How much do school administrators make?
It’s not a big secret that people don’t become educators in the United States for the money. Teacher salaries have been part of the national conversation for so long that the issue has risen to the level of Congressional action. Most recently, in 2023, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced his Pay Teachers Act in an effort to ensure a livable minimum annual salary nationwide.
And most educators are aware of the fact that there can be significant regional differences in teacher salary levels, with some states offering significantly more base pay than others. For some teachers in some states, the bottom ten percent only make half of the $60,000 Senator Sanders proposes as the base minimum.
While educational administrators can expect a considerable salary increase over what they earned as teachers, it’s rarely the chief motivating factor for becoming a principal, assistant principal, or superintendent.
Going into teaching, and then educational administration, speaks to your dedication and your hope for a better tomorrow… a tomorrow you help build through your students. It’s a kind of legacy that even the most lucrative Fortune 500 executive positions rarely offer.
Salary Levels for Educational Administrators are Respectable by Any Measure
Don’t let all the reports of low salaries get to you, and don’t read too much into the quick shift to focusing on intangible rewards. Those rewards are real, but so are the salary benefits of a job in educational leadership. Let’s put it this way – if you secure your dream position in educational leadership, you won’t exactly have to take a night gig as an Uber driver. The fact is, if you were getting by on a teacher’s salary before, leadership roles certainly offer a big step up the salary ladder.
There has been a broad recognition across the country in recent decades that teacher salaries, and salaries in education in general, need to come up to reflect the importance of this profession. There’s also been a lot of public discussion about the need to attract the right candidates for extremely challenging positions in school and district leadership. And the good news is that many districts have gotten the message.
There Can Be Wide Ranging Salary Levels in Educational Leadership
Although there’s a constant need for improvement, the reality is that educator salaries are not nearly as dismal as the news reports would have it.
That’s particularly true when it comes to educational leadership. A demand for top talent to deal with community and budget pressures among other hot-button issues helps push salaries for principals, assistant principals, and superintendents into the low six-figure range.
Of course, those jobs only come on the tail end of a great deal of experience, and after earning advanced educational leadership degrees. Master’s degrees are all but required, and post-master’s education isn’t uncommon among senior educational administrators.
The level of degree you attain, the experience you have behind you, and the type of schools or school district you work within will have a lot to do with your eventual salary as an administrator.
According to the Census Bureau, state governments provided nearly 47 percent of public education funding in 2019.
Location is a significant factor too. Since educational policy is set at the state and local levels, and mostly funded by those governments, the amount of money in the pot available for salaries changes a lot when you cross state lines. So do attitudes toward education and unions, which can impact educator salaries across the board.
Economic and Population Growth Impacts Administrator Salaries in Every State
As you might expect, educational administration staffing roughly mirrors population growth—more kids mean more schools, more teachers, more educational leadership required.
And the demand for that leadership can push down the supply of candidates ready for that kind of work, which, as your basic econ classes will tell you, tends to drive up salaries.
Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the 5 percent job growth for educational administrators projected through 2031 will be about as fast as the typical job growth rate.
But that’s not the whole story. There are big chunks of the country where population levels may be flexing in a direction opposite the overall trend. And there are cases where population level increases don’t necessarily lead to school growth. Imagine, for instance, large groups of retirees moving south toward the sun long after they have finished raising their children. That’s a very different story than what’s being seen in communities where young families are putting down roots because housing is more affordable and because they can work remotely.
Like Salaries, Educational Administration Job Growth Can Differ Dramatically from State-to-State
A state-by-state look offers a more nuanced perspective. Projections Central, a website sponsored by the Department of Labor that aggregates data from individual states, shows growth in places you might not expect—Connecticut, for example, shows a job growth rate for school administrators of nearly 17 percent by 2030, while Colorado, in a big immigration boom, is expecting only about 4 percent in the same period.
Florida, despite the retirees, expects a nearly 25 percent increase, while New York leads the nation at nearly 30 percent. At the bottom is Montana, which expects to remain utterly flat, with no new administration jobs created in the next decade.
It is important to note that this is an overall number and doesn’t reflect the inevitable turnover in the field. Right now, that turnover among educational administrators is at record levels… the pandemic hit hard, and for some administrators, retirement is looking pretty good after going through that.
Between 2020 and 2022, EdWeek found that school superintendent jobs experience a 25 percent turnover rate.
