Elementary, middle, and high school principals oversee all school operations, including daily school activities.
What they do
Elementary, middle and high school principals coordinate curriculums, manage staff, and provide a safe and productive learning environment for students.
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
- Develop, implement, and maintain curriculum standards
- Counsel and discipline students
- Observe teachers and evaluate their 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 direct the overall operation of schools. They set and oversee academic goals and ensure that teachers have the equipment and resources to meet those goals. Principals may establish and supervise additional programs in their school, such as counseling, extracurricular activities, and before- and after-school childcare.
In public schools, principals also implement standards and programs set by the school district, state, and federal regulations. They evaluate and prepare reports based on these standards by assessing student achievement and teacher performance at their school.
Principals serve as the public representative of their school. They listen to, and try to address, the concerns of parents and the community.
The duties of principals vary by the size of the school and district. In large schools and districts, principals may 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 also may have staff who help with hiring school personnel. In smaller school districts, principals may need to assume these and other duties themselves.
Many schools have assistant principals who help principals with school administration.
Principals typically assign specific duties to their assistant principals. In some school districts, assistant principals handle a subject area, such as literacy or math. Assistants may handle student safety, provide student academic counseling, or enforce disciplinary or attendance rules. They may also coordinate buses or supervise building and grounds maintenance.
Elementary, middle, and high school principals may find it rewarding to work with students. However, coordinating and interacting with faculty, parents, students, and community members may be demanding. Principals’ work is sometimes stressful because they are accountable for their school meeting state and federal standards for student performance and teacher qualification.
How to become a Elementary, Middle or High School Principal
Most schools require elementary, middle, and high school principals to have a master’s degree in education administration or leadership. Principals also need teaching experience.
Principals typically need a master’s degree in education leadership or education administration. These master’s degree programs teach prospective principals how to manage staff, create budgets, set goals, and work with parents and the community. To enter the master’s degree programs, candidates typically need a bachelor’s degree in education, school counseling, or a related field.
The median annual wage for elementary, middle, and high school principals was $96,400 in May 2019. 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 $63,070, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $148,630.
Employment of elementary, middle, and high school principals is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be affected by student enrollment and the number of educational institutions.
There are a limited number of principal positions available per school. If student enrollment increases, more schools will open, which could increase demand. Conversely, stagnant or decreasing student enrollment may reduce the demand for principals.
Employment growth of school principals will also depend on state and local budgets. Budget constraints may delay the building or opening of new schools.
Similar Job Titles
Athletic Director, Elementary Principal, High School Principal, Middle School Principal, Principal, School Administrator, School Superintendent, Special Education Director, Superintendent, Vice Principal, Elementary School Principal
Training and Development Manager, Education Administrator-Postsecondary, Social and Community Service Manager, Clergy, Instructional Coordinator
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Council on Education
- Association for Career and Technical Education
- Association for Middle Level Education
- Council for Exceptional Children
- Council of Administrators of Special Education
- International Literacy Association
- International Society for Technology in Education
- National Alliance of Black School Educators
- National Association of Elementary School Principals
- National Association of Secondary School Principals
Magazines and Publications
Principals have a challenging leadership position; not only do they oversee the work of all teachers in a school, they also have a critical responsibility to students, parents, community members, and government policymakers. Elementary, middle, and high school principals manage all school operations, including daily school activities, building maintenance, and food service. It’s their duty to provide a safe and productive learning environment and see that their school meets performance standards. Principals set academic goals and ensure that teachers have the equipment and resources to meet them. The duties of principals vary; in small schools or districts, principals take on all leadership roles, while in larger settings, they have help from other staff coordinating teacher assignments and schedules, hiring, and professional development for teaching staff. Many schools have assistant principals, who may handle aspects of school leadership such as student safety, academic counseling, or enforcing disciplinary and attendance rules. They may also coordinate buses or supervise building and grounds maintenance. Principals work in public and private elementary, middle, and high schools. Most principals work full time, year-round, and may work evenings and weekends at school functions or meetings with parents and community members. For most positions, principals need a master’s degree in education administration or leadership and several years of teaching experience.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org