What Degree Do I Need to Be a Principal?

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What Degree Do I Need to Be a Principal?

The duties and obligations of a school principal are numerous. As principal, you must take full responsibility for the school’s operation and results. A principal is in charge of all of the school’s employees, including teachers, maintenance workers, administrative staffers, and anyone else. Given the obligations that principals have, a few standard abilities and characteristics are required to be an effective school principal.

This guide goes through what principals do, how to become one, and the compensation and career outlook for the position. 

What Is the Role of a Principal?

You certainly have a reasonable notion of some primary school principal duties, but there’s a lot to the role you may not realize. A principal is a school’s instructional leader who reports to the superintendent in charge of the district. Depending on the size of the school and its resources, daily responsibilities will vary.

In general, the principal performs several important tasks:

* School leader: Manages operations, oversees budget needs, organizes district-level policy, and coordinates security and safety.

 * Student advocate: Evaluates student needs, addresses parent concerns, manages student relations, and handles disciplinary actions.

* Public representative: Advocates for educational needs, explains financing to legislators and responds to community concerns.

Job Description for the Principal 

Principals oversee the day-to-day operations of their schools, which are elementary, middle, or high schools. Principals can work in either a public, private, or charter school. They’re in charge of ensuring that their school works smoothly, that it complies with local, state, and federal regulations, that it is safe, and provides an outstanding learning environment for its pupils. Because every member of staff and every teacher employed by a school reports to the principal, this job is often well-respected and well-regarded. On the other hand, because the principal is the school’s primary and public-facing spokesperson, it can be demanding.

How to Become a Principal of a School

If you’re already a teacher, you’ve met one of the most significant requirements: you must be a certified, experienced educator with a bachelor’s degree. However, hiring managers aren’t going to stop there, and they’ll be looking for experience, credentials, and personality traits that indicate you’ll be a good educator leader.

Here are some procedures to assist you in developing both the necessary and preferred significant requirements

Increase the Variety of Your Teaching Experience

Before becoming a school principal, most schools demand several years of teaching experience and that’s just the minimum. Once you’ve been hired, you’ll have to learn about the needs of a range of student groups. Taking steps to ensure that your educational experience incorporates a variety of locations might be advantageous. It can be challenging to find ways to diversify your experience as a busy teacher with limited opportunity to do so in your day-to-day work.

Dr. Patricia Clark White, dean of the University of Massachusetts Global School of Education, advocates talking about your goals to your current school leadership. “Discuss your interest in preparation for that type of position with your principle.” Dr. Clark White suggests asking if you can shadow them. “Volunteer to help with some of the principal’s activities, such as duty schedules, budget monitoring, student discipline, chairing school committees, fundraising with the PTA, and parent education.” Working with children in extracurricular activities or programs for children with special needs and getting engaged with local youth groups that run outside of your school system are all viable possibilities. Having a variety of experiences like these will help you be ready to take on the role of school principal when the time comes.

Form Bonds With People in Your School and Community

Leadership abilities are near the top of the list of essential qualifications. Volunteering in your community and organizing groups both inside and outside your school are two ways to gain experience in this area. You can decide to organize a fundraiser for much-needed school supplies, and you could advocate for teachers who require extra assistance in challenging classrooms. You may even set up opportunities for kids to volunteer in their communities while also learning new skills. By helping your community, you may exhibit leadership abilities and build critical relationships while also enhancing your résumé for a position as a principal.

Develop Public Safety and Security Expertise

School principals must be aware of safety and security issues from various angles in today’s environment. Bullying, harassment, emergency procedures, and even violence may be addressed. 

Parents, students, instructors, and staff all want to ensure that their children’s rights and safety are protected at school. How do you go about gaining this knowledge? Attend school safety training or conferences to learn how to address these issues in your school district. When you become a principal, you can better establish, execute, and enhance safety policies by knowing about policies in your school and others.

Conduct Research and Build Relationships With School Districts that Offer Growth Opportunities

Whether you like it or not, networking is necessary to land a job. Begin investigating what types of schools you might want to work in as soon as possible. Consider your own professional goals, how you want to influence students, and where you can find the job you want. You could find that becoming a principal in a smaller school allows you to work with pupils one-on-one. Perhaps you’d want to work in a larger, more sophisticated setting. You’ll be better connected with folks who can affect your future career life if you express your interest and curiosity in these topics or attend conferences where you can meet colleagues.

Look into “Stepping Stone” Roles

It is not easy for all teachers to transition from faculty member to principal. And not all schools are prepared to make such a seamless shift. The principal may or may not have support employees who assist in school administration and management, depending on the size of the school and its resources.

