How to become a school principal

Inspire teachers and students to teach and learn to the best of their ability. Create our next few generations of self-starting, curious and socially-minded individuals.

Begin your career as a school principal

The career path to become a school principal isn’t a straightforward one. It requires several levels of qualification (first, you need to become a teacher!), experience, soft skills and of course, time.

School principal job ads usually require at least two years of teaching experience. In reality, most principals take at least eight years and usually more, to reach their position.

The good news is, the number of principal roles is forecasted to grow 11.5% between 2021 and 2026—this translates into the creation of 2,600 more jobs. Here’s how you can gain the necessary qualifications to become a school principal. (Already a teacher? Skip ahead to step no. 6.)

  1. Complete a bachelor degree in primary or secondary education. If you’re keen on studying online, have a look at these options.

    Want to test the waters to see if education is for you before committing to a longer-term qualification? Try an undergraduate certificate or diploma, both of which could help you step into a degree later. You could even start with a short course or single subject.

  2. Head straight for a postgraduate course in primary teaching or secondary teaching instead if you already have a degree in an unrelated field. As always, you can trial the field by signing up for a graduate certificate or graduate diploma first.

  3. Once you graduate, register with your local teaching regulatory authority.

  4. Teach while continuing your professional development and actively seek opportunities that will help you to segue into head of year level or head of department roles.

  5. Look at further postgraduate study in educational leadership or administration. This can be a strong indication to future employers of your intentions to become a successful school principal. This can be at a masters or PhD level, it’s up to you.

  6. If you choose to do a masters, you’ll want to look out for degrees with titles like ‘Master of Education’ or ‘Master of Educational Leadership’, such as these online options, instead of degrees titled ‘Master of Teaching’, which are meant for those wanting to qualify as classroom teachers.

What is a school principal?

The leader of a school, also commonly called a headmaster or headmistress, or school director. School principals are the CEOs of secondary or primary schools, and are instrumental in creating a culture that motivates teachers to innovate and improve on their performance, thereby positively impacting student outcomes.

Discover related degrees

Postgraduate SCU-EDU-GCE

Graduate Certificate in Education

Postgraduate ACU-ELD-MAS

Master of Educational Leadership

Available majors

  • Specialisation

Step up your career with these resources

Humans of Open Universities Australia: Meet our Content Lead, Cat

A ‘braided river’ career path, a crystal ball moment from Bill Gates, and a heartfelt letter with complete disregard for the third wall—here's Cat.

How to negotiate a higher salary

Not sure what to say when negotiating your salary? Follow these tips from career strategist Kelly Magowan next time you need to make your case with an employer.

Is a career in project management right for you?

Do you get a kick out of thinking big and getting things done? You could make a great project manager. 

Are microcredentials worth it?

You can study a microcredential in just about any industry, from healthcare and education to business and marketing. Here’s why these skills-based short courses are worth your time.

We're here to guide you there

Our student advisors can assist you with enrolment, help you plan your studies, and answer questions about how studying through Open Universities Australia can get you from where you are today, to where you want to be tomorrow.

13 OPEN (13 67 36)

Message, chat or SMS

Talk to a student advisor

We'll be in touch to answer your questions.

Student advisor Jason Student advisor Maria Student advisor Peter

Usually replies in 30 mins