Public School Principal: Certification Requirements and Career Info

Sep 17, 2019

A school administrator license is generally a required credential for public school principals. Get some quick facts about the degree programs and skills necessary to qualify for a public school principal job.

Public school principals are in charge of all personnel, budgeting, fundraising, public relations and facility management at their school. They can work at the elementary, middle or high school level, and are concerned with its academic standards. If you're considering a career as a public school principal, you should have a master's degree and state license, and you may also need some past teaching experience.

Essential Information

Public school principals are administrators who oversee every aspect of running an elementary, middle or high school. Successful principals possess excellent leadership skills and usually come from a teaching background.

In most states, public school principals must hold a school administrator license. Requirements vary, but generally call for a master's degree and a criminal background check. Some states require a certification examination. Continuing education might be mandatory to renew the license.

Education Requirements Master's degree in educational leadership or a related field
Other Requirements Most states require licensure
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 4% (for elementary, middle and high school principals)*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $95,310 (for education administrators, elementary and secondary school)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Public School Principal Certification Requirements

Certification requirements for public school principals vary by state, but they typically include some amount of graduate school education and passage of a written test. Certain states also require that candidates have some years of experience in the public school system, either as a teacher or administrator. Once a new principal begins work, training with an experienced mentor also might be expected.

Public School Principal Career Info

As education administrators, public school principals establish the general standards and policies by which a school operates; they also supervise day-to-day activities. In a smaller school, one principal might be responsible for all tasks. In larger schools, different responsibilities might be divided up between multiple principals.

Principals handle all manner of human resources issues, including hiring, firing and supervising staff, such as teachers, counselors, librarians and coaches. They keep records and oversee the budget and are involved in school finances, helping with fundraising and public relations campaigns. They might determine whether school buildings, equipment and staff are adequate for student needs.

On the education side, principals assist teachers in ensuring that teaching materials and methods are sufficient to meet academic standards. They evaluate teacher performances and might meet with parents to discuss student progress. Principals also might meet with prospective students, community members or others who are interested in school issues.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the BLS, employment of elementary, middle and high school principals was expected to increase slower than the average through 2028, mainly due to an increase in the number of children attending school. In May 2018, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $61,490 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $61,490 or less per year.

Public school principals oversee elementary, middle and high schools, both at the general policy and day-to-day levels. Job opportunities for public school principals are predicted to grow at a slower rate. About 275,400 professionals were employed in 2018, whereas employment of nearly 286,600 is anticipated for 2028.

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