Look for job titles like “vice principal,” “assistant principal,” or “instructional coordinator” in job postings. These types of positions allow you to demonstrate your abilities while also learning about the realities of school leadership. You’ll be able to demonstrate that you’ve completed specific initiatives and that you’ve got what it takes to take on the challenges of being a school principal.

Find Out What Licensing Is Required in Your State and Apply For It 

Don’t forget to check your state’s requirements for school principals as you gain experience. The majority of states require public school leaders to hold a school administrator’s license, and private schools, on the other hand, usually do not. It’s essential to remember that the main requirements differ from state to state, so do your homework.

The state of California, for example, has a two-tiered credentialing system. Preliminary Administrative Services is the initial credential valid for five years. The second is a Clear Administrative Services Credential, which might grant you indefinite permission to work as a school administrator in the state. Those traveling from out of state to teach in California must guarantee that their credentials meet the state’s requirements.

Pursue a Postgraduate Degree 

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for elementary, middle, and high schools principals. However, most entry-level jobs require a master’s degree or higher. Why? Because school systems are looking for education leadership abilities and expertise that aren’t found in the classroom. A master’s degree in education administration can help you prepare to manage people, create budgets, analyze and develop curricula, and deal with policy challenges in education.

One of the most crucial steps toward becoming a principal is to pursue a relevant, postgraduate degree in education. And, because getting a degree takes time, it’s a good idea to start looking at your options as soon as possible.

Standard Tasks and Main Requirements 

Principals often require a master’s degree in education, focusing on education leadership or administration. A higher degree in education administration, such as an Educational Specialist (EdS), a Doctor of Education (EdD), or a Ph.D. in Education, may be pursued by certain aspiring school principals. Before becoming a principal, most candidates must have prior experience in classroom and school administration. More administrative experience is generally viewed as better preparation for the post. Aside from schooling and work experience, a school principal must possess several abilities and characteristics. To begin, potential principals must feel at ease in a leadership role and be able to command a school successfully. Because enabling communication between employees, students, parents, the community, and local and state governments is a regular responsibility, a principal must also be a skilled communicator.

A principal’s day-to-day responsibilities can be simple, but they aren’t necessarily. Principals ensure that schools function smoothly by examining curricula and interpreting standardized test results, then taking the necessary steps to improve a school’s performance. They’ll also look at a school’s budget and make executive judgments about how to spend money. Finally, principals are in charge of creating a pleasant environment by enforcing discipline to ensure safety and boost morale.

Principal Salary and Employment Prospects

Apart from superintendents, principals get the highest salary in the educational system. The average yearly compensation reflects the position’s high responsibility and expectations. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly wage of school principals (elementary, middle, and high school) was $95,310 in 2018. The lowest-paid 10% of principals earned less than $61,490, while the highest-paid 10% earned more than $144,950. The general job prognosis for school principals is comparable to that of teachers; job growth for principals is expected to be 4% through 2028. 

The need for school principals should remain high if school enrollment numbers rise, but if enrollment numbers fall, the demand may decline. With many baby boomer instructors approaching retirement age, there may be chances for new potential school leaders to fill those roles.

Experience and Skills that Are Beneficial

Because they are the public face of the school they represent, principals should be self-assured. Principals, like instructors, should have strong organizational, communication, presentation, and decision-making abilities. Because they supervise teachers and staff and are authority figures to students, they must also be fair, patient, and empathetic. A potential school principal with a master’s degree in education administration or a related discipline and experience as a teacher or school administration will be more competitive for the role.

We went over the most common educational and training requirements, but what talents are most in-demand by employers?

  • Teaching
  • Budgeting
  • Scheduling
  • Staff management and development
  • Special education
  • Educational programs
  • Project management
  • Curriculum and lesson preparation
  • Community relations
  • Conflict management, according to an analysis of principal school occupations.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Elementary School Principal
  • High School Principal
  • Middle School Principal
  • School Principal

Additional Resources

* National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP): An organization for elementary and middle school principals, NAESP provides resources for principals to improve their schools and information about conferences and online learning opportunities.

* National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP): An organization for secondary school principals, NASSP provides information about conferences and online learning opportunities.


Even the most successful teacher is reliant on excellent school leadership. If you think being a school administrator would be a good fit for your personality, career objectives, and desire to impact students positively, use the tips above to help you prepare for this role. Now that you have a better understanding of becoming a principal and the responsibilities that come with it, you can start working toward obtaining the necessary experience and education to meet the standard principal criteria. The University of Massachusetts Global has a long tradition of preparing outstanding educational leaders by offering high-quality education and the flexibility you need to enhance your career.

About the author

Indu has been educator since last 10 years. She can find all kind of scholarship opportunities in the USA and beyond. She also teach college courses online to help students become better. She is one of the very rare scholarship administrator and her work is amazing.