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CEO vs. Principal: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

CEOs and principals are both leaders in their respective organizations. As such, they share some qualities, such as the ability to inspire and motivate others. However, there are several key differences between these two roles. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between CEOs and principals, and we provide tips for those interested in pursuing a career in either field.

What is a CEO?

A CEO, or Chief Executive Officer, is the highest ranking executive in a company. They are responsible for making major strategic decisions for the company, setting and achieving goals and objectives, overseeing the overall operation of the company, and acting as the public face of the organization. CEOs report to the company’s board of directors. They typically have a team of executive officers and managers who report to them and carry out the day-to-day operations of the company.

What is a Principal?

A Principal is the head of a school or educational institution. They are responsible for the overall operation of the school, including hiring and supervising staff, developing curriculum, managing finances and maintaining facilities. Principals also work with students, parents and the community to ensure that the school is providing a quality education. In some cases, Principals may also teach classes or lead professional development workshops for teachers.

CEO vs. Principal

Here are the main differences between a CEO and a principal.

Job Duties

A CEO typically oversees all aspects of an organization, so their job duties are broad. They decide the company’s overall direction, set its goals and determine how to achieve those goals. A principal is more focused on one aspect of a school or business. For example, a school principal may decide curriculum, oversee student behavior and hire teachers. A CEO may have some similar job duties, but they apply them at a higher level.

Job Requirements

To become a CEO, you will likely need to have significant experience in the business world. Many CEOs start their careers in entry-level or management positions and work their way up the corporate ladder. Some may also pursue a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) or a related field to help them develop the skills they need to be successful in this role.

Principals typically need at least a bachelor’s degree, although some schools prefer candidates who have a master’s degree in education or a related field. Principals must also have a teaching license from the state where they plan to work. In order to obtain a teaching license, candidates must complete an accredited teacher preparation program and pass a state-specific exam.

Work Environment

The work environment for a CEO and principal can vary depending on the company. For example, CEOs often travel to different locations to meet with employees and clients. They may also attend meetings in other cities or states. Principals typically spend most of their time at school, but they may need to visit other schools to observe students and teachers.


Both CEOs and principals need to have excellent communication skills. They will use these skills when they are writing reports, giving presentations and interacting with employees, clients and shareholders. Both of these positions also require strong organizational skills. This is because CEOs and principals often oversee multiple departments or initiatives in a company at one time and need to ensure they devote adequate time and effort to each task.

While a CEO needs to have an in-depth knowledge of business and marketing concepts that can inform how they design and guide the implementation of new marketing and advertising initiatives, a principal needs to be knowledgeable about education and curriculum development. A CEO typically benefits from having highly developed strategic and decision-making skills, as much of their job involves choosing improvements to make to a company’s overall operations. A principal usually needs to be skilled in conflict resolution, as they may need to mediate disputes between teachers, students and parents.


The average salary for a CEO is $283,371 per year, while the average salary for a principal is $106,467 per year. The salary for a CEO can vary depending on the size of the company, the industry and the location. The salary for a principal can vary depending on the size of the school, the location and the level of education.


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