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Assistant Principal: Education Requirements and Career Information

Assistant principals are responsible for ordering textbooks, handling discipline, hiring teachers, scheduling classes and devising recreational programs. Depending on the size of the school, there may be several assistant principals monitoring students and activities.

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Education Requirements

Though some assistant principals start their careers as teachers, others begin in school administrative positions. An undergraduate degree in education is essential, and nearly all states require public school principals to hold master's degrees in education or educational leadership.

Bachelor of Arts in Education

A Bachelor of Arts in Education (B.A.Ed.) is a 4-year degree program that combines general education courses with core education work. Aspiring education majors must demonstrate a high grade point average and pass the PRAXIS I exam, which is a pre-professional exam that measures students' basic grasp of reading, math and science. Once admitted to a teaching college, students can expect three semesters of education-intensive coursework in:

  • Foundations of American education
  • Literature for children
  • Teaching the exceptional learner
  • Problem solving applications
  • Teaching mathematics and social studies
  • Classroom management
  • Social concepts in education

The fourth and final semester of the B.A.Ed. program is student teaching. The student must pass the PRAXIS II exam, a second-tier professional exam that measures the students' readiness to teach in a classroom setting. Students are then assigned a supervising teacher in a school district. Beginning with observation, the student will ultimately develop and implement lesson plans, taking full control of the classroom by teaching, disciplining, tutoring and working with small groups of students. Upon graduation, holders of this degree are licensed to teach in the state in which they graduated.

Master of Arts in Education

For the assistant principal, a Master of Arts in Education (M.A.Ed.) or a Master of Higher Education (M.Ed.) point the way toward a career in school administration. Aside from meeting state guidelines for public school administrators, these programs guide students toward exploring relevant issues in education and encourage students to apply their knowledge in the workplace. A practicum is generally part of these programs, as is student teaching.

A graduate student in an administrative education master's program might expect to study:

  • History of Western education
  • Sociological foundations of education
  • Leadership in education
  • Curriculum development
  • Enrollment management
  • School finance and budgeting
  • Supervision and discipline

Licensure Requirements

Almost all states require public school principals to be licensed and to have either a master's degree or graduate-level training, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov). Most states have a state association that handles licensure, and these associations also offer continuing education for license renewal. Private school principals are not subject to these regulations.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

While it isn't strictly necessary to teach before moving into a principal's position, most assistant principals have held teaching positions prior to earning a promotion. From there, other administrative positions can be gained in the school or at the district level.

According to the BLS, jobs for elementary, middle school, and high school principals are expected to grow by 6% between 2012 and 2022. Additionally, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for education administrators at the elementary and high school levels was $87,760 as of May, 2012.

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