Vice Principal Career Guide

A vice principal, also known as an assistant principal, is an educational administrator who helps the principal oversee the daily operations of the school. This guide provides information on what vice principals do, how to become one, and salary and job outlook information.

Table of Contents

How to Become
Job Description
Salary & Job Outlook
Additional Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
Related Pages

How to Become a Vice Principal

Before entering education administration as vice principal, several years of experience as a K-12 teacher is usually required. Thus the common steps to becoming a vice principal are:

  1. Earn bachelor’s degree in a teachable subject that includes a teacher preparation program.
  2. Complete a student teaching internship at the grade level(s) where you intend to pursue certification.
  3. Take your state’s required tests for teacher licensure.
  4. Apply for your teacher’s license.
  5. Gain three to five years of experience as a classroom teacher.
  6. Complete a master’s degree or higher (such as a post-graduate certificate, specialist degree or doctoral degree) in school administration, educational leadership, or a related subject.
  7. Take your state’s required tests for a school administrator’s license.
  8. Apply for your school administrator’s license.
  9. Begin applying to open vice principal positions.

According to O*NET OnLine, 44% of K-12 education administrators have a post-master’s certificate, while 37% have a master’s degree as their highest education.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.

Vice Principal Job Description

A school may have one vice principal or several, depending on its size. 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 school employees and administrators as well as school boards from the district to the state level. 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 workweek through summers and school holidays.

Some vice principals spend their entire careers in this role; others use the assistant position as a learning experience and preparation before advancing to other administrative roles. A work schedule of over 40 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.

Requirements and Common Tasks

Many vice principals start as teachers and advance through the ranks. In their assistant capacity, vice principals typically assist with planning class schedules 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. These duties are an extension of a vice principal’s participation in curriculum planning and development for students. Many vice principals also share responsibility in the teacher evaluation process.

Helpful Skills and Experience

Future vice principals should display leadership qualities, determination, confidence, and strong decision-making abilities. They should possess excellent communication, organizational, and interpersonal skills. The ideal vice principal shows a desire and capacity to work with children.

Accumulating experience as a classroom teacher is strong preparation for becoming a vice principal, as this experience provides a ground-level understanding of school operations that vice principals will 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 perform this job successfully.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

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

Vice Principal Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically report data for vice principals, but they fall under the BLS category of elementary, middle, and high school principals in kindergarten through secondary school (K-12). We have also included postsecondary education administrators for comparison. Following is an employment, salary, and outlook breakdown of both levels of school administrators:

Education Administrator Level# Employed2,3Median Annual Wage2,390th Percentile Annual Wage2,3Projected Job
Growth 2022-322,3

Additional Resources

Vice Principal Career Interviews

Frequently Asked Questions

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 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 certification pathways. 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 (such as superintendent). Some K-12 vice principals switch to postsecondary administration.

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