Vice Principal Career Guide

A vice principal is an assistant educational administrator. The primary responsibility of an assistant or vice principal is to help the school’s principal with their daily administration duties. This guide provides further information on what vice principals do, how to become a vice principal, and vice principal salary and outlook.

Vice Principal Job Description

A vice principal may be the only employee in that capacity or may be one of several, depending on the size of the school. A candidate for this career should display leadership qualities, determination, confidence and decision-making abilities in order to rise to a vice principal position. Because their job entails a range of duties, assistant principals must possess excellent communication, organizational, and interpersonal skills. The ideal vice principal shows a desire and capacity to work with children. The job of vice principal is a rewarding career choice but can also be stressful and involves numerous day-to-day routine tasks. A work schedule of over forty hours per week is common as vice principals act as mentors and counselors to students and conduct parent interviews in addition to daily administrative tasks. The overarching duty of a vice principal is to assist with defining and enforcing policies and guidelines for students, staff, and faculty at the school. This involves interaction with inter-school employees and administrators as well as school boards from the district to the state level. To this end, vice principals are heavily involved in conceptualizing the goals of their school and identifying objectives for instruction and extracurricular programs. Because of the scope of their administrative duties, which may include certifying and hiring teachers and staff, most vice principals work a regular work-week through summers and school holidays.

Vice Principal Requirements and Common Tasks

Becoming a vice principal in a public school involves obtaining a master’s degree in education or a related specialty. Many vice principals start out in a teaching capacity and then advance through the ranks. Some vice principals spend their career in this role; others use the assistant position as learning experience and preparation before advancing to other administrative roles. In their assistant capacity, vice principals typically assist with planning class scheduling and approving supply orders submitted by school faculty and staff. Many handle student attendance and discipline problems at the administrative level, from coordinating policies to supervising and directing student suspensions and expulsions. Vice principals also share responsibility for creating a safe school environment, including reviewing and evaluating adherence to school and building codes; planning emergency drills, evacuations, and lock-downs; and reviewing injury and incident reports. Vice principals commonly supervise support services for special needs students in various populations as well as special programs for students and the wider community. These duties are an extension of a vice principal’s participation in curriculum planning and development for students. Many vice principals also share responsibility for planning and coordinating professional development for school faculty and staff.

How to Become a Vice Principal

As the commonly accepted entry-level requirement for vice principals is a master’s degree, prospective vice principals should begin their career paths by earning a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in education or education administration can prepare students well for this career. However, since many vice principals begin their post-graduate careers by working as classroom teachers, a degree in an academic subject with courses in teaching is also acceptable to prepare for this career. In either case, students should take advantage of internships and practicums with classroom placements to begin accumulating experience working with students.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, the next step is to earn a master’s degree. According to O*NET OnLine, about 63% of those working in the education administration field hold a master’s degree and 21% hold a post-master’s certificate.1 A master’s degree in education administration, educational leadership, or a related area of study provides specific preparation for a career as a vice principal. While earning the master’s degree, many prospective vice principals work as classroom teachers to gain further experience. After earning a master’s degree the next step is to become licensed as an education or school administrator at the state level, which commonly involves taking a subject-area examination.

Vice Principal Salary and Job Outlook

As vice principals share many of the same duties as principals, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics groups these professionals with other principals for reporting purposes. The average salary for principals at the elementary, middle, and high school grades is $87,760 per year.2 Principals in these grades are projected to see job growth of 6% from 2012 to 2022.2 Administrators in postsecondary education make a similar annual salary of $86,490, with stronger job growth prospects of 15% from 2012 to 2022.3 Because of higher population growth in the South and West, more employment opportunities may be found in those areas.

Helpful Skills and Experience

Accumulating experience as a classroom teacher may be one of the best preparations that professionals can have for becoming a vice principal, as this experience provides a ground-level understanding of school operations that vice principals must use when working with students and faculty. Vice principals should be outgoing with energetic interpersonal skills since much of their work is done in a cooperative environment. Leadership and organizational skills are equally important to performing this job successfully.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Assistant School Director
  • Assistant School Leader
  • Assistant Principal
  • Assistant Dean
  • Assistant School Head
  • Education Administrator

Additional Resources

There are numerous state and regional associations for school administrators that offer membership benefits for vice principals. Many vice principals also choose to join a national association such as the National Association of Elementary School Principals or the National Association of Secondary School Principals for access to professional and school development opportunities.

Adult & Continuing Education Degrees and Programs

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Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Vice Principal

Question: Do I need certification to become a vice principal?

Answer: In most states, vice principals and other administrators must be licensed as education administrators to work in public schools. Many private schools in these states require state licensing as well. Qualifying for an education administrator license typically involves earning a master’s degree, though in some areas there are alternative pathways to certification. You can find out more about requirements in your state by checking with your state Board of Education.

Question: What career paths are available to vice principals?

Answer: Vice principals can advance their careers in school administration by becoming a principal or a school district officer or administrator. Some vice principals go on to work in post-secondary administration. Because of the scope of the duties involved, this career can also lead to management and executive positions in business, especially in businesses specializing in education services.

1. O*NET OnLine – Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9032.00
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics – Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics – Postsecondary Education Administrators: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/postsecondary-education-administrators.htm