BLS principals

The median income is $95,310. The BLS projected the employment change at 4% from 2018-2018 or 11,200 jobs. Sounds impressive; however, this translates to only 1,120 job openings per year for those ten years. The typical degree is a master’s plus five years of experience to reach this level in the education system.

The online site,, lists the average salary at $106,263, as of September 2019. The reported salary range is $93,860 to $119,535. Several factors influence a principal’s income. Some of these are education, experience, certifications, public vs. private, and location.

One might think that with private school tuition, the pay would be more than public schools. This is not always the case. An October 2013 article in The Atlantic magazine reported that private school teachers earn an average of $36,000 per year. Their counterparts in public schools make almost $50,000. The lower pay is one reason for the higher turnover in the first three years of private school teaching (24%). The turnover in public schools is 13% for the same period. It seems logical that private school principals may receive less income as well.

Individuals not deterred by the above statistics need to know how to reach the position of principal. What is the work path? We will explore some of the settings where you can gain teaching experience. Years of teaching are crucial to establishing the groundwork for an administrative role.

Charter School

Job searches for a principal may state that candidates have experience in a charter school. These schools receive public funds but are independently operated and managed. The school establishes a charter, which outlines its performance criteria, mission, assessment methods, and teaching program. The charter or contract is filed with the state or local school board. Each charter school has a board of trustees.

Teachers who want a flexible curriculum and present creative methods may prefer a charter school. The school also has autonomy from state and local rules regarding staffing and budgeting. The tuition-free schooling can only operate in states where there is a charter school law.

Urban Schools

The U.S. Census Bureau divides urban schools into three groups according to population:

  • Large: 250,000 or more
  • Midsize: 250,000 or less
  • Small: 100,000 or less

Some of these inner-city areas are challenging for teachers. These schools deal with ethnicity, low income, fewer resources, overcrowding, discipline issues, and more. Teachers who can thrive in this environment gain valuable experience. Those who ignore the perceived limitations of poverty, language barriers, and skin color can inspire students to excel. This experience also creates openings at non-profit schools, for example, that value individuals with urban school years of teaching.

Multiple Grades

Another work consideration on the path to becoming a principal is to teach different grade levels. For example, if you start in kindergarten, you need to proceed to second or third grade, then to middle school. During a child’s early education, they learn to read. Once they master that skill, they advance to reading to learn. During the middle school years, you can inspire students to seek knowledge and interests beyond the classroom. The classroom management skills from the lower grades transfer to middle school. The experience of multiple levels boosts your marketability for future administration.

Educational Leadership

An aspiring principal needs to find ways to assume a leadership role. Future principals should seek out opportunities to be a leader outside of managing your students daily.

Mentor:  Novice or transferred teachers may require assistance. You can serve as a mentor to advise on the politics of the school, the curriculum, procedures, rules, and practices.

School Leader

You can volunteer to join a committee, become a department chair, represent the school at community events, organize funding (if applicable), and be part of the district task forces. Organizing student extracurricular activities is another possibility to show leadership.


In the example of charter schools, you could be instrumental in creating a new approach to the curriculum or a particular subject. By conferencing with fellow teachers, you assert a leadership position through the initiative to adopt change for the betterment of the students.


Join pertinent organizations to enhance your teaching and leadership skills. Science teachers, for example, have the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA). Its membership of 50,000 teachers, administrators, and scientists promote excellence in teaching the sciences.

Leadership training classes are available for teachers who want to expand their skills beyond mentor teacher, coach, or instructional leader. The Center for Teacher Leadership offered by Virginia Commonwealth University is one example. The school offers Advanced Teacher Leadership Training online.


Teaching experience is paramount on the road to being a principal. As critical is your level of education. At some point, you will need to obtain a master’s degree in education or a related field.

Additional Resources:

Do I need a Ph.D. to be a school Principal?

What is usually done for a background check of teachers? 

What kind of work should I do to get on the path to becoming a principal? 

What kind of work should I do to get on the path to becoming a superintendent?

What kind of jobs can I get with a Masters in Child Development?

Does becoming a Middle School principal have different requirements from a High School principal?