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Principal vs. Senior Manager: What Are the Differences?

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

A career in management can be both rewarding and challenging. Two common management positions are that of a principal and a senior manager. Though these roles share some similarities, there are several key differences between them.

In this article, we discuss the differences between a principal and a senior manager, and we provide additional management professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is a Principal?

A Principal is a high-level executive or administrator in charge of a specific area of a company or organization. They are responsible for developing and implementing strategies and initiatives to achieve specific goals. Principals typically have a deep understanding of their area of expertise and use this knowledge to make decisions that will impact the company as a whole. They often oversee a team of managers and may have direct reports of their own. Principals typically work in upper-level management and have a significant amount of experience in their field.

What is a Senior Manager?

Senior Managers are responsible for leading and directing a team of employees within a company. They develop strategies and objectives in alignment with the company’s overall business goals. Senior Managers create policies and procedures to ensure that the team is efficient and effective. They also oversee the budget and expenditures for their department. Senior Managers report to the company’s executives and provide updates on the team’s progress. They also resolve conflicts and issues within the team.

Principal vs. Senior Manager

Here are the main differences between a principal and a senior manager.

Job Duties

Principals carry out the day-to-day operations of their school, including overseeing teachers and providing feedback on their performance. They may also hire new staff members and delegate responsibilities to them based on department or subject area. For example, a principal might assign an English teacher the task of creating a curriculum for their class and evaluate their work when they submit it.

Senior managers often have similar job duties at their company, but they perform them at a higher level. For example, a senior manager might create a company-wide strategy that the principal can use to guide their decisions in their school. Similarly, they may provide feedback to lower-level employees about how to improve their work.

Job Requirements

The job requirements for principals and senior managers vary depending on the organization they work for. However, most principals and senior managers have at least a bachelor’s degree in business administration or another related field. Additionally, many organizations prefer candidates to have a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) or another related field. Some organizations also require candidates to have several years of experience working in management before they can be considered for a principal or senior manager position.

Work Environment

Principals typically work in a school environment, which can be stressful and fast-paced. They may also travel to different schools or districts to observe students and teachers. Senior managers usually work in an office setting with other professionals. Their work environments are often less hectic than those of principals because they don’t have the same responsibilities as administrators.


Both principals and senior managers need to have excellent communication skills. This is important because they will often be responsible for communicating with different stakeholders, such as parents, teachers, administrators and government officials. They also need to be able to effectively communicate their vision for the school or district and inspire others to work towards that goal.

Organizational skills are important for both principals and senior managers. This is because they often have to manage multiple tasks and projects at one time. They need to be able to prioritize their workload and delegate tasks to other staff members in order to ensure that everything gets done in a timely manner.

Leadership skills are essential for both positions. Principals and senior managers need to be able to motivate and inspire others to achieve common goals. They also need to be able to make difficult decisions and provide guidance to those who report to them.


The average salary for a principal is $106,467 per year, while the average salary for a senior manager is $127,417 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the size of the company, the industry in which you work and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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