While both demand and turnover can make jobs easier to find, they don’t necessarily impact salary levels in the near term.
Identifying Salary Levels for Different Positions in Educational Leadership
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is kind enough to track school administrator salary levels in every corner of the country. And they offer in-depth breakdowns of how those salaries can vary based on location and industry—for example, distinguishing between what a private school principal in an upscale Connecticut suburb will make versus a principal in a rural Wisconsin town.
The answer to the question – how much do school administrators make? – depends on what kind of administrator you are talking about.
Unfortunately, BLS doesn’t distinguish between the different levels of educational administration. That means there is just one BLS category for all education administrators, whether principals, assistant principals, or superintendents. And we know there is a substantial difference based on the challenges of the job—big urban school district superintendents may be in the same category as elementary school principals, but you can be sure that they aren’t bringing home the same pay.
But BLS does offer a set of natural statistical breakdowns of salary ranges by percentile. This lets us draw some conclusions about where principals may be more likely to fall:
So in order to drill down further into what kind of salary you can expect to bring home as an educational administrator, we have broken out the different major job categories in that range and put together some reasonable conclusions about where their salaries fall within those ranges.
School Principal Salary Levels Around the Country
The question of how much school principals make is a bit more complicated than it first seems. Since the data isn’t there to support the kind of analysis that leads to solid conclusions between categories, it can’t reveal answers to certain basic questions, like how much does an elementary school principal make versus a middle school principal.
The formula we use takes educational administrator salaries ranging from the median up to the 75th percentile and uses that as the baseline for principal salaries nationwide:
Nationally, principal salaries in May 2022 fell within the range of $101,320 – $128,740.
But you can also see what principals earned in your state that year.
How much do school principals make …
Salary Range (50th to 75th percentile)
$78,910 – $98,440
$101,880 – $126,460
$77,680 – $97,930
$77,680 – $94,120
$126,980 – $156,220
$99,330 – $118,960
$127,670 – $161,140
$121,260 – $129,250
District of Columbia
$125,430 – $136,290
$94,120 – $100,640
$98,680 – $102,880
$98,380 – $125,930
$80,370 – $98,870
$98,600 – $125,430
$84,760 – $98,880
$100,270 – $126,460
$94,120 – $98,340
$77,190 – $94,380
$74,690 – $80,430
$96,320 – $99,230
$123,340 – $128,140
$119,250 – $128,160
$98,340 – $106,560
$101,520 – $126,580
$76,760 – $93,810
$93,810 – $100,590
$77,600 – $99,810
$98,860 – $118,930
$99,100 – $99,100
$97,680 – $101,510
$127,490 – $160,050
$79,550 – $98,340
$128,190 – $162,660
$76,690 – $80,590
$96,960 – $119,480
$97,320 – $100,400
$77,190 – $96,750
$119,610 – $127,060
$99,210 – $124,950
$100,010 – $125,520
$94,380 – $101,600
$76,950 – $97,680
$77,190 – $97,930
$80,780 – $99,330
$99,120 – $125,100
$98,500 – $100,260
$97,580 – $122,650
$127,670 – $160,400
$76,760 – $78,740
$98,520 – $118,970
$98,270 – $101,880
Of course, this says nothing about some of the other divisions in principal jobs.
If you make the assumption that grade level differences in principal salaries mirror those in teaching salaries, there are a few general conclusions you can draw. For starters, the average high school principal’s salary is almost certainly higher, in a given school district, than the middle school principal’s salary.
But those differences are very much on a school-by-school basis. It’s tough to generalize about the reasons that a specific district sets salaries differently than the one next door.
How Much Is a Private School Principal Salary?
While a lot of people in and out of the public school system assume that private school teachers and administrators are making the big bucks, the BLS data shows the opposite. Local elementary and secondary principals earn an average of $98,870 per year in 2021; private school principals in the same category averaged only $79,780.
Of course, much of that assumption rests on a failure to account for the large proportion of private schools that are religious in nature, rather than the wealthy institutions that often come to mind. But in fact, according to 2021 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 66 percent of private schools had a religious orientation.
Not only do religious schools represent the majority of private schools, but they also handle fully three quarters of all private school students in the country and employ almost 70 percent of private school teachers.
So that’s where you’re like to find most private school principals. While pay can be competitive, it’s certainly not busting out at the statistical seams.
At any rate, private school administrators are a substantial chunk of the jobs available in the field—for 2021, BLS tracked them at 18 percent of the total employment in the profession. So those are numbers worth knowing if educational leadership is your goal.
