Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

Summary

elementary middle and high school principals image
Elementary, middle, and high school principals manage the day-to-day operations of schools.
Quick Facts: Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
2012 Median Pay $87,760 per year
Entry-Level Education Master’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation 5 years or more
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 231,500
Job Outlook, 2012-22 6% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 13,100

What Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals Do

Elementary, middle, and high school principals are responsible for managing all school operations. They manage daily school activities, coordinate curricula, and oversee teachers and other school staff to provide a safe and productive learning environment for students.

Work Environment

Principals work in public and private elementary, middle, and high schools. Most principals work year round.

How to Become an Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal

Principals typically need a master’s degree in education administration or leadership. Most principal positions require candidates to have work experience as a teacher.

Pay

The median annual wage for elementary, middle, and high school principals was $87,760 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of elementary, middle, and high school principals is projected to grow 6 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by increases in school enrollments.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of elementary, middle, and high school principals with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about elementary, middle, and high school principals by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals Do About this section

Elementary, middle, and high school principals
Principals serve as the public face of the school and meet with superintendents, legislators, and members of the community.

Elementary, middle, and high school principals are responsible for managing all school operations. They manage daily school activities, coordinate curricula, and oversee teachers and other school staff to provide a safe and productive learning environment for students.

Duties

Elementary, middle, and high school principals typically do the following:

  • Manage school activities and staff, including teachers and support personnel
  • Establish and oversee class schedules
  • Counsel and discipline students
  • Mentor teachers in managing students’ behavior
  • Evaluate teachers’ performance
  • Meet with parents and teachers to discuss students’ progress and behavior
  • Assess and prepare reports on test scores and other student achievement data
  • Organize professional development programs and workshops for staff
  • Manage the school’s budget, order school supplies, and schedule maintenance
  • Establish and coordinate security procedures for students, staff, and visitors

Elementary, middle, and high school principals manage the overall operation of schools, including building maintenance and cafeteria services. They set and oversee academic goals and ensure that teachers have the equipment and resources necessary to meet these goals. In public schools, principals also implement standards and programs set by a school district, state, or federal regulations. They evaluate and prepare reports on their school performance based on these standards by assessing student achievement and teacher performance. Principals may establish and oversee additional programs in their school, such as counseling, special education programs, and before- and after-school child care programs.

Principals serve as the public face of their school. They meet with superintendents, legislators, and members of the community to request or explain funding for their schools. They also address the concerns of parents and members of the community.

The duties of principals vary by the size of the school and district. In larger schools and districts, principals have additional resources and staff to help them achieve goals. For example, large school districts often have instructional coordinators who help with data analysis and with teachers’ professional development. Principals in small school districts may need to assume these and other duties themselves. In addition, they may be required to oversee the hiring process of all staff in their school, including teachers, custodians, and cafeteria workers. In larger districts, staff may perform some of these duties.

Many schools have assistant principals that help principals with school administration. Principals typically assign specific administrative duties to their assistants. In some school districts, assistant principals are hired to handle a specific subject area, such as literacy or math. Assistant principals may be assigned to handle student safety and discipline. They provide student academic counseling and enforce disciplinary or attendance rules. Assistant principals may also coordinate buses or supervise building and grounds maintenance.

Work Environment About this section

Elementary, middle, and high school principals
Principals meet with parents and teachers to discuss students’ progress.

Elementary, middle, and high school principals held about 231,500 jobs in 2012.

Principals work in public or private elementary, middle, and high schools. Some work in public magnet and charter schools. Others work in private religious and secular schools.

Elementary, middle, and high school principals hold leadership positions with significant responsibility. Working with students may be rewarding. However, coordinating and interacting with faculty, parents, students, community members, and state and local policymakers can be demanding. Principals’ work can sometimes be stressful because they are accountable for schools meeting state and federal standards for student performance and teacher qualification.

Work Schedules

Principals typically work full time. They may work in the evening to meet parents and other members of the community and to attend school functions, such as concerts and athletic events.

Many principals work year-round and do not have summers off, even if students are not in school. During the summer, principals prepare for the upcoming school year, schedule building maintenance, order school supplies, or hire teachers and staff.

How to Become an Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal About this section

Elementary, middle, and high school principals
Master’s degree programs in education administration prepare students to lead teachers and other staff.

Most schools require elementary, middle, and high school principals to have a master’s degree in education administration or leadership. Most principals also have work experience as teachers.

Education

Principals typically need a master’s degree in education leadership or education administration. These master’s degree programs prepare future principals to manage teachers and staff, prepare and manage budgets, set goals, and work with parents and the community.

