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Dean vs. Principal: What Are the Differences?

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

The roles of a dean and a principal are both important in the education system. They are responsible for different aspects of the school, but they work together to ensure the students have a positive and successful experience. In this article, we compare and contrast the job titles of dean and principal, and we provide information on what you can expect from each role.

What is a Dean?

A Dean is a senior administrator at a college or university who is responsible for a specific academic unit, such as the College of Arts and Sciences. Deans report to the Provost or President of the university and are responsible for the budget, curriculum, hiring and firing of faculty, and other aspects of the academic unit. Deans often have a teaching or research background in the field they oversee. They work closely with department chairs and other faculty to ensure that the academic unit is running smoothly and that students are receiving a quality education.

What is a Principal?

A Principal is the head administrator of a school, typically overseeing all educational and disciplinary aspects of the institution. They work with teachers, staff and students to create a positive learning environment and ensure that the school is meeting all educational standards. Principals also develop budgets, allocate resources and hire new personnel. They work with the Board of Education to develop long-term plans for the school and lobby for resources from the government or private donors. Principals typically have a background in education and many hold a Master’s degree in Education Leadership or a similar field.

Dean vs. Principal

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

Job Duties

A principal’s job duties can vary depending on the size of the school and the requirements of their state education board. Typically, though, a principal oversees all aspects of a school, including student performance, staff members’ work and the physical structure of the building. Dean responsibilities are more focused on student life and behavior.

For example, a high school principal might oversee scheduling, building design and budgeting for the entire school. They might also work with teachers to improve curriculum and monitor students’ academic progress. A dean might focus solely on enforcing school policies regarding dress code, cell phone use and curfew. They might meet with students individually or in groups to discuss these issues and make sure everyone follows the rules.

Job Requirements

To become a dean or principal, you need to have at least a master’s degree in education or a related field. Some deans and principals also pursue doctorates to gain more knowledge in their field and improve their chances of being hired for these high-level positions. Many deans and principals start their careers as teachers before moving into leadership roles. It’s also common for them to have experience working in school administration, such as serving as an assistant principal or department head.

Work Environment

Principals typically work in school settings, where they oversee the daily operations of their respective schools. They may spend most of their time in classrooms and other areas of the building, such as the cafeteria or gymnasium. Deans also work in educational environments, but they usually have more administrative responsibilities than principals. This means that they often work in offices rather than classrooms.


Both deans and principals need to have excellent communication skills. They use these skills when they are interacting with students, parents, teachers and other administrators. They also need to be able to effectively communicate their vision for the school and their expectations for the staff and students.

Deans and principals also need to be able to manage people and resources effectively. They need to be able to delegate tasks, resolve conflicts and make decisions that are in the best interest of the school. They also need to be able to budget their time and resources wisely.

While both deans and principals need to have a deep understanding of the educational system, deans typically focus more on the academic side of things. They need to be able to develop curriculum, assess student learning and support faculty research. Principals, on the other hand, focus more on the day-to-day operations of the school. They need to be able to create schedules, manage facilities and oversee extracurricular activities.


The average salary for a dean is $93,754 per year, while the average salary for a principal is $106,467 per year. The salary for both positions may vary depending on the size of the school, the location of the school and the level of experience the dean or principal has.


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