Assistant Principal Salary Levels
For the average salary for assistant principals, we’ve taken the same data set as principals and made similar deductions. Although you might expect assistant principals to make substantially less than full principals, that’s not necessarily the case.
After all, in almost every state, assistant principals hold exactly the same license as principals. That means they’ve accumulated similar amounts of required experience, earned the same degrees, and passed the same tests. In most cases, the major difference in qualifications between assistant principals and principals is simply time on the job. And that builds for them every day.
When it comes to salary, assistant principals have a lot going for them.
So to get a likely range for this role, we didn’t exactly go rock-bottom. Instead, we’ve taken the BLS statistics for educational administrators for the 10th to the 25th percentile.
Nationally, assistant principal salaries in May 2022 fell within the range of $64,690 – $80,290.
But you can also see what assistant principals in your state earned that year.
How much do assistant principals make in…
Salary Range (10th to 25th percentile)
$60,590 – $75,430
$78,130 – $99,090
$59,010 – $62,790
$60,610 – $74,320
$80,550 – $101,470
$63,530 – $79,910
$77,010 – $103,890
$98,340 – $103,580
District of Columbia
$77,740 – $98,630
$58,920 – $74,620
$74,990 – $78,560
$48,020 – $76,940
$62,010 – $77,740
$60,430 – $76,760
$65,570 – $78,690
$62,760 – $76,670
$59,320 – $74,360
$23,560 – $59,320
$70,440 – $77,000
$77,740 – $98,640
$75,260 – $95,010
$60,820 – $77,450
$72,250 – $80,780
$59,750 – $62,030
$61,440 – $76,490
$57,220 – $74,510
$76,270 – $94,120
$59,010 – $77,820
$61,060 – $77,450
$98,480 – $102,780
$71,670 – $76,000
$78,320 – $101,080
$58,910 – $61,150
$74,690 – $78,210
$59,870 – $77,230
$59,670 – $74,130
$74,460 – $98,090
$62,520 – $78,950
$77,990 – $98,340
$61,530 – $77,150
$59,700 – $74,130
$60,200 – $74,360
$61,510 – $75,260
$62,760 – $94,380
$48,560 – $77,680
$63,530 – $77,170
$98,600 – $119,810
$47,080 – $60,660
$75,720 – $86,010
$77,170 – $94,120
The best bet you can make is that the average salary of assistant principals will be a bit below that of a principal in the same school.
School Superintendent Salary Levels Across the United States
Finally, we pull superintendent salaries out of the same educational administrator dataset. Naturally, they take the place of honor: it’s most likely that superintendent jobs, which are rare and demanding, end up in the top ten percent of all administrator salaries.
Assistant superintendent salary levels are even hard to come up with. While every school district has a superintendent, that’s not always true of assistant-level positions. On the other hand, there are big districts where there are a dozen assistant superintendents. The compensation in those jobs may rival the salary of superintendents themselves in a smaller district.
So we haven’t attempted to break out assistant superintendent salaries at all. But the estimates here do let you draw reasonable conclusions about what they might earn.
At the national level, superintendent salaries in May 2022 came in at $153,520 or more per year.
But you can also see what superintendents earned in your state that year.
How much do superintendents make in…
Salary Range (90th percentile and up)
$101,730 and up
$130,040 and up
$101,880 and up
$98,870 and up
$163,080 and up
$130,930 and up
$167,840 and up
$131,300 and up
District of Columbia
$165,360 and up
$122,860 and up
$125,290 and up
$150,290 and up
$102,490 and up
$149,730 and up
$124,650 and up
$153,670 and up
$124,390 and up
$101,600 and up
$101,880 and up
$118,900 and up
$157,240 and up
$159,380 and up
$126,330 and up
$150,430 and up
$98,640 and up
$127,490 and up
$126,040 and up
$126,040 and up
$126,360 and up
$124,030 and up
$164,730 and up
$118,830 and up
$204,840 and up
$99,670 and up
$130,040 and up
$125,300 and up
$104,410 and up
$132,930 and up
$130,930 and up
$127,100 and up
$124,840 and up
$98,320 and up
$118,900 and up
$119,610 and up
$129,390 and up
$125,090 and up
$130,040 and up
$162,700 and up
$95,660 and up
$126,510 and up
$118,960 and up
According to NCES, there were fewer than 13,500 school districts in the country as of 2019. That’s not a lot of jobs to go around, so you can expect considerable variation between districts even within a state.
