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School Principal Job Description

What Does the Job Entail?

The role of school principal is essential to the function of an effective educational environment. As a result, school principals enjoy ample employment opportunities but also face many challenges and decisions throughout their careers. Therefore, it is important to understand the duties of these educational administrators. 

The primary duties of school principals include offering instructional leadership and handling the daily functions of an elementary, middle or high school. As part of their job description, educational administrators are in charge of setting and maintaining the academic standard of the educational institution and implementing policies and procedures to carry out established goals.  Supervision is also a vital aspect of an educational administrator’s role, as it includes the management of all staff and faculty.  By monitoring the development of the institution and tracking student improvements, an educational administrator can design new programs and restructure established programs to fit the needs of his/her students.  Budgetary issues, student recruitment, parental advisement, community involvement and hiring all fall under the responsibilities of a school principal.

Ensuring that the academic environment of a school is positive, inviting and conducive to faculty instruction and student learning is also listed under an educational administrator’s title.  In order to meet such demands, principals must regularly visit classrooms, survey existing teaching methods, research new instructional techniques, conference with faculty and staff and review class materials.  Furthermore, to maintain funding and accreditation, educational administrators must make sure the school meets the requirements of local, state and national standards. 

As one can see, the list of duties and responsibilities is quite extensive.  However, with the right education and quality experience, one can come prepared for the task.

What are the Attributes of a Successful School Principal?

Consider the following list of attributes if you are considering a career as a school principal.

  • Ability to make constructive and beneficial decisions for students, faculty, parents, community and institution
  • Motivation and determination
  • Leadership and supervisory skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Effective communication
  • Diverse knowledge of educational practices and models
  • Computer technology aptitude

New Prospects in the Job Market

It is undeniable. The need for educational professionals is great in society today.  However, the requirements for degrees and certifications vary from state to state.  Consider the norm among current educational administrators.

In the case of most public schools, educational administrators are required to hold at least a Master’s degree in Education Administration or Educational Leadership.  Doctoral or specialized degrees are not uncommon.  Licensure by the state varies from region to region.  Fortunately, advanced degrees in education are becoming more widely offered than ever before.  The new shift to online education has made it possible for education professionals to continue their schooling while continuing to gain professional experience.

With this growing number of traditional and online certification programs, the job market is estimated to expand accordingly.  In fact, as stipulated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of educational administration is projected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014.  Furthermore, as education comes to the forefront in state and national policy, the need for certified, educational administrators is expected to skyrocket.  In fact, the BLS projects that the number of employed positions in educational administration will jump by 13 percent between 2000 and 2010. Moreover, a 1998 survey by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) reported that around half of the polled school districts admitted a shortage in eligible school principal candidates for that year. 

However, the job ladder doesn’t stop there.  Once an individual has achieved a position as a school principal, there is still room to advance.  The most common form of promotion for an educational administrator is a transfer to a position with more responsibility due to region, funding, enrollment, resources or academic improvement.  In some cases, educational administrators become superintendents or presidents of academic institutions.

Financing Life as a School Principal

Teachers and counselors often turn toward administration as a step in their career and in their pay.  The following breakdown, based on a BLS report, is the median annual earnings of educational administrators (based on specific fields):

Principals

Senior high school principal: $82,225
Junior high or middle school principal: $78,160
Elementary school principal: $74,062

Assistant Principals

Senior high school assistant principal: $68,945
Junior high or middle school assistant principal: $66,319
Elementary school assistant principal: $ 63,398

These figures are dependent upon several factors including region and number of students attending the school. 

The Benefits Package

The benefits package provided to educational administrators is above average in quality.  On average, the BLS reports school principals receive 4 to 5 weeks of paid vacation each year.  Health insurance and pension packages tend to be similarly generous.  Lastly, it is not uncommon for an institution to offer free tuition to employees and their families. 

Recent Developments in the Profession

Estimates show that a significant portion of the educational administration field will retire in the next ten years.  In fact, a ten-year study by the NAESP revealed that the average age for a principal’s retirement was 57. More importantly, the report found that “more than half plan to retire as soon as they are eligible, [continuing] the 40-plus percent turnover rate in the next decade.”

Meanwhile, on the political front, past shortages in education funds have drawn significant attention within the past few years.  Education requirements and funding solutions have begun to climb on the priority lists of citizens and legislators alike.  In fact, the School Leadership Program of the 2002 Elementary and Secondary Education Act handed out over $10 million in grants.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, “Education Administrators,” available online at http://www.bls.gov/ovo/ocos007.htm

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