Vice principals, sometimes referred to as assistant principles, help principals in running large elementary, middle and high schools. Their duties deal more with the day-to-day administration of schools, and vice principals spend much more time interacting with students compared to principals. These duties can include handling student discipline and safety, overseeing renovations, maintenance, buses and student activities.
Vice principals in public schools must, at a minimum, have a bachelor's degree, though most states now require that all high-level school administrators have a master's degree in education leadership or education administration. Undergraduate majors should be in education or a related field to meet admission requirements for graduate education administration programs. Many prospective administrators complete doctorate programs to better prepare themselves for advancement beyond the level of vice principal. These programs teach prospective administrators the fundamentals of leading teachers and other staff, developing and implementing budgets, and working with parents and the community.
Most vice principals gained considerable teaching experience before advancing to administration, with a minimum of about three years in most school districts. In addition, teachers generally move into administration at the same level in which they taught. For example, an elementary school vice principal should have elementary school teaching experience. The best opportunities in administration are available to teachers with leadership experience. This can include heading special projects, heading departments or leading student groups or activities.
The majority of states require vice principals to obtain a school administrator license or a similar license. The requirements for these licenses vary a great deal, but most require a master's degree and teaching experience. Many states also require that vice principals pass an exam and attend continuing education courses. A small number of states allow applicants to waive graduate education requirements if they have significant leadership experience in other fields.
The education and experience requirements for vice principal positions at private schools are typically similar to those in public schools, though they are not subject to the same legal requirements, like licensure. Employment for vice principals, and school administrators in general, varies depending on geographic region, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The area projected to see the least growth, and, therefore, the most competition for jobs, is the U.S. Northeast. Vice principal requirements for areas with increased competition may be tougher. The Southern U.S. is expected to experience the greatest growth.
Jon Gjerde worked as a journalist in northern California where he covered topics ranging from city, county and tribal governments to alternative transportation. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of California, Davis.