Elementary Principal: Career Profile

Sep 13, 2019

Elementary principals must have significant formal education. Learn about the degree, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Elementary school principals oversee all school operations and activities. This involves coordinating curricula and managing administrators and teachers. A master's degree, licensing, and teaching credentials are usually required.

Essential Information

Elementary principals monitor and support teachers and oversee budgets and administrative tasks within an elementary school. Most elementary principals have earned at least a master's degree. However, some private schools may employ professionals with a bachelor's. A state-issued license or certification is also commonly required. Elementary principals also usually have experience teaching and teaching credentials. They are also sometimes required to complete a training program.

Required Education Master's usually required
Other Requirements State-issued license, teaching experience and credentials typically required, training may be necessary
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 4% (elementary, middle, and high school principals)
Median Salary (2018)* $95,310 (education administrators, elementary and secondary school)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Elementary Principal Job Duties

Elementary principals oversee all activities at public and private elementary schools. They support and motivate teachers to provide students with a standard level of education. Working with district administrators, elementary school principals discuss changes in policy and educational goals. Principals also listen to parent concerns and talk directly with students.

Principals draft and implement school policies, hire new workers, set learning goals and coordinate with teachers. They compile and review reports about student retention, test scores and school spending habits. Most principals also assess teachers by sitting in classes and watching their interactions with students. Principals often have teaching backgrounds themselves.

Educational Requirements

Most school districts require public school principal applicants to hold a graduate degree, such as a master's degree in educational leadership or education administration. Graduate-level coursework includes curriculum organization, assessment and development. It also covers public school law, personnel management, educational policies and academic budgeting. Private school principals may only need a bachelor's degree, but this varies by hiring institution.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that most states require elementary principals working at public schools to complete the education administrator licensing process ( Some states don't have licensing programs and instead have similar administrative certification programs. Although each state has different eligibility requirements, most states require applicants to have previous teaching experience, which often requires completion of a bachelor's degree program and teacher training credential program. Most school districts also require applicants to hold a graduate degree, and some states require applicants to complete additional educational administrator training programs.

Upon completing the licensing or certification program, some workers may have to go through a mentor program that provides specific hands-on training unique to each elementary school or district. The license and certification renewal process usually involves participation in continued education coursework. Private schools may not require principals to participate in state licensing or certification programs.

Elementary Principal Employment Outlook and Salary

The BLS projected that from 2018-2028, open positions for elementary, middle and high school principals would increase by 4%. However, the BLS also reported that economic crises affect state budgets; if state educational budgets are reduced, there's less money to fund new positions for elementary principals. Education administrators working in elementary and secondary schools earned a median annual wage of $95,310, as of May 2018.

Elementary school principals work with teachers, students, parents, and school administrators to create the best possible learning environment. Their broad responsibilities include setting academic goals, implementing policies, and monitoring the school's performance. Elementary school principles usually have a master's degree, licensing, and teaching credentials.

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