How to Become a School Principal
School Principal Careers & Degrees

When you become a school principal, you are responsible for the management of an elementary, middle, or high school and oversee many aspects of school life.

They supervise staff, as well as students, and solve problems when things go wrong, formulate school policies, mission statements, school goals, and also regularly measure progress to see if these goals are being met.

To become a school principal, you’ll need to be passionate about education.

This is a very challenging role that holds a lot of responsibility, and is also a position where you can make a real different to the lives of your students.

Educational Requirements to Become a School Principal

To become a school principal, you’ll need to first become a school teacher by attaining a four year bachelors degree.

Your major or specialization should be within the field you wish to teach, for instance English or science.

During your sophomore year you will be able to choose an educational specialty which will qualify you to teach.

This specialty includes the teaching methodology as well as supervised practice that is required to start teaching.

In all states you are required to be licensed to work as a school teacher in a public school, however private schools keep their own requirements.

Every state has a different requirement for licensure, and you can view specific state requirements at the NCATE website.

You will need to have several years experience as a teacher to be considered in a role as a principal.

In most cases, a masters or doctorate in education is also required to become a principal.

What many do is work full-time as a teacher, and then study part-time to work towards these postgraduate qualifications.

School Principal Job Description

When you become a school principal, you must oversee a wide range of functions; however the first responsibility you have is the welfare of your students.

A principal must make sure that students have access to a safe environment where they can learn and be their best.

They must also ensure there are adequate support services available.

A school principal also supervises teaching and administrative staff.

They recruit and interview new teachers, and provide training.

They set key performance indicators and regularly review these with staff, and also work to make sure that staff are happy and well looked after.

The school principal is responsible for writing a mission statement for a school, as well as a list of goals.

They work to achieve these goals through planning and designing protocol and policy.

School principals often work overtime, and may work as much as 50 or 60 hours a week.

While there are many tasks around a school that must be attended to, there is also a lot of paperwork that can keep you very busy.

Here are some of the responsibilities of a school principal:

  • Supervising staff
  • Formulating school policies
  • Recruitment and training
  • Health and safety
  • Recording progress of staff
  • Disciplining students

School Principal Salary and Career Path

School principals begin their education career as teachers.

If you want to become a school principal, you should expect to spend many years gaining experience in this role.

Most will be promoted to leading teachers, then assistant principals, before gaining the role of school principal.

The life of a principal is never quiet, they spend their days developing the interest of the school and also solving problems that occur along the way.

Some school principals go on to become heads of educational institutions, while some may move on to be principals at larger institutions.

Most principals stay within this role throughout their careers.

The salary of a school principal ranges from $75,000 to $97,000.

Those in high schools will generally earn more than those working in elementary schools.

The employment of school principals is expected to increase by 8%, which is a consistent level of growth.

Some similar roles to that of school principal include:

  • Educational administrator
  • High school teacher
  • Elementary school teacher
  • Counselors

Working as a school principal is definitely a very challenging role.

You will need to be strong in interpersonal skills as well as in administration.

When you become a school principal, you do have the chance to make a difference to the education of many students, which is the part of the job that many find so rewarding.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$110,290
New Hampshire$65,570
New Jersey$103,350
New Mexico$70,020
New York$111,910
North Carolina$82,100
North Dakota$72,250
Rhode Island$92,000
South Carolina$80,280
South Dakota$73,450
West Virginia$85,210
Puerto Rico$95,380

The top earning state in the field is New York, where the average salary is $111,910.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New York - $111,910
District of Columbia - $110,290
Delaware - $108,300
Virginia - $107,380
Maryland - $106,230
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Education Administrators, OCC Code 11-9039, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a school principal do?

A school principal can sometimes be referred to as the ‘headmaster’.

The main aim of a school principal is to supervise all teachers and students and manage the most important administrative tasks.

In a nutshell, a school principal is the leader of the community within a school.

The typical responsibilities of a school principal usually include communicating with faculty and parents; hiring staff; planning academic calendars; creating policies; disciplining students; handling admissions into the school; handling the school’s budget; maintaining secure funding, and so on.

School principals can work in high, middle and elementary schools; the professionals usually have their own office and a secretary.

QuestionHow much do school principals make?

On average, a school principal can make a little more than $95.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $61.500 and $145.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the school you work for, the location and so on.

School principals that work in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level school principal can earn around $30 per hour, while a top-level specialist with plenty of experience can make $70 and more per hour.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a school principal?

You would certainly need a bachelor’s degree in education or a specific field in order to become a school principal (usually, principals begin their careers as teachers).

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more).

To improve job perspectives, you can go for a master’s degree (over $30.000).

You must be certified to be able to teach in schools; the cost of teacher certification can vary from state to state, so be prepared to pay anywhere between $40 and $200.

An aspiring school principal might be required to have a school administrator license (the requirements and costs vary by state).

QuestionWhat is the demand for school principals?

Between 2016 and 2026, the school principal job market is expected to grow by 7.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is pretty much the same as the average growth of all occupations in the United States.

The industry is mainly concentrated in California, New York, and Texas.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a school principal?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree and 1-2 years to earn a master’s degree.

You would have to complete a student teaching internship that typically lasts for a year.

To become a certified teacher, you would be required to have at least a bachelor’s degree, complete an approved teacher education program, pass a background check and knowledge and skills tests.

To apply for the principal certification, you would need to possess at least 3 years of teaching experience.

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