How to Become a Middle School Principal

Master's Degree
1 to 5 years
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Choosing a career in education can be rewarding, but not everyone wants to stay in the classroom. For some teachers or even those in other careers, the call towards administration is strong and worth paying attention to. Depending on your current job experience, education level, and motivation to advance quickly, you can take a number of different steps to realize your goal of becoming a middle school principal and have a real impact on students, teacher, families, and, ultimately, the future.

The Principal Pathway: To Teach or Not to Teach?

Many middle school principals arrive at their position after some time spent in the classroom. Not all great teachers make great administrators, however, and not every good middle school principal needs to be a great teacher in order to be successful.

If you are currently teaching, you’ll have a leg up in terms of knowing the demands of the job on the classroom level, but there’s still plenty to learn about how to run a staff and a school. Once you’re clear on the path you want your career to go, identify a mentor with principal experience, either at your school, university, or via an online teaching program, and work with them to help you formulate a plan of action. Try shadowing your mentor for a day to get a feel for the job, and then begin looking for certification programs once you’re sure about your plan.

If you’re not currently teaching and you have your heart set on becoming a middle school principal, you may want to look into finding a teaching job first. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most principals do start their careers as teachers. There are many programs available designed to fast-track school leaders who are interested in applying their leadership skills from another industry towards a job in educational leadership, however, but the more traditional route has been to begin in the classroom before moving up the principal’s desk.

Finding Resources: Professional Development and Certification

There are a number of traditional master’s programs available to give you all the skills you need to qualify for most middle school principals jobs, but more and more non-traditional programs are being created to meet the need for new leadership in education. Alternative certification programs abound, from courses at a local university to online learning opportunities that allow you to study coursework in your own time while continuing to teach or begin student teaching.

Like teaching, the work of being a middle school principal is one of constant learning. Plan on finding and pursuing opportunities for professional development long after you net the job of your dreams. Online programs are often a great way to keep current with your skills and find motivation and inspiration to further both your career and the teachers and students in your charge.

Looking Ahead: Career Prospects

Becoming a middle school principal will open up a wider field of career possibilities in the education field. Many principals stay in this role for years as the work is challenging, ever-changing, and very satisfying for the right candidate. Some principals go on to focus purely on the academic side of education and become educational consultants for a number of schools or a building-level or district director of curriculum. If you’re particularly motivated, it’s not uncommon for principals to advance to become superintendents at the local or state level. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that the median pay for middle school principals was $86,970 in May 2010, which makes this more attractive, salary wise, than a typical career as a classroom teacher.

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