Vice Principal: Job Description & Career Info

Learn how to become a vice principal. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements to find out how to start a career as a vice principal.

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Do I Want to Be a Vice Principal?

Vice principals, also known as assistant principals, work alongside school principals to manage the administrative and educational components of an elementary, middle or secondary school. They regularly interact with teachers, students and members of the community. Many vice principals deal with student discipline issues, which can be stressful. They must be adept in motivating students to turn negative behaviors into more positive actions.

Job Requirements

Most vice principals start out as teachers and then complete master's degree programs in education administration or educational leadership. Aspiring vice principals usually have a bachelor's degree and teacher certification prior to applying to these grad programs, unless they enter a program specifically designed for individuals with a bachelor's degree in another field. The following table provides the key requirements to work as a vice principal, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Master's degree
Degree Field Educational leadership or education administration
Licensure or Certification Teacher certification and vice principal/education administration certification usually required for work at public schools
Experience Many employers require prior experience as a teacher
Key Skills Leadership, communication and interpersonal skills
Computer Skills Knowledge of various instructional technologies
Additional Skills Budgeting and finance knowledge, ability to effectively evaluate teachers and staff

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Because vice principals usually start their careers as teachers, they must hold bachelor's degrees and state teaching credentials. Many colleges and universities provide bachelor's degree programs in elementary or secondary school education. These programs usually take 4-5 years to finish and include a teacher preparation component. Most degree programs include classes in educational philosophy, classroom management and student diversity. Education majors are also normally expected to fulfill a student teaching internship during the course of their program.

Step 2: Obtain a Teaching Certificate

Every state requires licensure for public school teachers before they can start teaching. Licensing standards differ by state, but most licensing boards expect candidates to earn a bachelor's degree and complete a supervised internship that includes classroom teaching. Candidates usually must pass a state licensing exam that tests literacy, subject knowledge and teaching ability. Those who teach at the elementary level must pass a general teaching exam, while secondary school instructors usually need to pass both a general exam and a single subject test focused on the topics they wish to teach.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

Before moving into school administration positions, many vice principals must gain important communication and leadership skills by working as teachers. Teachers are responsible for curriculum development, evaluating students' work and creating a safe learning environment. Acquiring work experience as an educator can supply aspiring vice principals with the basis to understand the teaching field, instructors' responsibilities and classroom practice. It is also typical for states to require a couple years of teaching experience in order for applicants to gain assistant principal licensure.

Step 4: Complete a Graduate Program

Teachers can prepare for advancement into vice principal positions by earning a master's degree in educational leadership or education administration. In certain states, professionals might also be able to enroll in a graduate certificate program for principals if they have a master's degree in another subject. Graduate programs in education administration typically take two years to complete and may expect students to hold teaching licenses and prior teaching experience before enrollment. Courses in these types of programs may include curriculum development, administrative leadership, school law and school finance. Students may also have to fulfill internships and capstone projects to graduate.

Step 5: Pursue an Administrator or Assistant Principal License

The majority of U.S. states require public school vice principals to have a school administrator or assistant principal license. To be eligible for licensure, most states mandate that applicants earn a graduate degree. Candidates are often expected to complete a state licensing exam and may need to satisfy a practicum requirement under the supervision of a mentor. Specifications vary by location, but states usually permit individuals to add a vice principal endorsement to their current teaching license. Many states require individuals to obtain a certain score on the Praxis II exam after completing a master's degree program and securing a minimum amount of teaching experience. Those who wish to work at a private school don't need to earn licensure.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional organization. Associations created for both school principals and vice principals are available. Individuals can turn to the National Assistant Principal Leadership Center within the National Association of Secondary School Principals to learn about opportunities for professional development and to keep their credentials current.
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Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Alabama (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at The University of Alabama include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Education
      • Counseling and Guidance
      • Educational Administration and Supervision
        • Educational and Curriculum Supervision
        • Educational Leadership
        • Higher Education Administration
        • K thru 8 Administration and Principalship
      • Educational Evaluation and Research
      • ESL Teaching
      • Library Science and Related Professions
      • Special Education
      • Teacher Education for Specific Levels and Methods
      • Teacher Education for Specific Subject Areas
  • School locations:
    • Mississippi (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Mississippi State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Education
      • Counseling and Guidance
      • Curriculum and Instruction
      • Educational Administration and Supervision
        • Community College Education
        • Educational Leadership
        • K thru 8 Administration and Principalship
      • Special Education
      • Teacher Education for Specific Levels and Methods
      • Teacher Education for Specific Subject Areas

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics