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How Much Does a High School Principal Make?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

High school principal requirements include serving as a bulwark of safety and stability between students and any interference with their successful transition from childhood to productive citizenship. Every principal must build trust with students, teachers and the community while upholding exacting but achievable academic standards. Communities with plenty of social and financial resources provide greater support for education than poor areas. Consequently, principal salary often varies widely, even within the same school district.

Modern principals foster collegiality and build coalitions between businesses, teachers, students and community agencies to ensure that students learn vital life skills and internalize a sense of civic duty. From "the principal is your pal" era to the bullhorn-wielding stereotype, the role of the principal has returned to its intended historical role, serving as both the most effective or "principal" teacher and as a living wall between students and any interference with their education.

Historically, principals were teachers – usually male – who had reached the top of their field in academic rigor. While not intended to be crusaders, many principal teachers instilled a crusading spirit in their students.

As a principal, expect to perform any or all of these duties:

  • Decide which curricula, teaching methods and programs to use for greater academic success 
  • Ensure compliance with federal, state and local regulations 
  • Evaluate and standardize curricula and teaching techniques and identify areas of improvement 
  • Counsel and guide students regarding personal, academic, vocational and behavioral issues 
  • Collaborate with teachers and community members to develop and maintain curriculum standards and mission statements, including clear performance goals and objectives 
  • Direct and coordinate teachers, administrators and support staff at public agencies and institutions 

Education Requirements

Since most school districts expect their high school principals to hold at least a master's degree and five or more years of related service, you must spend at least eight years pursuing your credentials. During that time, you should take every opportunity to coach, substitute teach, plan lessons and foster positive relationships with staff, students and the community.


Due to district consolidation and privatization, expect the total number of positions to remain flat or decrease. Hone your managerial skills and network with local, state and federal employers to keep tabs on the jobs of the future so that your students make the right academic decisions to maximize their future employment prospects. Fostering these relationships provides traction later when negotiating tax increases or requesting infrastructure upgrades.

Years of Experience and Salary

Time spent attending college and fulfilling subsequent continuing education requirements should provide you with enough classroom experience to qualify as a substitute teacher by the time you earn your bachelor's degree. When you take a contracted classroom teacher position, you gain another three to five years of experience while pursuing your master's degree. When you become a principal, you could spend another 35 years in education – as long as your school's test scores and graduation rate result in high college acceptance statistics.

Principal salary data for 2017 reveal a median annual salary of $94,390 per year. Positions with comparable responsibilities, such as postsecondary education administrators, have a lower median wage than principals at $92,360 per year.

Job Growth Trend

In 2016, principal positions in all three categories – elementary, middle and high school – stood at 251,300. Expect just 19,800 of those to be high school principals between 2016 and 2026.