dependent on different regions as well. For example, student enrollment in the southern and western parts of the U.S. is expected to grow, while northeastern states show that enrollment is on the decline.

Occupational Requirements

Education, Licensing and Training

An educational administration or education leadership major as part of a master's degree program is the appropriate amount of education for principals in public schools, according to the BLS. To get into one of these programs, you would first need to get a bachelor's degree in school counseling, education or a similar major. Additionally, many states require principals to have a license. You'll need to pass a test and complete continuing education classes every so often in order to maintain your license. You might be able to find programs that help non-education majors become principals. Finally, you're not required to have a license if you work at a private school.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Prior work experience is always a plus to employers looking for principals. Communication, leadership and people skills are all highly desirable as well due to the nature of the career. In November 2012, several job advertisements were examined for qualities that employers were looking for in principals. You can read this information below and find out what real employers wanted in principals.

  • An opening in Pennsylvania calls for a principal that has strong leadership and proven organizational skills.
  • A school offering a high school principal job in California prefers applicants with a credential in handicapped learning.
  • In Louisiana, a principal with five years or more of experience in supervising a staff is needed at a school.
  • A New Jersey school is seeking a principal with knowledge of nutrition standards.

How to Stand Out as a Principal

Additional education beyond the minimum requirements is one way you can stand out as a principal. Achieving a doctorate demonstrates that you have additional knowledge and a strong commitment to educational administration. Strong thinking and problem-solving skills can help you, since schools may value an ability to discover and resolve problems efficiently. If you possess prior teaching experience, you might be able to better relate to teachers. This could help you stand apart from other applicants who don't have any teaching experience.

Other Occupational Options

If you want to work for an entire school district instead of just one school, you may want to look into becoming an instructional coordinator. In this occupation, you would oversee and determine the teaching standards and curriculum school districts should follow. Your overall goal is to ensure the quality of education at these school districts improves. Instructional coordinators earned an average income of about $62,000 according to the BLS in May 2011. This salary is lower than that for principals, but the BLS predicts 20% growth in employment from 2010 to 2020 for instructional coordinators - which is double the growth rate of principals.

If you want to work at the college level, you might want to look at becoming a postsecondary education administrator. Your work duties depend on what part of the university where you're employed. For example, you can work in student affairs, admissions or registration. You might also work as an academic dean to make policies for your department. The BLS projected from 2010 to 2020 that employment growth for postsecondary educational administrators is going to be 19%. Educational administrators at the postsecondary level made around $97,000 on average annually.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
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    2. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
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    3. American University

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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics
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    4. Grand Canyon University

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    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Higher Education Leadership
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership in - K-12 Leadership
      • EdS in K-12 Leadership
    Master's
      • M.Ed. in Educational Administration
      • M.Ed. in Educational Leadership
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
      • M.Ed. in Elementary Education
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Educational Studies (Does Not Lead to Teacher Licensure)
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Christian Education
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    5. Colorado Technical University

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    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Private Sector Higher Education Leadership
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    6. American InterContinental University

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    Master's
      • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Master of Education - Elementary Education
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    7. Saint John's University

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    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Literacy
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
      • Ph.D in Literacy: Literacy
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    8. Saint Joseph's University

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    Master's
      • MS in Organizational Development and Leadership
      • MS in Education - Special Education and Wilson Reading System Certification
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    9. Regent University

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    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Leadership Studies
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      • MA in Organizational Leadership - Higher Education - Student Services

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
  • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)

Which subject are you interested in?

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

American University

  • Master of Science in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
  • M.Ed. in Educational Administration
  • B.S. in Educational Studies (Does Not Lead to Teacher Licensure)

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Private Sector Higher Education Leadership

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American InterContinental University

  • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
  • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
  • Master of Education - Elementary Education

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Saint John's University

  • Ph.D. in Literacy
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Organizational Development and Leadership
  • MS in Education - Special Education and Wilson Reading System Certification

What is your highest level of education completed?