How To Become A School Principal In Australia: Explained

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Students want to know how they can become school principals in Australia.


Do you like teaching, have strong leadership abilities, and can communicate effectively? If yes, a career as a School Principal could be ideal for you.


School principals manage the academic performance and operation of primary and secondary schools. They supervise teachers and admin staff to ensure students receive a quality education in a disciplined and safe learning environment.


To work as a school principal, you need a Bachelor's degree in Education/Teaching, extensive teaching experience, and required licenses. Though a postgraduate qualification isn't necessary, completing a Master's in Education/Teaching can help.


In this blog, you will learn about the School Principal profession, the required skills and qualifications, courses, degrees, average salary, work conditions, how many years it takes, and the steps to start your career as one.



1. What Is A School Principal?


The school principal is a trained leader who works with teachers, students, and other staff members to create a good learning experience for students. 


Since every school needs a principal, you can find them in primary, middle, and high schools run by private or public organizations.


Principals provide educational leadership, seek funding for improvements, and create policies and regulations for the school's advancements.


A School Principal may gain further education and specialize to become an Intermediate or Middle School Principal, Secondary School Principal, or Primary School Principal.



2. What Does A School Principal Do?


The exact duties of a School Principal depend on what grade levels they supervise. However, their most common day-to-day duties are as follows:


  • Review the performance of teachers

  • Monitor students' learning, progress and behaviour 

  • Attend assemblies, school events, parent-teacher conferences, board meetings, and educational tours 

  • Interview and hire teachers, clerical, and maintenance staff

  • Oversee the planning, organization, and coordination of the academic and administrative aspects of a school

  • Set up systems to supervise and enhance school and student performance

  • Prepare and manage school budgets.

  • Oversee fundraising activities

  • May perform clerical and managerial tasks associated with student enrolment.

  • May teach students

  • Work with teachers to plan an engaging and compliant curriculum.

  • Monitor the school facilities to ensure a safe working environment for students, and staff

  • Network with other local schools and communities and attend conferences and meetings

  • Implement procedures to monitor the performance of the school and student enrolments.

  • Establish and enforce a standardized disciplinary code for the school to maintain a safe and disciplined learning environment

  • Schedule meetings between students, parents, and teachers for disciplinary action

  • Make and manage arrangements for internal examinations.



3. Skills For Success


The job of a school principal is complex. You need to have specialist skills to work in this role. 


Here are the must-have skills for aspiring school principals:


  • Knowledge of state laws and regulations 

  • Administration and management skills

  • Good Interpersonal and communication skills

  • Problem-solving abilities

  • Budgeting skills

  • Leadership skills

  • Authoritative

  • Decision-making skills

  • Critical thinking

  • Priority management

  • Passionate about educating children

  • Excellent communication skills

  • Good grammatical, numerical, and spelling skills

  • Able to develop good working relationships with children, carers, and parents

  • Good teamwork skills

  • Patience

  • Confidence 

  • Flexibility

  • Able to inspire children and teachers

  • Good time management and organizational skills

  • Good analytical skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Good awareness of national and global environments

  • Project management skills

  • Able to work well under pressure 

  • Able to maintain composure in stressful circumstances



4. School Principal Qualification In Australia


Before progressing to a school principal, you need qualifications in the field of Education or Teaching and extensive teaching experience. 


Earning a Master's degree or PhD in Education is encouraged as it will boost your chances. 


Here are the steps to qualify for this role:


  • Gain your Senior Secondary Education certificate 

  • Complete a four-year full-time bachelor's degree in Primary/Secondary Education. Graduates in another discipline should complete a postgraduate degree, such as a Master of Teaching or Master of Education specializing in primary or secondary education.

  • Register with the Teacher Registration Authority of your state to become a qualified teacher 

  • Gain significant work experience in teaching and advance to senior roles

  • Obtain a Working with Children Check from the Department of Communities 

  • Undergo a National Coordinated Criminal History Check conducted by the Department of Education Screening Unit



5. Steps To Become A School Principal In Australia


School Principals generally start their careers as teachers and gradually work their way up to attain this position. 


