Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

What Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals Do

Elementary, middle, and high school principals oversee all school operations, including daily school activities.

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Work Environment

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

How to Become an Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal

Principals typically need a master’s degree in education administration or leadership. In addition, they need teaching experience.

Pay

The median annual wage for elementary, middle, and high school principals was $96,400 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of elementary, middle, and high school principals is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be affected by student enrollment and the number of educational institutions.

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

Duties

Elementary, middle, and high school principals typically do the following:

  • 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

Elementary, middle, and high school principals direct the overall operation of schools. They set and oversee academic goals and ensure that teachers have the equipment and resources to meet those goals. Principals may establish and supervise additional programs in their school, such as counseling, extracurricular activities, and before- and after-school childcare.

In public schools, principals also implement standards and programs set by the school district, state, and federal regulations. They evaluate and prepare reports based on these standards by assessing student achievement and teacher performance at their school.

Principals serve as the public representative of their school. They listen to, and try to address, the concerns of parents and the community.

The duties of principals vary by the size of the school and district. In large schools and districts, principals may have additional resources and staff to help them achieve goals. For example, large school districts often have instructional coordinators who help with data analysis and with teachers’ professional development. Principals also may have staff who help with hiring school personnel. In smaller school districts, principals may need to assume these and other duties themselves.

Many schools have assistant principals who help principals with school administration. Principals typically assign specific duties to their assistant principals. In some school districts, assistant principals handle a subject area, such as literacy or math. Assistants may handle student safety, provide student academic counseling, or enforce disciplinary or attendance rules. They may also coordinate buses or supervise building and grounds maintenance.

Elementary, middle, and high school principals held about 283,200 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of elementary, middle, and high school principals were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local 77%
Elementary and secondary schools; private 18

Elementary, middle, and high school principals may find it rewarding to work with students. However, coordinating and interacting with faculty, parents, students, and community members may be demanding. Principals’ work is sometimes stressful because they are accountable for their school meeting state and federal standards for student performance and teacher qualification.

Work Schedules

Principals typically work full time. They may work evenings or weekends to meet with parents and other members of the community and to attend school functions, such as concerts and athletic events.

Typically, principals work year round and do not have summers off, even if students are not in school. During the summer, principals schedule building maintenance, order school supplies, and hire new teachers and other staff in preparation for the upcoming school year.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of elementary, middle, and high school principals.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Career and Technical Education Teachers

Career and technical education teachers instruct students in various technical and vocational subjects, such as auto repair, healthcare, and culinary arts.

Bachelor’s degree $58,110

High School Teachers

High school teachers teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor’s degree $61,660

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators oversee school curriculums and teaching standards. They develop instructional material, implement it, and assess its effectiveness.

Master’s degree $66,290

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects in order to prepare them for future schooling.

Bachelor’s degree $59,420

Librarians

Librarians help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use.

Bachelor’s degree $59,500

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades.

Bachelor’s degree $59,660

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Postsecondary education administrators oversee student services, academics, and faculty research at colleges and universities.

Master’s degree $95,410

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One $79,540

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

Preschool and childcare center directors supervise and lead their staffs, design program plans, oversee daily activities, and prepare budgets.

Bachelor’s degree $48,210

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5 who have not yet entered kindergarten.

Associate’s degree $30,520

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills needed to succeed. Career counselors help people choose a path to employment.

Master’s degree $57,040

Special education teachers

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.

Bachelor’s degree $61,030

Teacher Assistants

Teacher assistants work with a licensed teacher to give students additional attention and instruction.

Some college, no degree $27,920

For more information on elementary, middle, and high school principals, visit

National Association of Elementary School Principals

National Association of Secondary School Principals

O*NET

Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm (visited ).