School Principal

Woman school principal in a blue shirt stands in a school hallway next to shiny blue lockers and holding a clipboard
Career Clusters: Education & Training

What you need to know


Elementary, middle, and high school principals manage all school operations, including daily school activities. They coordinate curriculums, oversee teachers and other school staff, and provide a safe and productive learning environment for students.

What is this career like?

Principals work in public and private elementary, middle, and high schools. Most principals work year round.

Some of the things a school principal might do:

  • Manage school activities and staff, including teachers and support personnel
  • Establish and oversee class schedules
  • Develop, implement, and maintain curriculum standards
  • Counsel and discipline students
  • Observe teachers and evaluate their performance
  • Meet with parents and teachers to discuss students’ progress and behavior
  • Assess and prepare reports on test scores and other student achievement data
  • Organize professional development programs and workshops for staff
  • Manage the school’s budget, order school supplies, and schedule maintenance
  • Establish and coordinate security procedures for students, staff, and visitors

Watch this video to learn about what school principals do in their careers:

What skills are needed?
  • Communication skills: Principals must communicate effectively with students, teachers, and parents. For example, when dealing with student disciplinary or academic issues, they must consult with and listen to parents and teachers in order to understand the problem.
  • Critical-thinking skills: Principals analyze student test results and testing procedures to determine if improvements are needed. They must assess the available options and choose the best means to help students achieve better results.
  • Decision-Making skills: Because principals are responsible for students, staff members, and the overall operation of the school, they consider many factors when making decisions.
  • Interpersonal skills: Because principals work with teachers, parents, and superintendents, they must be able to develop positive working relationships with them.
  • Leadership skills: Principals set educational goals and establish policies and procedures for the school. They need to be able to motivate teachers and other staff to achieve set goals.
  • Problem-solving skills: Teachers, students, and other staff members report problems to the principal. Principals need to be able to analyze problems, and develop and implement appropriate solutions.

Watch this video to learn more from our role models:

What is the pay?

The average pay for school principals in the United States was $103,460 in May 2023 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A school principals’s pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.

What is the career outlook?

About 20,200 new job openings for elementary, middle, and high school principals are projected each year, on average, over the next 10 years in the United States.

Overall employment of elementary, middle, and high school principals is projected to show little to no change from 2022 to 2032 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is about as fast as the average growth rate for all occupations.

Employment growth will be affected by student enrollment and the number of educational institutions.

Many of the new job openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

What education is required?

Principals typically need a master’s degree in education leadership or education administration. These master’s degree programs prepare future principals to manage staff, create budgets, set goals, and work with parents and the community. To enter the master’s degree programs, candidates typically need a bachelor’s degree in education, school counseling, or a related field.

Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Education.

Watch this video to learn more from our role models: