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Teaching Careers and Professional Development

Charter School Principal: Job Outlook, Education, Salary

By The Editorial Team
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Charter schools are public schools that receive government funding, but operate outside the guidelines of the school system in which they’re located. A charter school principal has a large say in the function and budget for their school and can determine the curriculum best suited to meet the school’s goals and mission. Charter school principals are responsible for upholding the standards of the organization that sponsors them and aligning all school-based decisions with those standards.

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Charter school principals have a job outlook on par with that of the national average, with a growth rate of 4% over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most charter schools are concentrated in 5 states: Texas, Arizona, Ohio, Florida, and California. With a disparate number of charter schools in these 5 locations, job growth in those locations may outpace that of the rest of the country.

At-a-glance: Charter School Principal

Charter school principals work closely with their supporting organization, focusing on developing a school-wide curriculum that supports the agency’s values and goals. They typically leave daily instructional design to teachers and administrative support personnel, focusing instead on hiring staff, fostering a culture in line with the school’s mission, and managing its finances. Unlike public school principals, charter school principals have a substantial say in the allocation of school funds.

Charter School Principal job description

First and foremost, the charter school principal is the leader of the school and is responsible for facilitating successful student outcomes by constantly refining the school’s instructional model. Other job duties include:

  • Recruit and select faculty
  • Select school-wide curriculum to achieve high test scores and educational goals
  • Engage with families of students for at-home support of education
  • Develop transparent leadership, collaborative culture, and an organization devoted to excellence
  • Deliver results that serve the school’s mission through establishing efficient teams
  • Drive long term academic success as a leader of an exemplary school

Who makes a good charter school principal?

  • Someone who is comfortable being the “face” of the school in public, with families, and with the sponsoring body
  • Someone who is highly dedicated to providing a quality education for all students
  • Someone with excellent organizational and communication skills
  • Someone with good decision-making abilities
  • Someone with an innovative approach to education
  • Someone with through understanding of what students need to succeed and knowledge of best practices of teaching and learning
  • Someone with excellent financial literacy skills

Charter School Principal in-depth

Education requirements

Education: Master’s or Doctoral graduate degree

Typical time to earn a graduate degree: 3-7 years

Most charter school principals have a Bachelor’s degree in education and go on to earn a Master’s Degree at the minimum. For the elite charter schools, only candidates with a Ph.D. or Ed.D. will be considered.

Average salaries for a charter school principal

Charter school principals tend to make less than their public school counterparts, although the region of the country and location in an urban versus a rural area may affect their salary.

Job outlook for charter school principals

There are a limited number of jobs available for charter school principals. While these schools are publicly funded, they don’t open at the same rate as public schools do, and the number of these positions are not affected by fluctuations of town population. Public school jobs may increase as the population of the city increases, but charter schools depend on a sponsoring agency to determine a mission and found a new school. Therefore, positions for a charter school principal may be more difficult to land than those of a public school principal: Interviewing for this position may be more competitive than other positions.

Challenges and opportunities for charter school principals

Advantages

  • Salary: School principals can expect to make close to six figures and receive benefits such as pensions and health insurance.
  • Variety: While a school principal has certain things they must accomplish each week, day-to-day activities can vary greatly depending on the needs of students and teachers in the building.
  • Vision: As the leader of a school, you work closely with the Board of Directors and have significant control implementing your vision for the school. As a charter school principal, you also have more control over the direction of the curriculum and the staff you hire than a public school principal.
  • Student Impact: Your main duty is creating an educational environment that encourages student achievement while fostering a successful school experience. Since the size of the average charter school is typically smaller than that of a public school, you have more opportunities to get to know all the students in the school and support their learning.
  • Recognition: You’re the voice, the leader, and the face of your school. When your school succeeds, whether it’s with scores on standardized tests or through the individual merits of the students themselves, the credit goes to you, the principal.

Disadvantages

Being a charter school principal isn’t without its challenges, however. Here are some of the drawbacks to these positions:

  • Conflicting Roles: As the principal, you also have to ensure that each student in your school receives the education you promise. You’ll need to support teachers and support staff in your school and also evaluate them, even fire those who are not improving. It’s challenging to be both coach and supervisor.
  • Responsibility: Because some charter schools are small, you may be the only administrator in the school, which means in addition to all of your other responsibilities, you’ll have to be the Dean of Discipline as well, enacting behavioral plans for unruly students. Also, you may not have another administrator to collaborate with or rely on if you have to be out of the building.
  • Criticism: Any negativity about your school reflects directly on you as the principal. Whether it’s declining test scores or bad student behavior, you’re ultimately accountable.
  • Politics: As the principal, you have to make all your constituents happy. You will need to balance the needs of your students, the demands of their parents, and the needs of your teachers with the mission and expectations of your sponsoring body.

Professional development

There are many options for a Charter School Principal’s professional development. Your career path may include pursuing a Ph.D. in education, attending conferences, and networking with people who can help you with the challenges your school faces.

Continuing education

Charter school principals generally have advanced degrees. Some schools may hire you with a Master’s Degree, but encourage the pursuit of a doctoral degree. They may also require a certain number of college credits or conference hours per year in continuing education.

Professional associations

Charter school principals can benefit from joining professional organizations and building a network of contacts. Because they are largely responsible for the academic success of students in their school, establishing connections with other education professionals to share successes and failures and learn from one another may be valuable. Some national professional organizations that charter school principals may be interested in are:

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