To enter these programs, candidates typically need a bachelor’s degree in education, school counseling, or a related field.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Candidates for the position of principal usually need work experience as a teacher. For more information on how to become a teacher, see the profiles on kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states require public school principals to be licensed as school administrators. Licensure requirements vary from state to state, but most require a master’s degree. In addition, some require candidates to pass a test and take continuing education classes to maintain their license. Working with a mentor may be required, as well. Some states have alternative programs for candidates who do not have a degree in education administration or leadership. Most states require principals to pass a background check as part of their certification.

Principals in private schools are not required to have a state-issued license.

Advancement

An assistant principal can advance to become a principal. Some principals advance to become superintendents, which may require completion of additional education. Others become instructional coordinators.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Principals must communicate effectively with students, teachers, and parents. For example, when dealing with student disciplinary or academic issues, they consult with and listen to parents and teachers to understand the problem.

Critical-thinking skills. Principals analyze student test results and testing procedures to determine any improvements to help students achieve better results.

Decision-making skills. Because principals are responsible for students, staff members, and the overall operation of the school, they consider many factors when making decisions. For example, they consider the safety of students and staff when making a recommendation to close a school before a snowstorm.

Interpersonal skills. Because principals work with teachers, parents, and superintendants, they must be able to develop positive working relationships with them.

Leadership skills. Principals set educational goals and establish policies and procedures for the school. They need to be able to motivate teachers and other staff to achieve set goals.

Problem-solving skills. Teachers, students, and other staff members report problems to the principal. Principals need to be able to analyze problems, and develop and implement solutions.

Pay About this section

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

Median annual wages, May 2012

Management occupations

$93,910

Elementary, middle, and high school principals

$87,760

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for elementary, middle, and high school principals was $87,760 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $58,530, and the top 10 percent earned more than $130,810.

Principals typically work full time. They may work in the evening to meet parents and other members of the community and to attend school functions, such as concerts and athletic events.

Principals work year-round and do not have summers off, even if students are not in school. During the summer, principals prepare for the upcoming school year, schedule building maintenance, order school supplies, or hire teachers and staff.

Job Outlook About this section

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Management occupations

7%

Elementary, middle, and high school principals

6%

 

Employment of elementary, middle, and high school principals is projected to grow 6 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by increases in school enrollments.

From 2012 to 2022, the number of students enrolled in schools is projected to increase. Some additional schools may open to accommodate these students, resulting in a need for assistant principals and principals.

However, despite expected increases in enrollment, employment growth of school principals will depend on state and local budgets. Budget deficits may delay the building or opening of new schools. In addition, some school districts plan to consolidate and close some schools within their districts, thereby limiting employment growth.                               

Job Prospects

Job opportunities will vary by region of the country. Because population and student enrollments are projected to grow faster in the South and West, job opportunities for principals may be better in those parts of the country. In the Midwest, enrollment is expected to remain steady, and enrollment in the Northeast is expected to decline.

Employment projections data for elementary, middle, and high school principals, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Education administrators, elementary and secondary school

11-9032 231,500 244,700 6 13,100 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of elementary, middle, and high school principals.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Career and technical education teachers

Career and Technical Education Teachers

Career and technical education teachers instruct students in various technical and vocational subjects, such as auto repair, healthcare, and culinary arts. They teach academic and technical content to provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to enter an occupation.

Bachelor’s degree $51,910
High school teachers

High School Teachers

High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor’s degree $55,050
Instructional coordinators

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators oversee school curriculums and teaching standards. They develop instructional material, coordinate its implementation with teachers and principals, and assess its effectiveness.

Master’s degree $60,050
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers prepare younger students for future schooling by teaching them basic subjects such as math and reading.

Bachelor’s degree $53,090
Librarians

Librarians

Librarians help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use. Their job duties may change based on the type of library they work in, such as public, school, and medical libraries.

Master’s degree $55,370
Middle school teachers

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.

Bachelor’s degree $53,430
Postsecondary education administrators

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Postsecondary education administrators oversee student services, academics, and faculty research at colleges and universities. Their job duties vary depending on the area of the college they manage, such as admissions, student life, or the office of the registrar.

Master’s degree $86,490
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

See How to Become One $68,970
Preschool and childcare center directors

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

Preschool and childcare center directors direct and lead staffs, oversee daily activities, and prepare plans and budgets. They are responsible for all aspects of their center’s program.

Bachelor’s degree $43,950
Preschool teachers

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers educate and care for children, usually ages 3 to 5, who have not yet entered kindergarten. They teach reading, writing, science, and other subjects in a way that young children can understand.

Associate’s degree $27,130
School and Career Counselors

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help students develop social skills and succeed in school. Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions, by helping them choose a career or educational program.

Master’s degree $53,610
Special education teachers

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Bachelor’s degree $55,060
Teacher assistants

Teacher Assistants

Teacher assistants work under a teacher’s supervision to give students additional attention and instruction.

Some college, no degree $23,640
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm (visited September 01, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014