How Do You Become a Principal?

Updated February 23, 2022 | Staff Writers

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What Are The Responsibilities Of a Principal?

Many professionals who perform well in careers within the field of education aspire to the role of principal for personal satisfaction as well as for its many challenges. Principals are responsible for leading high, middle and elementary schools. They are involved in a number of activities, from developing and upholding the school board policy and the school’s mission statement as well as being the instructional leader. Principals also set standards of performance and establish objectives and goals for teachers, students, and faculty.

How to Become a Principal

The requirements for this position can vary, and the degree path will depend largely on the state in which the student lives, the job market in the area and what schools in the area are seeking. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals typically must first obtain a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification. Although the bachelor’s degree does not need to be in an education field as long as the individual is certified, a bachelor’s degree in education may be helpful and set the applicant apart from his or her peers as he or she works his or her way up to this career.

Education Requirements

Teaching experience may be necessary before an individual can begin a master’s degree program. Many aspiring principals aim to complete a master’s degree in education or enter a more specific field such as educational leadership. Although most schools and states require principals to hold a related master’s degree, some schools may hire principals with a master’s degree in any field as long as they are certified school administrators and certified teachers. Again, the requirements to obtain employment as principals vary depending on the school district, but individuals with master’s degrees in education will likely have a head start.

In addition, individuals seeking to work at the elementary, middle or high school levels may choose to follow a master’s degree in elementary education or a field that relates to the specific grades of the school in which they would like to work. Many educational administration and leadership master’s degrees have elective courses, so aspiring principals may choose classes that specifically prepare them for these careers. While taking these elective classes, aspiring principals may wish to get involved in their communities by volunteering for planning groups, committees or activities. Demonstrating the ability to effectively moderate others, confidently spearhead a planning committee or successfully complete a group activity will likely lead to a positive recommendation when students are pursuing positions as principals.

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Personality Traits of Principals

When analyzing career prospects, it is important to consider whether or not the individual possesses the qualifications to pursue a career at this level. Successful candidates for these positions demonstrate sound decision-making, innovative thinking, confidence, flexibility, tenacity, and patience. In addition, candidates seeking positions as principals must be effective communicators and have strong interpersonal skills. Understanding leadership strategies and practices, typically gained through a master’s in educational administration degree, is a must.

Principals are critical to the success of a school’s students, staff, and faculty. Obtaining a solid education, becoming involved in the community and researching the district’s qualifications for principals are critical to landing a job in this field. However, acting as the leader of a school in the role of a principal is a challenging, worthy and rewarding aspiration, and pursuing a master’s degree can make a difference in terms of career options and job outlook.

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