Elementary and high school principals both fall under the heading of “education administrators.” These positions are management-level staff who oversee the day-to-day supervision of K-12 schools, including elementary, middle and high schools.
In virtually all school districts, principals are required to hold a master’s degree. This degree is often in administration, education, or specifically in education administration. Programs in education administration typically include courses in curriculum development, school law, personnel administration, and many other school-related management subjects.
One growing trend is for school districts to require that their principals and administrators hold a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Some positions might even require the candidate to hold a doctoral degree (Ph.D.). In addition, potential school principals must usually go through a state certification process to qualify for an administrative position.
Principals at all schools in the K-12 range share certain responsibilities and activities. Primarily they plan, direct, coordinate and oversee the academic, clerical, and supplementary activities of their school. Unlike teachers, principals work year-round engaging in establishing the educational activities and policies of their school. They set the educational standards and goals of the school and its teachers and students; establish school policies; oversee budgets, solicit funding and allocate funds; define the long-term direction of the school and its instructional methods and program content; oversee testing standards; hire and evaluate teachers and staff; meet with instructors and parents; and perhaps provide guidance to students. They might also oversee various school activities, including art and music programs, school counseling, food programs, and school medical and health clinics.
Individuals interested in a career as an elementary, middle or high school principal need to possess strong leadership and management skills. They must be able to communicate clearly, as they will deal regularly with staff, teachers, students, parents, school board members, and representatives of the community, among others. They must be organized and efficient; decisive, yet flexible, and patient. Most importantly, they should understand the value of education and enjoy working with people of all ages.
The U.S. Department of Labor projects that job opportunities in the field of education administration should be excellent during the next decade. Approximately 31,000 vacancies are expected to arise within this period.
Salaries of school principals are dependant on a number of factors, including the geographic location of the campus and the size of the school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, elementary and high school principals had an average salary of $74,190 in 2004. A survey of public schools conducted in 2005 by the Educational Research Service indicates that school principals earned salaries ranging from an average of about $74,000 in elementary schools to over $82,000 in high schools. Assistant or vice principals earned about $10,000-$15,000 less in the same locations.