How Do I Become a Principal?

Do you have a passion for education, enjoy working with people of all ages and possess strong leadership and problem-solving skills? If so, you may be wondering how to become a principal. Principals oversee the daily functioning of public and private educational facilities, primarily in elementary schools, middle schools and high schools. As managers and administrators of a school, they support students and parents in academic and disciplinary matters, direct day-to-day operations and supervise school employees, including teachers. School principals set goals for students and staff and lead them toward fulfilling those goals.

School principals provide the resources for teachers to educate students successfully, including the professional development programs to enhance teachers’ skills and the necessary textbooks, technology, and other school and teaching supplies. They are typically responsible for assessing teachers’ proficiency in the classroom, often basing their determination on such factors as teaching observations and student success. Principals also manage other school employees, including counselors, librarians, cafeteria workers and maintenance workers.

When behavioral problems arise, principals are part of the disciplinary process, assisting teachers and meeting with parents as necessary to confer about the student’s actions and disciplinary measures. Principals may also be involved when issues of an academic nature develop, including poor academic progress and plagiarism or academic dishonesty. By implementing dedicated programs such as before-school and after-school child care services, special education classes and counseling support, principals provide students, teachers and parents with the tools to enrich a child’s education. Principals are also responsible for providing all members of the educational community with a safe environment.

Principals also represent their schools in financial and community situations. The school principal is responsible for ensuring that the school’s expenditures stay within the budget. Principals promote their schools for financial support from local, state, and federal government agencies.

As might be expected, principals must pursue a higher level of education themselves to become qualified to manage a school. Aspiring principals typically begin their careers by earning an undergraduate degree in education or counseling and gaining professional work experience as a teacher or school counselor. Before transitioning into an administrative role, candidates typically pursue a master’s degree in education administration, education leadership or a related field. These courses prepare graduates for budget responsibilities, interactions with community members and employee management. Aspiring principals of public schools typically must achieve state licensure, though the requirements for school administrators’ licenses vary by state.

While principals must meet a large variety of responsibilities, they enjoy a rewarding salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that school principals earned a median salary of $86,970 per year as of 2010. This salary is considerably higher than the $33,840 annual median salary that the BLS lists for all occupations. If you have a strong desire to educate others, enjoy working with children and their parents and imagine working in a managerial role, knowing how to become a principal could be the start to a fast-paced and well-paid new career in education.

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