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School Administrator vs. Principal: What Are the Differences?

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

A school administrator is responsible for the daily operations of a school, while a principal is in charge of a school’s educational program. Both positions require excellent leadership skills and a dedication to education. If you’re interested in working in education, learning more about the similarities and differences between these two job titles can help you decide which is the best fit for you. In this article, we compare and contrast school administrators and principals, and we provide information on what you can expect from each role.

What is a School Administrator?

School Administrators are responsible for the overall management and operation of a school. They develop and implement policies and procedures, oversee the budget and manage staff. They also create and maintain schedules, coordinate curriculum and develop assessment tools. In addition, School Administrators typically handle discipline and student behavior issues. They work closely with teachers, staff, students and parents to ensure that the school is running smoothly and efficiently.

What is a Principal?

A school principal is the educational leader of a school. They are responsible for the overall operation of the school, including curriculum development, staffing, budgeting, and student discipline. They also create a safe and positive learning environment for students and staff. Principals typically have a Master’s degree in education or a related field, as well as several years of experience working in a school. They must also be licensed by the state in which they work. Principals typically work in a school district office or in the central office of a large school.

School Administrator vs. Principal

Here are the main differences between a school administrator and a principal.

Job Duties

Both school administrators and principals have a variety of job duties they must complete for their school. The major difference between the two positions is the type of tasks they perform. School administrators handle more high-level tasks, such as creating curriculum, designing budgets and developing policies. They also work with parents, teachers and students to ensure each individual has the resources they need to succeed.

Principals oversee the daily operations of a school. They make sure teachers are following classroom rules and that students are learning in class. Principals also monitor student behavior and report any issues to school administrators. Additionally, they manage school schedules and make decisions about which classes students can take.

Job Requirements

School administrators typically need to have a master’s degree in education administration or leadership, although some positions may only require a bachelor’s degree. Many school administrators also pursue certification through the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) or the American Association of School Administrators (AASA). These certifications can demonstrate that administrators have the skills and knowledge necessary to lead a school effectively.

To become a principal, you must first complete a teacher preparation program and earn a teaching license. After working as a teacher for a few years, you can then pursue a master’s degree in educational administration or leadership. Some states also require principals to pass an exam, such as the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) Test for Certification of Educational Leaders.

Work Environment

Principals typically work in school settings, while administrators may work in a variety of different environments. School administrators often work in offices and classrooms to ensure that the school is running smoothly. They also travel between schools to observe teachers and students and provide support where needed.

School principals usually spend most of their time at one particular school, but they may occasionally visit other schools within their district or state. Principals may also attend meetings with parents, teachers and other school staff members to discuss student progress and address concerns.


Both school administrators and principals need to have excellent communication skills. This is important because they often need to interact with parents, teachers, students and other members of the community. They also both need to be able to effectively manage people and resources.

School administrators typically have a more broad focus than principals. They may oversee multiple schools or departments within a school. As a result, they need to be able to juggle multiple tasks and priorities at one time. They also may need to have a more in-depth knowledge of education laws and regulations.

Principals usually have a narrower focus than school administrators. They are responsible for the day-to-day operations of a single school. While they still need to be able to manage people and resources, they may not need to juggle as many tasks simultaneously. Principals also may benefit from having a deep understanding of curriculum development and instructional methods.


School administrators can earn an average salary of $67,272 per year, while principals can earn an average salary of $106,467 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the size of the school, the location of the school and the level of experience the administrator or principal has.


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