A Special Case: Looking at the Superintendent of Schools Salary
As you’re probably aware, there’s one superintendent position that isn’t covered in this salary data. And that’s the position of the state superintendent of schools.
Also variously called the state superintendent of education, superintendent of public instruction, secretary of education, or commissioner of education, there’s only one of these in each state. They are sometimes elected, and sometimes appointed by either the governor or a state board. Their compensation is often set as a matter of law rather than market forces.
As it happens, the highest paid executive officer in the government of any state in the country, as of 2021, was the Mississippi state Superintendent of Education, who earned $300,000 that year.
But as of 2017, these individuals had an exceptionally broad range of compensation levels considering their awesome responsibilities. While Mississippi takes the top, Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction is at the bottom with only $85,000 in annual pay. That’s right in the range for principals in the Grand Canyon State!
What About Private School Superintendent Salaries?
For the most part, private schools operate as individual institutions and not as part of the larger district structure that requires high-level superintendency. But that’s not always the case. For private schools operated by large churches or dioceses, many schools can fall into the same administrative group.
Even in these cases, although there is certainly a position that corresponds to the superintendent role and has many of the same tasks, it’s not always given the same title. And the position is usually reserved for ordained clergy. That’s a whole different path of educational qualification well beyond the scope of this website.
On the other hand, many of these organizations do have assistant superintendent and other educational leadership roles that mirror those of public school districts. And there is every bit as much demand for highly-qualified individuals to fill them.
You should expect, as with private school principal jobs, however, that salaries will be slightly lower in these roles than for corresponding public school district jobs in their area.
College and University Educational Leadership Salaries
It’s no surprise to those in the education sector to learn that there are considerably fewer administration and leadership jobs at the post-secondary level than there are in primary and secondary schools.
In 2022, there were 167,060 jobs across the country for post-secondary education administrators according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Overall, they earned an average salary of $115,180 that same year.
But just as with K-12 administration jobs, the actual numbers for individual positions can vary widely.
It’s a bit more challenging to break down expected salaries for different types of postsecondary administrators, though. As you’ll see, there’s the same general geographic variation. But college admin jobs don’t break down across lines as neatly as principal, assistant principal, and superintendent.
Titles like dean, chancellor, provost, vice president, and program administrator take on different meanings and levels of responsibility from school to school. Some have an academic focus while others may be entirely aimed at operational or maintenance tasks that have little to do with student and faculty management. And identical titles at two different universities may have almost nothing else in common.
So rather than attempt to split those out further, we’re instead presenting a broad range of post-secondary administration salaries, from the bottom quarter to the top 75 percent, with the median noted.
Nationally, post-secondary administrator salaries in May 2022 fell within the range of $77,010 – $196,420.
But you can also see what post-secondary administrators in your state earned that year.
How much do college administrators make in…
Overall Range (25th-75th percentile)
$74,240 – $124,870
$95,010 – $163,470
$62,620 – $125,510
$59,580 – $123,540
$95,400 – $161,180
$74,930 – $126,310
$77,260 – $161,640
$94,660 – $158,860
District of Columbia
$76,580 – $127,370
$86,650 – $97,830
$76,960 – $161,860
$95,990 – $152,890
$60,250 – $119,410
$61,240 – $104,380
$59,150 – $119,140
$60,160 – $119,580
$62,950 – $125,930
$60,070 – $119,190
$60,250 – $108,430
$60,250 – $119,190
$80,880 – $161,060
$76,910 – $128,310
$63,730 – $125,930
$75,630 – $125,930
$59,150 – $117,790
$72,030 – $125,930
$60,070 – $106,700
$74,360 – $126,350
$60,400 – $161,860
$74,620 – $125,050
$99,810 – $165,430
$60,940 – $98,870
$119,750 – $192,170
$60,400 – $125,930
$77,170 – $161,860
$64,910 – $130,590
$66,150 – $124,390
$74,620 – $127,110
$75,060 – $127,110
$94,840 – $158,860
$62,320 – $122,900
$76,150 – $125,930
$74,590 – $126,780
$74,200 – $126,400
$60,900 – $124,170
$59,110 – $98,360
$77,170 – $131,450
$80,350 – $160,350
$64,020 – $126,600
$77,000 – $126,310
$79,840 – $133,910
A commonsense approach works well when looking at these numbers, however. You can assume that smaller schools may have less funding and are likely to offer lower salaries, while at bigger and better funded school districts, salaries are more likely to fall at the higher end of the range. Time in the field is another big factor that these ranges help shed some light on, since more experience and tenure almost always means more income.
