How to Become a

High School Principal

The complete career guide to be a High 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
  • Fast Paced Career
    Career Attribute

High school principals serve as chief administrators of schools for students in grades 9-12. They manage the high school’s budget, oversee school staff and teachers, and ensure the existence of a productive learning environment through program, curriculum, and policy development and revision.

Recommended Schools

What is a High School Principal?

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

  • Ensures that school curriculums, programs, and processes adhere to established standards
  • Recruits, hires, and orients new teachers, staff, and students
  • Serves as a point of escalation for student disciplinary issues, community or parent questions or complaints, or teacher quality concerns
  • Reports on school health, progress, and programs to students, parents, staff, the community, and applicable governing authorities
  • Creates processes that encourage and establish organizational efficiencies, establishes organizational structures and reporting relationships, and manages staff members

A Day in the Life of a High School Principal

While high school principals may have a variety of day-to-day tasks that need attention, the role is largely focused on strategy. High school principals oversee developing curriculums, course schedules, and programs that create an ideal learning environment for students and an ideal teaching environment for teachers. Their overall focus is on how to set a school up in a way that ensures student success, so much of their time is spent strategizing, planning, monitoring, and campaigning on behalf of the school.

While the principal may manage some staff members directly and some indirectly, he/she is ultimately accountable for ensuring all open roles are filled with effective, experienced individuals that will serve as assets to the school and its initiatives. This may require the high school principal to participate in the interviewing process and weigh in on hiring decisions, even when the hired individual will not work directly under the principal. Additionally, the principal is in charge of managing the school budget.

Outside of school operation responsibilities, the high school principal serves as the face of the school. He/she speaks at community meetings on behalf of the school, provides reports to school boards, superintendents, and other governing authorities, and attends school events to show support. A high school principal may deal with individual students more infrequently than other staff members and may only occasionally step in to handle disciplinary issues or acknowledge achievements.

Typical Work Schedule for High School Principals

High school principals are always working when school is in session. Additionally, they also commonly work in the evenings or on weekends when an event or gathering requires their participation or attendance. High school principals are rarely off work over the summer. Rather, they spend summer breaks planning schedules and programs for the upcoming school year and overseeing maintenance.

Career Progression

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

Typical Employers

Both public and private institutions and organizations hire individuals to serve as principals of the high schools they operate, and the majority of jobs are offered through state or local governments and church organizations.

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How To Become a High School Principal

Most high school principals begin their careers as teachers, educating students in grades 9, 10, 11, or 12. As such, a bachelor’s degree in education that leads to a teaching certification or license is the first requirement for individuals who are aspiring principals. The degree pursued will include a focus on the subject you’re most interested in teaching as well as classes on lesson planning and pedagogy.

After earning a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license, you need to do two things: one is to work as a high school teacher for several years, and the other is to pursue a master’s degree in educational administration and leadership. A master’s degree is usually a prerequisite for working as either an assistant principal or principal because it provides students with education on the legal obligations for running a school and offers practical knowledge on working as a school administrator or leader.

After gaining experience as a teacher and earning a master’s degree, you may qualify for assistant principal positions. Organizations typically want to hire high school principals with prior school administration experience, and working as an assistant principal will provide the needed experience. Some aspiring principals also pursue a Ph.D. in education or administration while working as an assistant principal in order to have an edge over other applicants for open high school principal positions.

High 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

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do High School Principal salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, High 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 a High School Principal. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among High 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 High 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 High 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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