High School Principal: Job Description and Career Information

Mar 28, 2019

High school principals fill important administrative roles in secondary schools and usually hold a master's degree or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in education or educational administration. Continue reading to learn more about job duties, education requirements, employment outlook and salaries for high school principals.

Career Definition of a High School Principal

High school principals supervise and facilitate the daily operations of private or public high schools. Their duties include working with other school district and state education officials, establishing and implementing academic goals and curricula and allocating financial resources. High school principals may also attend outside-of-school events, meet with parents or oversee disciplinary activities, which can extend their work weeks well beyond 40 hours. They may be assisted in their duties by assistant principals and other support staff who help them achieve their goals.

Education Master's or doctoral degree in an education-related field
Job Skills Strong leadership, time management, decision-making, interpersonal and communication skills
Average Salary (2017)* $97,440 (all elementary and secondary education administrators)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 8% increase (all elementary, middle and high school principals)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

High school principals typically hold a master's degree or Ph.D. in an education-related field of study and have prior experience in teaching or educational administration. While a master's degree can take approximately two years to complete, a Ph.D. may require a 4- to 5-year commitment. Core coursework typically includes topics in educational administration, assessment, law and theory, as well as studies in budgeting and finance. State licensing requirements for high school principals can vary; private schools are generally less strict in their hiring criteria.

Skills Required

Strong interpersonal and communication skills are essential for high school principals. They must also be engaging leaders and motivators who can make decisions and manage their time well.

Career and Salary Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that jobs for elementary, middle and high school principals were expected to increase by 8% from 2016 through 2026 nationwide, which is about as fast as average in comparison to all other occupations. Despite increases in student enrollment, employment is largely dependent on state budgets, with the best opportunities in the South and West. The BLS reported that elementary and secondary school education administrators earned an average annual salary of $97,440 in May 2017.

Alternate Career Options

Options for other careers in this field include:

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators develop, implement and evaluate curricula and educational materials for elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools. A master's degree in a relevant area and prior experience are usually required in order to obtain a job; hiring criteria in public schools may include a state license. As reported by the BLS, employment prospects for instructional coordinators are projected to grow by 11% nationwide, or faster than average for all occupations, from 2016-2026. The average yearly salary for an instructional coordinator in May 2017 was $66,680.

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Postsecondary education administrators can be employed in a variety of academic, operational or research areas, which may include overseeing the management of admissions or registrars offices. While deans and provosts usually have a Ph.D., candidates with a bachelor's degree in accounting, marketing or social work may qualify for entry-level administrative work. The BLS has projected a 10%, or faster-than-average, growth in jobs nationwide for postsecondary education administrators from 2016-2026. Professionals who were employed in this position in May 2017 received an average yearly salary of $107,670.

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