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Superintendent vs. Principal: What Are the Differences?

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

A superintendent is the head of a school district, while a principal is the head of a school. Both positions are important in ensuring the success of students and the smooth operation of the school. In this article, we compare and contrast the job duties, responsibilities, and qualifications of a superintendent and a principal. We also provide information on the average salary and job outlook for each position.

What is a Superintendent?

Superintendents are the highest ranking administrators in a school district. They are responsible for the overall operation of the district, which can include multiple schools and thousands of students. Superintendents develop district-wide policies and procedures, oversee the budget and manage personnel. They also work with the school board to set the district’s educational goals and objectives. In some cases, the superintendent may also be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the district, such as managing transportation and food services.

What is a Principal?

A school principal is the educational leader of a school. They are responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the school, as well as developing and implementing educational programs. Principals work with teachers, staff, students and parents to create a positive and productive learning environment. They also develop relationships with the community to ensure that the school is meeting the needs of the students and the community. Principals typically have a master’s degree in education administration or a related field.

Superintendent vs. Principal

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

Job Duties

Superintendents and principals have similar job duties, but their specific responsibilities can vary based on the size of the school they work for and the needs of their students. For example, a superintendent may be responsible for ensuring that all teachers are performing at an adequate level and that students are passing their classes. A principal, however, might focus more specifically on ensuring that each classroom has an effective teacher and that students behave while attending class.

Another key difference is that superintendents typically oversee non-classroom activities, such as lunchtime and recess. They may also be responsible for maintaining the physical structure of the school building, including making sure that facilities like the gym or cafeteria are in good working order. Finally, superintendents often handle administrative tasks, such as scheduling staff members’ shifts and completing paperwork.

Job Requirements

Superintendents and principals typically need a master’s degree in education administration or leadership, although some may have a doctorate. They also must have several years of experience working in a school setting, usually as a teacher or assistant principal. Some states also require superintendents and principals to obtain a license or certification.

Work Environment

Superintendents work in a variety of environments, depending on the type of building they oversee. For example, if they’re working for a construction company, they may spend most of their time outdoors overseeing the workers and ensuring that the project is completed correctly. If they’re working for an educational institution, they may spend more time indoors, such as in classrooms or offices.

Principals typically work in school settings, so they spend most of their time in classrooms, hallways and other areas within the school. They also spend some time in administrative offices to meet with teachers and discuss student progress.


Both superintendents and principals need to have excellent communication skills. They use these skills when they are writing reports, communicating with parents and guardians, collaborating with other administrators and teachers and presenting information to the school board.

Superintendents also need to have strong organizational skills as they oversee multiple schools and departments within a district. This can include developing budgets, managing personnel and coordinating schedules. Principals need to be able to organize their time and resources effectively to run a school efficiently, but they typically do not have as many responsibilities as a superintendent.

Both superintendents and principals need to have a deep understanding of education laws and regulations. They use this knowledge to ensure that their schools are in compliance with all local, state and federal laws. They also need to be familiar with the curriculum standards set by the state or district to ensure that their teachers are teaching the required material.

Superintendents typically need to have a master’s degree in education administration or a related field, while principals usually need a bachelor’s degree in education administration or a related field.


The average salary for a superintendent is $75,594 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 district, the location of the school and the level of experience the superintendent or principal has.


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