Junior High School Administrator Careers: Job Description & Salary

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What are the pros and cons of a career in junior high school administration? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a junior high school administrator is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Junior High School Administrator Career

Junior high school administrators oversee the schooling of early adolescents in middle grades, generally grades 5-8. Read about the pros and cons of this career to see if it is right for you.

PROS of Becoming a Junior High School Administrator
Median salary of all school administrators was $90,000 in 2014*
Wide-ranging responsibility for all of a school's resources and staff*
Satisfaction in guiding adolescents' academic and social development*
Daily variety and stimulation of working with students, faculty, parents, community members, policymakers and administrators*

CONS of Becoming a Junior High School Administrator
A master's degree is required
Licensure required to work in public schools*
Managing staff and students, coping with red tape and navigating budget constraints can be taxing*
Being held accountable for teacher and student performance can be stressful*
Principals work during summer breaks*

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

Career Information

Job Description

Junior high school administrators oversee cafeteria services and building maintenance; handle staffing and budgets; evaluate teachers' performance; monitor student behavior and enforce discipline; sift data to track the school's progress; and direct curriculum development. The administrator's goal is to make sure the school runs efficiently and provides a safe environment conducive to learning.

In small schools, there may only be a principal to serve as the administration. In larger schools and districts, principals may share responsibilities with assistant principals, instructional coordinators and other administrators. Principals in small schools have fewer staff to help them with administration, so they generally enjoy more flexibility. In larger schools and districts, school leaders tend to receive more directives from above.


There are well-established paths to promotion for successful administrators. Assistant principals can become principals, and principals can move up to district-level leadership, as a superintendent or instructional coordinator.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found in 2014 that elementary, middle and high school principals earned a median salary of $90,000. The top 10% earned more than $129,000 while the bottom 10% took home less than $59,000.

According to the BLS, job growth for school principals is slower than the national average, about 6% from 2012-2022. Employment is expected to grow faster in the South and West than in the Midwest or Northeast, following general trends in student enrollment.

What are the Requirements?


Junior high school administrators generally need to have a master's degree in education administration or leadership. Programs to earn these degrees typically take 1-2 years and include coursework and internships. They cover various aspects of school management, including statistical analysis, curriculum development, human resources, school finance and regulatory compliance. A bachelor's degree in education or a related field is a typical admissions requirement.


State certification is also necessary if you wish to be an administrator in a public school. Requirements vary by state, but generally include a degree in education administration as well as exams, internship hours or other criteria. Many master's degree programs are designed to fulfill state requirements so graduates can apply for licenses immediately. A growing number of states have alternative licensing options for those without a master's degree and with other relevant leadership experience. State licenses must be renewed every few years or so, a process that usually involves continuing education.

What Employers Are Looking for

School districts want administrators who have good planning skills and managerial acumen and can provide strong, proven leadership. Interpersonal skills are especially valuable. Employers want administrators who don't just give orders but can work cooperatively and motivate the various stakeholders in their schools. Here are some real job postings from March 2012:

  • An urban district in Iowa advertised for a middle school principal with a strong track record of boosting student performance. Requirements included demonstrated success in student achievement and team-building, extensive knowledge of curriculum and ability to obtain a state license as an administrator.
  • A suburban district in Wisconsin sought a principal for a middle school with more than 400 students and 63 staff. members Qualifications included teaching experience and a master's degree in education leadership or administration, with doctoral degree or coursework preferred.
  • In Kentucky, a county school system had an opening for a middle school principal with at least five years of teaching experience and three years of experience as an administrator, both at the secondary level. A master's degree and state certification as a middle or high school principal was also required.
  • A South Dakota school district was looking to hire an assistant middle school principal. Qualifications included a master's degree in education administration, a state teaching certificate and teaching experience, preferably at the junior high level. Candidates also need outstanding academic credentials with coursework in middle school education.

How to Stand Out

Studies by the National Association of Secondary School Principals have shown that junior high school principals who had coursework in middle-level education tend to be more successful. States typically certify administrators in grades K-12, and many master's degree programs are designed accordingly. It is a good idea to seek out classes, as well as internships, studies and workshops, focused on junior high school. In addition, consider getting in touch with the most successful middle school teachers and administrators in your area to seek their advice and learn about their experiences. Knowing the best practices for educating early adolescents can help set you apart as a job candidate and pave the way to later success.

Education reformers have been debating the most effective kinds of training for new principals in recent years. Is it a master's program, a doctoral program, teaching experience, lengthy internships or serving as a leader in another organization first? There is no one universally agreed-upon best combination among these preparatory paths, and it is a tall order to have them all on your c.v. But you should become familiar with the debate and relevant research so you can put the most informed spin on your own career path.

Alternative Careers

If you are an educator at heart with good management skills, but being responsible for hundreds of adolescents students sounds overwhelming, you could consider a career as a training and development manager. As overseers of on-the-job learning for adult workers, training and development managers have many of the same duties as school administrators. They supervise staff, devise and implement curriculum, choose educational materials and make sure their programs fit the goals and budget set by senior administration. While some jobs require a master's degree, most training and development managers need only a bachelor's and relevant work experience. Their median salary in 2011 was $89,000, and their projected job growth for 2010-2020 is 15%, according to the BLS.

If you think school administration of some kind may suit you, but you want more room to specialize, working at a college or university may be a good fit. Postsecondary administrators generally work in more defined areas than exist in K-12 administration, such as admissions, research, student records and student affairs. A master's degree is often required. Administrators at colleges, universities and trade and technical schools earned median salary of $84,000 in 2011, according to the BLS. Job growth is expected to be 19% for 2010-2020.

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