School Principal Salary

It’s good to know the average school principal salary if you aim to move up in the ranks at your school. Pay is generally good, though it varies widely by region and school district. You could earn under $50,000 per year or more than $120,000 a year.

With recent concerns about American children falling behind the rest of the world in math, science and other subjects, the importance of education has taken on a larger role in the national dialogue. Although teachers provide the day-to-day instruction that fosters intellectual growth, a strong administration is vital to a school’s success. As a result of the national focus on education, school principal salaries are competitive and the job outlook is strong, making it an excellent time to make a career transition.

A school principal does more than discipline unruly students. Effective elementary, middle school or high school principals must:

  • Lead and supervise teachers and support staff.
  • Ensure the safety and accessibility of school facilities.
  • Help teachers institute behavior management plans for students with behavioral problem.
  • Help with professional development of staff by arranging workshops, mentoring programs and other programs.
  • Ensure strong academic performance by reviewing the results of tests and other metrics to ensure that the school meets all educational requirements and standard.
  • Conduct in-class observations of teacher performance and provide detailed feedback.
  • Manage a school’s finances and ensure classrooms have access to necessary resources and tools

Education Requirements

Specific requirements for school principals vary by state and school district. In general, a school principal must hold a master degree in education administration, education leadership or a closely related field. Most principals also have a bachelor degree in education, school counseling or academic administration. While some school principals have prior teaching experience, others are trained in administration and education leadership.

Any master degree program in education administration should emphasize:

  • Strengthening leadership.
  • Setting academic goals.
  • Creating specific action plans.
  • Preparing budgets.
  • Managing people.

A master degree program will also cultivate an individual’s communication skills, allowing the principal to work effectively with teachers, staff, parents, students and community members.

Career Options: What You Can Do with a Degree in Education Administration

Although most education administration programs specifically train candidates to work in a elementary, junior high or high school setting, there are other career options. An individual might choose to work in a technical education or community college setting.

Another option is to become an instructional coordinator, the person responsible for overseeing teaching standards and implementing new education programs. In general, this degree qualifies a person for a position in education management, administration or related fields.

What to Consider if You Pursue a Career as a School Principal


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median school principal salary was $86,970 in May 2010. The top 10 percent of school principals earned over $129,480. Specific salaries may vary by region and school district.

Work Load

Unlike many teachers, school principals work year-round. They may be required to work some evenings and weekends to attend school events, help with community involvement or oversee educational programs.

Job Outlook

The BLS predicts that employment of principals at the elementary, middle and high school levels will grow by 10 percent from 2010 to 2020. This is roughly the average growth rate expected for all occupations. Because the number of students in school is projected to increase, the demand for school principals is expected to grow.

Certain regions of the country have higher or lower-than-average demand for principals. The Northeast is expected to show slower growth in school enrollment, while enrollment in the South and West is expected to grow faster than average. The Midwest is projected to maintain steady enrollment through 2020. State and local budget deficits may also influence principal positions and salaries.

With growing demand for strong academic outcomes, skilled leadership is needed in school districts. Becoming a school principal is an excellent career prospect for someone who enjoys solving problems, working with a diverse array of staff, implementing educational solutions and managing financial constraints. For individuals with a master degree in education administration or a related field, a career as a school principal offers a competitive salary and strong job outlook.

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