Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

Principals manage the day-to-day operations of an elementary, middle, or high-school-level public or private school. Principals are typically responsible for the supervision of teachers and other school staff, such as counselors and librarians, for evaluating teacher effectiveness, disciplining students, managing the school’s resources, assessing progress toward local, state and federal standards and arranging professional development programs and mentorships for the teachers. Principals are also responsible for the safety of students and staff.

Principals serve as the public face of their school, and meet with superintendents, legislators, and members of the community as an advocate on behalf of the school. They are responsible for responding to concerns expressed by parents and members of the community. Good school principals have good communication, critical-thinking, decision-making, problem-solving, people and leadership skills. They are able to determine how and where their school needs to improve, and to motivate and inspire members of their school to work together to meet these goals.

Assistant Principals

Schools may have assistant or vice-principals as well who help the principal with administration, often taking the lead on student safety and discipline. They may be in charge of duties such as administering student activities, helping coordinate buses, and supervising building and grounds maintenance. Assistant principals may or may not directly interact with the students more than the principal.

Education Requirements

To become a school assistant principal or principal, a master's or doctoral degree in educational administration or leadership is generally required. These programs prepare the individual to lead other educators, prepare and manage budgets, work with parents and the community, and set goals and carry out plans to meet them. Most principals also have experience as teachers.


Most states require public school principals to be licensed as school administrators. To become licensed, states may require candidates to pass a test and take continuing education units to keep their license.


According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for elementary, middle, and high school principals in May 2010 was $86,970.


Assistant principals can advance to become a principal, and some principals become superintendents or instructional coordinators.