Principals direct the day-to-day operations of elementary, middle and high schools. They help set the learning pace for the school, directing teachers and other staff in an effort to improve learning results and frequently acting as a liaison between the school and the community it serves. Assistant principals typically help with administrative tasks and oversee the task of disciplining the student body.
As of 2010, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that principals earned a median salary of $86,970 per year. Eighty percent of all workers in this occupation reported annual earnings of between $58,300 and $129,480. Data collected by the National Association of Secondary School Principals indicates that annual salaries for both principals and assistant principals has been steadily rising. For example, while high school principals reported an average annual salary of $86,938 for the 2004-2005 school year, the reported average for the 2009-2010 school year was $102,387.
Geographical Variations in Pay:
Data collected by both the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals for both the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years indicate that the highest average salaries for both principals and assistant principals were located in the East, including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. New England and the western states of California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Hawaii and Alaska also reported salaries above the national average. The lowest average salaries tended to be located in the Southwest, Southeast and the Rockies.
Factors Affecting Pay:
According to salary data collected by the National Association of Elementary School Principals for the 2008-2009 school year, elementary principals and assistant principals tended to be paid several thousand dollars less per year than their secondary school counterparts. Data collected by the National Association of Secondary School Principals for the 2009-2010 school year indicates that high school administrators earn more pay than middle school administrators. Unsurprisingly, assistant principals earn less than principals; administrators of larger districts tend to earn more money than administrators of smaller districts; and those who work in richer school districts earn higher average salaries than those in poorer school districts.
The BLS projects that job growth for principals between 2010 and 2020 will be about 10 percent, slightly less than the average growth for all professions. The job outlook will depend heavily on changes in student enrollment. Some areas might actually see a net decrease of jobs. According to BLS predictions, job prospects for school principals will be best in the southern and western states, while the northeast might experience job cuts for this occupation. This career path provides good opportunities for advancement, as many assistant principals go on to assume the responsibilities of a principal. In addition, principals sometimes move onto positions as superintendents or instructional coordinators for school districts.