How To Become a Principal

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 15, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Education
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Do you want to become a principal? If you’ve thought about the position of a school principal, this might be the right career for you. It takes the right skills, education, and training.

A school principal may also be called a headteacher or a headmaster. If you want to head down this career path, you need to understand how to become a principal. Let’s first look at the job duties, and then the steps you need to follow.

How To Become a Principal

Job Duties of a Principal

While many may think of a school principal as the person they dealt with when they got in trouble, they do more than discipline children. In fact, that’s only a very small portion of their job. The job duties of a principal include:

A principal is a type of administrator responsible for the day-to-day operations of the school. You will supervise teachers and other staff members. The principal is the person in charge of setting the school’s vision and approving the curriculum.

The ultimate job duty of a school principal is to provide a productive and safe place for students to learn.

How To Become a Principal in 6 Steps

Step #1 – Finish High School

Since you have to go on to college to become a school principal, you need to finish high school. It’s best if you do well in high school. You can get into a better college or university with high SAT or ACT scores, as well. The right test prep course can help you score higher on the ACT or SAT.

Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

Principals need to become teachers first. You will need to get a degree that fits with the type of teacher you want to become. Make sure you choose the level you want to teach, along with the subjects as you pursue your degree.

Step #3 – Become a Certified Teacher

After you’ve completed your degree, you will need to meet the school district’s requirements to become certified. Make sure you research the school district and get the correct certification to become a teacher.

Step #4 – Gain Experience as a Teacher

All principals will first need to become teachers. You will need to gain experience as a teacher in order to become a principal. Expect to work for around ten years as a teacher before becoming a principal.

Step #5 – Become a Vice Principal

It’s not required to become a vice-principal before you become a principal. However, it can certainly be helpful, if the opportunity presents itself. As a vice principal, you will work with the principal, which gives you hands-on experience.

Step #6 – Get your Master’s Degree

As you gain experience as a teacher, you will want to get your master’s degree. This is a big step towards becoming a principal. Make sure you get a degree in school administration or a related field.

With your master’s degree, you will have the necessary education to become a principal. You can take an online master’s degree program while working as a teacher.

Necessary Skills to Become a Principal

If you want to become a school principal, you will need to develop the right skills. This is a big and unique job, which requires the right type of person. Some of the common skills of school principals include:

If you want to work as a principal in a school, these are some of the key skills you will need to develop.

Common Certifications and Qualifications of a Principal

None of the certifications or qualifications are necessarily required to become a principal. However, some schools may require one certification, while another doesn’t. Some of the common certifications and qualifications of school principals include:

Many other certifications may also be helpful for this career.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Principal

How much does a school principal earn each year?

If you become a school principal, your average salary will likely be around $100K per year. This varies quite a bit based on the location and the type of school you work for, however.

Some schools pay quite a bit more with salaries from $130K and up, while others don’t pay nearly as much. A specialized school may pay more per year than a public school, but this isn’t always the case.

What type of benefits do principals get?

Commonly, as a school principal, you will get health insurance including vision and dental. Principals also get paid time off, family leave, loan forgiveness, tuition reimbursement, and other benefits. It’s common for principals to work through the summer, however. They may get some time off in the summer, but they don’t work the same schedule as teachers.

How long do I need to be a teacher before becoming a school principal?

It’s common for teachers to work for ten years before becoming a principal. You might work as an assistant principal first with less experience as a teacher, however.

What type of work environment is common for a principal?

You will work in an elementary, middle, or high school if you become a principal. The environment will be an office environment and a school campus. You will keep normal office hours with some work on holidays, weekends, and evenings.

During the summer, you will still need to facilitate building maintenance and hire staff, including new teachers. It’s also a time for the principal to plan the new school year including the budget.

What type of degree do I need to become a principal?

While a master’s degree isn’t required, it’s preferred by most schools. About 47% of principals have at least a bachelor’s degree, while 37% have a master’s degree. You can even get a doctoral degree. About 11% of principals have a doctoral degree.

The higher degree you have, the more doors you will open up, and the higher you can earn.

Is the job of a school principal growing?

Since every school will likely have one principal, when new schools open up, this career grows. However, the job growth is only slightly above the average for all occupations. It’s expected to grow by about 8% over the next ten years.

The job of a school principal is a rather small field. There are just over 250,000 school principals in the United States. It takes years of experience and the right education, however. This makes becoming a principal not very competitive.

What type of hours does a school principal work?

A principal will likely arrive before students and teachers in the morning. It’s common for school principals to start their day around 7 am. The hours can vary a bit, but tend to follow a normal school day with a few extra hours before school starts and after students leave.

Principals will also attend school and community events. These events may happen in the evening or on weekends. It’s common for principals to work more than 40 hours per week. However, some of the work hours may be at social events or functions.

Is the principal in charge of firing teachers?

In some cases, a principal can fire a teacher. When a teacher is still in their probation period, a principal will likely be the one to fire them, if necessary. However, once a teacher is tenured, they cannot be fired without just cause.

In some school districts, a principal can only suspend a teacher. It will be up to the school board to actually fire them. However, the principal may be a part of this final decision.

If you want to become a teacher and work your way up to become a principal, these are the steps you need to follow. As a school principal, you can earn a nice living and enjoy a rewarding career. It takes many years of experience and education, however. Make sure this is the career path you want before trying to become a principal.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.