Follow the below step-wise instructions to get started in this profession:



Step 1: Obtain A Bachelor's Degree


The first step to starting your professional journey is to complete a university qualification in Education or Teaching. Consider a bachelor's degree in Primary/Secondary Teaching, depending on the grade level you wish to teach.


Completing a Bachelor of Education (Primary) qualification qualifies you to become a primary school teacher and teach students from Prep to Year 6. 


Suppose you wish to teach in secondary schools from year 7 to Year 10. In that case, you must complete a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) qualification.


Do you want to know how to become a school principal in NSW? - The University of Sydney conducts Bachelors of Education (Primary) courses. This course helps build a solid foundation in teaching and prepares you to pursue a Principal role in Australia.


Do you wish to know how to become a principal in Victoria? - You can consider completing a Bachelor of Education (Primary) at Deakin University. The course equips you with the essential knowledge and skills to encourage and guide children through their primary years of learning.


Undertaking this course, you will develop a solid foundation in the primary curriculum and learn how to teach across an array of subjects and specializations.


  • Bachelor of Education – RMIT University

  • Bachelor of Education (P-12) – Victoria University

  • Bachelor of Education Studies – Swinburne University of Technology

  • Bachelor Of Education (Primary) – CQ University



Step 2: Take Additional Courses


Leadership and communication are the two most essential skills for a principal's role. That's why aspiring principals are encouraged to take tertiary educational leadership courses and communication workshops in addition to a university degree.


Mentioning relevant certification courses in your resume will improve your employability for this role and boost your career prospects.



Step 3: Receive A Teaching Certificate


After completing the bachelor's qualification, the next step is to receive a teaching certificate from a recognized body. As the certification requirements vary in each state, you must check your state-level certification requirements to get a clear idea.


Generally, to earn a teaching certificate, you need to complete a bachelor's degree and an internship program


Many universities run internship programs as a part of the course. Once you meet the requirements, you must pass a certification test to receive a teaching licence.



Step 4: Gain Work Experience


Once you have the teaching qualification and a license, you can start working as a teacher in Australian schools.


To become a school principal, you need several years of teaching experience. Start working as a substitute teacher, progress to become a subject teacher, and then move to senior roles such as Head of English or Head of Mathematics.


When working as a teacher, you will learn the basics of teaching, working with children, and managing the classroom. It also helps you develop your communication, motivation, and organization skills.



Step 5: Earn A Master's Qualification


Being a senior role, completing a postgraduate degree in education/teaching will help you prepare for a career at the head of a school. 


You will learn several key areas such as cross-cultural teaching, school management and assessment instruction, educational funding, policy creation, student counselling, leading teaching staff, and more. 


So, after you develop sufficient work experience, complete further schooling, and earn a 2-or-3 years Master's degree or a doctoral degree in Education, Education Administration, or Education leadership. 


List of courses that can help you expand your expertise and career possibilities:


  • Master of Teaching (Primary) - The University of Western Australia

  • Master of Teaching (Secondary) – University of Western Australia 

  • Postgraduate Master of Education – The University of Western Australia


To become a principal in QLD, CQ University university offers a Graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership program. This course is ideal for those who are looking for professional development and advanced learning in educational leadership. 


You will develop the practical skills and knowledge to steer social complexities and provide favourable learning outcomes for students and their communities.



Step 6: Receive Further Licences


Now that you have the necessary formal education and work experience, you are near achieving your career aspiration. 


The last step to applying to qualify for a principal's role is to get a school administrator licence or a principal endorsement to the existing teaching licence.


As states in Australia may have different requirements, check your state-level licensing requirements to qualify for this position. 


Industry Bodies:




6. How Long Does It Take To Become A School Principal?


To become a School Principal, you generally require a 4-years full-time Bachelor's degree in Teaching or Education, a 2-3 years Master's degree in Education/Teaching, and several years of experience.


