How to Become an

Elementary School Principal

The complete career guide to be an Elementary School Principal: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $92,940
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 5.8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Dependable Daily Workload
    Career Attribute

Elementary school principals serve as the primary leaders of elementary schools. They manage all school operations, hire staff and teachers, support students, set school goals, and monitor performance towards goals and standards. Principals bear ultimate accountability for the success of their schools.

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What is an Elementary School Principal?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in elementary school principal roles:

  • Support all individuals engaged and involved with an elementary school, including teachers, staff, students, parents, and community members
  • Develop standards for curriculums, ensure established standards and curriculums are adhered to, and observe teachers to monitor performance
  • Create class schedules, set staff schedules, and identify and/or organize professional development opportunities
  • Report school progress, initiatives, test scores, and other news of interest to parents, school boards, and community members
  • Handle student disciplinary issues and support teachers and staff in resolving behavioral or academic issues

A Day in the Life

The job of an elementary school principal is huge—these individuals oversee all operational aspects of a school, ensuring the success of teachers, students, and staff. Depending on the size of the school, the principal may be involved in day-to-day aspects of cafeteria operations, bus and transportation coordination, and creating schedules for teachers, janitors, and administrative staff. However, in larger schools, principals may delegate these tasks to an assistant principal or office administrator.

An elementary school principal’s primary responsibility is to ensure success of the school and the students that the school educates. The principal recruits, interviews, and hires teachers, monitors teacher performance and observes classrooms, and sets curriculum and performance standards. The principal ensures that students are learning the material needed to succeed on state examinations and reports test scores and progress toward goals to parents, superintendents, and the community at large.

Outside of the school environment, the principal is also responsible for working with school boards, superintendents, and legislators to secure funding for the school and its programs. The principal is the face of the school and attends community events, speaks, and creates presentations on behalf of the school in the community. As such, the position requires more political maneuvering than other school positions—like teaching—where educating students is the first and foremost responsibility.

Typical Work Schedule

Working as an elementary school principal requires constant attention and supervision of different aspects of the school operations. This means that the principals have to follow full-time working schedules with 40 hours per week. However, they may need to work extra hours on evenings or weekends to meet parents and other community members as well as to attend related events as the school concerts, sports competitions or educational conferences. Principals actually work on average 60 hours per week or even more. They also continue their work during the vacations including the summer vacation when they take care of the school maintenance, recruiting of staff, training workshops and purchasing of supplies. This job might be demanding and stressful and therefore requires focus and dedication, so you have to consider these concerns before you decide to move from your position to an administrative one like the principal.

Projected job growth

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of elementary school principals is expected to grow by at least 4 % between 2019 and 2020. This growth rate is the same as the average of other jobs and results mainly from the population growth, increase in student enrollment and number of new schools to be established. The number will also depend on the state and local budget that will determine if any new schools can be built. More vacancies continuously become available as old principals retire and leave their positions. School principal is a managerial position that is offered to experienced teachers who have proven leadership skills and have knowledge related to management. If you aim at working in such position, then you should prove a successful record as a teacher, develop the related skills and earn related certifications to the management of the school.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Elementary School Teacher
  • Mid-Career: Assistant Principal, Principal
  • Late Career: Instructional Coordinator, Superintendent

Typical Employers

The employers for such position are the elementary schools which can either be private or public. There are around 89,000 elementary schools in the US. Working in public schools is usually more financially rewarding compared to private schools. Some prestigious schools would have higher requirements to qualify as a principal to the school.

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How To Become an Elementary School Principal

To become an elementary school principal, you must accrue several years of experience as a teacher, and you may also need to work as an assistant principal for several years. To teach in an elementary school, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. To work in a public school, you’ll also need to be licensed by the state. Individuals with bachelor’s degrees that did not lead to a teaching license may quality for a one-year program that culminates in a teaching certification.

While working as an elementary school teacher, individuals interested in advancing into vice principal and principal positions will need to pursue a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration. This degree educates individuals on the practices of managing a school and the laws that must be adhered to as part of school governance. Individuals must also become licensed as school administrators by completing a master’s degree program and passing a licensing examination.

After earning a master’s degree and becoming licensed, you can qualify for vice principal and principal positions. While it’s possible to move directly from teaching into a principal position, it’s more likely that you’ll need to make incremental moves and work as an assistant principal first. It is also helpful while working as either a teacher or assistant principal to take on varied administrative tasks and run programs to showcase your abilities when interviewing for elementary school principal positions.

Elementary School Principal Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Elementary School Principal salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Elementary School Principal's can make an average annual salary of $92,940, or --- per hour. On the lower end, they can make $72,380 or --- per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #88 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming an Elementary School Principal. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Elementary School Principals

  • 13.2%   Doctorate
  • 44.8%   Masters
  • 23.5%   Bachelors
  • 5%   Associates
  • 8%   College
  • 4.6%   High School
  • 0.7%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Elementary School Principal job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 14,000 jobs for a total of 254,000 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 5.8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #390 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Elementary School Principals

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Elementary and secondary schools; local 187,400 11,000 11%
Elementary and secondary schools; private 37,500 2,300 2%
Self-employed workers 5,100 200 0%

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