School Administrator & Principal Salary

Interested in becoming a school principal? With this in-depth guide, you'll learn everything you need to know about salaries for different careers as a principal.

Principal Job Description

If you are interested in an education career, but are looking at opportunities outside of a classroom, you may be interested in a career as a school principal. Principals are in charge of the schools they serve, overseeing the operations, staff, and curriculum for the entire school. These professionals work in both public and private schools at the elementary, middle, and high school levels and are responsible for:

  • School budgets and schedules
  • Curriculum standards
  • Student issues and discipline
  • Teacher hiring, retention, and evaluations
  • Advocating for the school and its teacher and students
  • Fulfilling school board requirements

Job duties can also vary based on the grade levels that the principal is overseeing. For example, if you are an elementary school principal, you could be charged with designing and implementing a curriculum specific to grades K-6, which requires specialized training in that area and knowledge of teaching strategies for younger children.

The discipline and behavior policies that a principal is responsible for will also look different depending on the age group. High school principals and those who oversee middle schools may have to manage student suspensions or expulsions, which aren't as common in elementary schools.

If you're wondering about the steps to become a school principal, you generally need to:

  1. Acquire experience as a teacher. The requirements to become a teacher vary by state, but often include having a bachelor's degree, completing a teacher preparation program, and securing state certification.
  2. Earn a relevant master's degree. You typically need to have a master's degree in a related field, such as school administration or education leadership.
  3. Secure licensure. If you plan to work in a public school, you'll often need to be licensed as a school administrator.

What Makes a Good Administrator in Education?

When considering the qualities of a good principal, keep in mind that you'll need strong communication and leadership skills, a genuine interest in children and teens, and the ability to make decisions under pressure. Strong education administrators also need analytical and reasoning skills, strong listening skills, and the ability to advocate for their school, teachers and students.

School Principal Salary

The overall median salary for elementary, middle and high school principals was $94,390 in 2017, but this salary can vary quite a bit depending on where you work. Let's examine the salaries for several different principal career options, keeping in mind that the salary for school principals may be dependent on the type of school a principal works at, such as a private or public school.

Principal Type Median Salary
Private School (all grades) $83,970
Public School (all grades) $95,860
Elementary School $80,127
Middle School $90,978
High School $88,833
High School Assistant Principal $85,197

Private School Principal Salary

As of 2016, about 17% of school principals worked in private schools. Private schools include both religious-based schools and non-religious schools. Private school principals have similar tasks to their peers in public schools, but may also be responsible for admissions policies and decisions for their schools.

Principals working in private schools earned annual wages lower than their public school counterparts, with a median annual salary of $83,970 in 2017. Principals who worked at Christian schools earned a median salary of $79,617. Salaries for private school principals are often dependent on experience, so those who have worked longer in the field or have a more advanced degree, such as a Ph.D., can earn more than principals who are just starting out.

Public School Principal Salary

Public school principals need a license or certification from their state in order to find employment in this field. Certification requirements for principals include passing an exam and completing a graduate-level degree program in a field such as education administration. Public school principals earned a median annual salary of $95,860. Salaries for public school principals are dependent on several key components, including the grade level and the size of the school they are running, as well as a principal's years of professional experience. In some cases, school districts with higher tax revenue may pay higher salaries to principals.

Elementary School Principal Salary

If you enjoy working with younger children, you may wish to become an elementary school principal. Elementary administrative positions include working as principals, vice principals or school administrators, and all of these individuals work with students in kindergarten up to middle school. These professionals set goals for student performance and behavior in classroom settings, serve as mentors to new teachers, and monitor student attendance issues. At this level, principals may also be responsible for childcare programs and activities before or after school hours.

Elementary school principals earned a median salary of $80,127 per year in 2018. Because principal salaries are often determined by grade level, principals in elementary schools often make less than their counterparts in middle and high schools.

Middle School Principal Salary

Professionals who want to work with students in grades 6-8 can pursue a career as a middle school principal. Along with a graduate degree and teaching experience, these professionals need leadership and managerial skills to find work at this school level. Middle school principals guide students who are making the leap from the elementary school world into a new arena where classes are broken up by subject and students have varied class schedules and more responsibilities. In addition to handling middle school curriculum and discipline issues, these principals oversee athletics programs and coaches, motivate teachers, and set goals in line with school district objectives. Middle school principals earned a median salary of $90,978.

High School Principal Salary

A No InterWiki reference defined in properties for Wiki called "[https"! oversees their school during the school year and spends their summers overseeing building maintenance and improvements or looking for new teachers and school equipment. High school principals earned a median salary of $88,833 in 2018. As with other grade levels, a high school principal's salary is determined by years of experience. Entry-level principals in high schools earned a median salary of $78,923, while those with more than 20 years of experience earned a median of $95,714 annually.

Professionals at this level can also seek related high school administrator roles, such as superintendents or assistant principals.

High School Assistant Principal Salary

Graduates newly armed with a master's degree might start out as assistant or vice principals. These professionals mostly work in high schools. They work under the principal and may have more interaction with students or play key roles in determining a high school's academic standards or ensuring school compliance. The median salary for vice principals in high schools was $85,197.

School Administrator Salary

There are school administrator positions outside of principals, including superintendents as well as the professionals who oversee preschools and Christian-based schools. School administrators' educational path is similar to that of principals. The median salary for school administrators is $65,985. For this broader field, salary is dependent on the type of school administration job. For example, school superintendents have the highest salary, with a median salary of $116,167, while directors of preschools made $40,373 annually.

Master's in Education Administration Salary

A master's degree in education administration can pave the way for a variety of leadership positions in schools outside of being a principal. The table below shows some of the positions for those with a master's in education administration, as well as the median salary for each career.

Career Median Salary in 2017
School Guidance or Vocational Counselor $55,410
Instructional Coordinator $63,750
Development Specialist $60,360
Postsecondary Administrator $92,360

All salary statistics come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2017) and Payscale.com (August 2018).