BLS does happen to put junior colleges in a separate industry category from four-year schools. For administrators at those institutions, the Bureau found a median annual salary of $99,940 for 2022.
Unlike elementary and secondary educational leadership roles, though there is substantial competition at the university level between public and private schools. As of 2021, NCES showed 1,625 public colleges and universities, and 1,660 non-profit private universities in the country… a nearly even split.
Private schools may have an edge in salaries due to their more competitive approach and different funding mechanisms. But BLS lumps state, local, and private postsecondary institutions together, so there’s no way to know for sure.
Job Growth Rates Impact Positions and Salaries for College Leaders
Growth in postsecondary administration jobs, as you might expect, is the same as for other educational administrators: 7 percent, or right on the national average.
But again, as with other leadership positions, the picture can change substantially at the state level. Colorado, for instance, which you’ll recall was a laggard at 4 percent in the primary and secondary category, shows a booming 21.5 percent projected growth rate at the postsecondary level.
Neighboring Utah tops the nation, with a projected rate of nearly 34 percent. North Dakota actually goes negative, expected to lose 3 percent of positions over the decade.
Salaries in Other Educational Leadership Roles
The scope of educational leadership doesn’t begin or end at the principal or superintendent level. Although these are the jobs most people associate with educational administration, if you work in a school system, you are already aware leadership comes in many other flavors.
A few of these either get their own BLS categories or fall within broader categories inclusive enough to provide a good estimate. Although they certainly have the same kinds of differences in pay between states, we’re only including the national averages here. Where BLS provides a breakdown between different education levels or public versus private employers, we’re throwing those numbers in also, though.
Instructional Coordinator Salaries
The 2022 median salary for instructional coordinators was $66,490 per year, with the top 10 percent earning more than $105,210. These jobs can be found outside public school systems, though, which opens up more possibilities at the median (figures below for 2021):
The national rate of growth is 7 percent through 2031 for this leadership role, too. Future instructional coordinators will sense a pattern here.
Librarians and Library Media Specialist Salaries
The median salary for a librarian in 2022 was $61,660, while the top ten percent made $98,6500. They also have opportunities at primary, secondary, post-secondary, and in other industries (figures below for 2021):
The expected rate of growth is 6 percent for librarians.
Teacher Leader Salaries
Teacher leaders don’t have a separate BLS category, but because they are typically licensed as teachers with additional endorsements, it’s possible to check standard teaching categories to get a peek at their salaries.
Of course, they are far from standard teachers. It’s reasonable to assume that with the additional education and experience they have will put them at the top end of the range for these positions. Accordingly, here are what the top ten percent of teachers make at the following grade levels or specializations nationally, according to 2021 BLS data:
At the postsecondary level, this category may include department heads and other additional leadership roles that college professors sometimes assume. Their growth rate comes in at 12 percent, much faster than average. The other roles are average range of between 4 and 7 percent growth through 2031.
Other Roles in Educational Administration and Leadership That Don’t Fit in The Box
There’s also a big group of educational administration jobs that don’t fit cleanly into any of the roles listed above. That’s perfectly normal, and even beneficial… every district is unique, and finding and solving unique leadership challenges is where you get roles that don’t fit in a neat box.
These folks fall into the category of Education Administrators, All Other. For 2022, BLS shows about 50,000 of these jobs nationwide. That’s versus nearly 275,000 K-12 administrators and more than 160,000 post-secondary administrators, so it’s not a huge group.
The average annual salary for these jobs is also a little lower than the others, coming in at only $99,820 per year. But those in the top ten percent make more than $154,690 annually, which is quite competitive in educational leadership overall.
No matter what kind of educational leader you want to be, your takeaway should be that it can be a lucrative job as well as a satisfying one. And you can see the progression laid out for you if you choose to continue your path toward the top. No one expects to get rich from education. The further you go in educational leadership, though, the richer you make society around you.
2021-22 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals, Instructional Coordinators, Librarians and Library Media Specialists, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Middle School Teachers, Special Education Teachers, High School Teachers, Postsecondary Teachers, and Postsecondary Education Administrators reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2023.