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Principal Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: September 27, 2023

A Principal, or Public School Principal, oversees the daily activities and operations within a school. Their main duties include disciplining or advising students, approving Teachers’ curriculums and ensuring the school environment is safe for all students and staff members.

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Principal duties and responsibilities

It’s critical that job functions are conveyed accurately to ensure the most qualified applicants apply. The responsibilities and duties of the principal include:

  • Ensuring that academic policies and curriculum are followed
  • Developing and tracking benchmarks for measuring institutional success
  • Helping teachers maximize their teaching potential
  • Meeting and listening to concerns of students on a regular basis
  • Encouraging, guiding and assisting student leaders and teachers
  • Meeting with parents and administrators on a regular basis for problem resolution
  • Enforcing discipline when necessary
  • Providing an atmosphere free of any bias in which students can achieve their maximum potential
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Principal Job Description Examples

What does a Principal do? 

Principals make sure that an elementary, middle or high school is operating efficiently by overseeing Teachers and students every day. They’ll hire and train Teachers and other team members who work at the institution. Principals will also develop codes and policies for their Teachers to follow and will consistently enforce these guidelines.

They’ll build and maintain budgets for the school and make sure it remains in stable financial standing. Principals also work closely with board members and parents to communicate any important announcements or information regarding the school and its students. They’re also responsible for creating building and guest policies to keep everyone safe at all times.

Principal skills and qualifications

It’s equally important to outline required and preferred skills. To attract more suitable candidates, include soft skills and personality traits. Long lists are not recommended. Instead, include qualifications and skills essential to this role.

To qualify for the position of a principal, an applicant should have the following:

  • A Master’s degree in education is considered the minimum qualifying credential. However, in some cases, a Bachelor’s degree in education with at least 5 years in a leadership role may also be acceptable
  • Minimum of two years of working experience as a school leader or principal
  • Communication skills to develop a productive educational experience for both teachers and students
  • Problem solving skills to enhance teacher performance and improve student grades
  • Valid teaching license

Principal Salary Expectations

A Principal makes an average of $115,337 per year. Salary may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location.

Principal education and training requirements

Candidates applying for this position should have a Master’s degree in education. There are some cases where a Bachelor’s degree in education may be acceptable if the candidate has at least five years of experience in a leadership role in a similar setting.

Principal experience requirements

A principal should have at least two years of working experience. During this time, a Principal should gain critical knowledge about how to run a school effectively and provide its students with high-quality education and resources.

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Frequently asked questions about Principals

Who reports to a Principal?

The people who report to a Principal can typically vary depending on the type of school they work in. Principals who work for smaller institutions usually handle both day-to-day and big-picture operations, so Teachers will regularly report directly to them. They’ll conduct ongoing evaluations of teachers to ensure they’re performing effectively and are teaching the proper curriculums.

Those who work in larger institutions will typically have a Vice Principal report directly to them. The Vice Principal will collaborate more closely with Teachers and students on a daily basis while the Principal handles more big-picture items. If the Vice Principal comes across any complex problems while on the job, the Principal will address and resolve the issue.

What's the difference between a Principal and a Superintendent?

While they both work in the education industry and oversee the operations of school systems, there are some main differences between Principals and Superintendents when it comes to their job responsibilities and seniority levels. A Superintendent typically oversees the entire school system, including the elementary, middle and high schools. They’re also usually elected and hired by the school board.

The Principal is usually in charge of one school or building and reports directly to the Superintendent. The Superintendent will also hire and oversee the job performance of the Principal.

What are the different types of Principals?

Principals can work in different schools completing various job duties. An Elementary School Principal usually oversees children in Kindergarten to 5th grade, though the grades may vary among schools. They’ll work with younger children and will establish policies to make sure all students are receiving proper curriculums and engaging in activities that support their brain developments.

Middle and High School Principals oversee students from ages 12 to 18. They’ll collaborate more closely with the Athletic Director to ensure students can handle sports and extracurricular activities, while still maintaining passing grades.

What makes a good Principal?

A great Principal should have impressive leadership skills to guide and motivate Teachers, students and other staff members. Ideal candidates typically have advanced experience in education, usually previously serving as a Teacher to help provide valuable expertise and advice to Teachers.

They should also have effective problem solving and conflict management skills to provide quick and logical solutions to high-level issues that the school may undergo. Since every day is often different and problems regularly arise that they may constantly resolve, Principals must be good at multitasking and adapting to changing environments.

Job Description Examples

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