In addition, you need to receive a teaching license and add a principal endorsement to it to work as a principal. If you choose the full-time study option, you must spend at least 6-7 years in formal education and gain extensive experience securing this position.



7. Working Conditions For School Principals


Principals usually work indoors in primary and secondary school offices. They may spend time around school facilities and travel to attend professional development and conferences.


School principals work full-time in an educational environment to attend district administrative meetings and events. They are in contact with the public and represent the school in the community.


Principals work closely with parents, teaching staff, and students to receive and provide feedback to ensure academic quality and conduct standards.


They usually work regular hours daily and sometimes on weekends and evenings. They do this to attend staff meetings, prepare students for classes, take them on excursions, meet prospective students, and attend school events and functions.


The ever-increasing responsibility and demands from parents, society, and governments make the workload unsustainable. Due to this, this role may make you feel stressed.


The most common tools and technologies school principals use while performing their duties are the following: computers, textbooks, office equipment, subject-specific learning aides, microphones, and other audio equipment to make announcements over a school PA system or at school assemblies.



8. How Much Does A School Principal Earn In Australia?


According to Pay Scale, the average salary for a high school principal in Australia is AU$127,790 per year. The average primary school principal salary in Australia is AU$ 122,585 per year.


School principal salary may vary based on multiple factors, such as: 


  • The level of education 

  • The location of the job (principals working in urban areas may make more money than those working in a rural location) 

  • The level of experience

  • The size of the academic institution where the principal works

  • The grade levels that a principal supervises, like a high school principal, may earn more than a primary school teacher



Average High School Principal Salary Based on Experience:


  • Mid-career (5-9 years of experience): AU$122,000 per year

  • Experienced (10-19 years of experience): AU$126,254 per year 

  • In their late career (20+ years of experience): AU$131,469 per year



Average Primary School Principal Salary Based on Experience:


  • Early career (1-4 years of experience): AU$116,500 per year

  • Experienced (10-19 years of experience): AU$122,238 per year 

  • In their late career (20 and more years of experience): AU$123,536 per year



Average Salary Based on Work Location: 


School principal salary in NSW:


  • Armidale: $165,424 per year

  • Illawarra: $141,096 per year

  • Sydney: $125,202 per year

  • Newcastle: $124,166 per year

  • Hunter Valley: $112,601 per year 




9. Job Prospects Of School Principals In Australia



ANZSCO Occupation Group: 1343 School Principals


With the rise in student enrolments and increase in population, the employment growth of school principals is growing in the coming years. According to the labour market insights, the number of workers will grow and reach 24,900 by 2026.



Working Arrangements


Around 96% of School Principals work full-time for an average of 53 hours per week. (All jobs average: 44 hours per week).



Main Industries


  • Education And Training: 97.4%

  • Public Administration And Safety: 2.6%



Employment Across Australia


New South Wales has a large share of employment of 34.7% of its population. The regions where the maximum number of workers are employed are:


  • Sydney – the Blue Mountains and Outer West

  • Perth - North West

  • Melbourne - Inner

  • Melbourne - Outer East

  • Perth - South West



Employment Percentage In Other States of Australia


  • Victoria: 21.3%

  • Queensland: 18.9%

  • South Australia: 7.3%

  • Western Australia: 12.6%

  • Tasmania: 2.3%

  • Northern Territory: 1.5%

  • Australian Capital Territory: 1.4%



Worker's Age and Gender Profile


Average Age: 50 (between 45 to 54 years) It is high compared to the average of all other jobs, 40 years.


Females constitute 60% of the total employed workforce. It is 12 percentage points above the average of all jobs, 48%.



10. Conclusion


The role of a School Principal involves a greater level of responsibility.


You are accountable for all aspects of a school's operation in this role. These include administration, financial management, and community level to ensure the quality of education and maintain a safe and disciplined learning environment.


If you are passionate about contributing to learning, education and managing academic institutions, the above steps will help turn your passion into a rewarding career.


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