Principal  What They Do

Just the Facts

Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School Career Video

Insider Info

dotHigh school principals are responsible for every aspect of school administration. They are in control of budgeting, maintenance, personnel relations, faculty and staff supervision, records management, student supervision and placement.

"You do everything in terms of running the school, from creating budgets to ordering textbooks, right down to attending concerts and plays," says principal Rick Shave.

dotStudent welfare and development are the primary concerns of school administrators. The principal's main priority is to promote student development, says Timothy Dyer, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

High school principal Doris Alvarez maintains a safe learning environment for about 1,900 minority students in San Diego. "The challenge is to change the mindset of what a school is," she says.

To Alvarez, schools need to be small so relationships can develop among students, teachers and staff. "Kids need to know there are significant people who care for them. That's a challenge because it isn't the way people look at high school."

dotThe job requires time and energy. It's not unusual for a school administrator to work 70 to 80 hours a week.

The activities range from dealing with contracts for a computer lab to dealing with child abuse to deciding on a new reading curriculum.

"It's a frenetic pace, and not just among activities, but people as well," says Paul Hersey, director of professional assistance at NASSP. "Research shows administrators have 400 separate interactions per day with staff, students and parents."

Shave agrees. "You have to be really, really flexible. You have to be able to get along with all kinds of people, and juggle many different things at once. If you can't handle this then this isn't the job for you."

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Plan and direct the activities of teachers and other staff

  • Most began their careers as teachers
  • Most work more than 40 hours a week
  • You'll need an education degree plus years of classroom experience