2008 Principal Salary Survey
Principals’ Salary Increases Meet or Exceed Cost of Living
Principals got a little financial breathing room this year with salary increases equal to or exceeding the consumer price index (CPI), according to an annual study of educators’ wages.
The 2007-08 average salary for senior high school principals is 4.9% higher than that for 2006–07. This compares to an increase of 2.8% for the Consumer Price Index, thus resulting in a slight gain in purchasing power—on average—for these principals. The CPI is the Department of Labor’s measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services and is often used to estimate increases in cost of living.
Salary increases for each of the four groups NASSP represents—junior high/middle school principals, senior high principals, junior high/middle school assistant principals, and senior high school assistant principals—are better than increases reported in previous years.
Over a longer period—from 2002–03 to 2007–08—the increases in average salaries and the CPI were much closer. Again, using salaries of senior high school principals as an example, the 2002–03 average salary for this group ($86,452) would be worth about $97,430 today. This is extremely close to the actual average salary of $97,486. Thus, on average, the purchasing power of salaries of senior high school principals held fairly steady over the period.
Current Salary Comparisons
According to the results of Salaries & Wages Paid Professional and Support Personnel in Public Schools, compiled by the Educational Research Service (ERS), the mean (or “average”) of the salaries reported by school districts for junior high and middle school principals in 2007–08 is $91,334. For senior high school principals, the average is $97,486. Additionally, the average salaries paid assistant principals in 2007–08 are $76,053 (junior high and middle level) and $79,391 (senior high level).
Differences by the geographic region in which a district is located, the enrollment size of the district, and the per-pupil expenditure level of the school district are also apparent. When viewed by geographic region, the data show principals residing in the Mid-East, the Far West, or New England tend to have the highest average salaries, while those living in the Southwest or Rocky Mountains tend to have the lowest. For example, senior high school principals in the Mid-East earn an average salary of $109,646—15.3% more than the average salary for high school principals across all of the regions. In contrast, the average salary of senior high school principals in the Rocky Mountains is $83,014—14.8% lower than the average salary overall. For assistant principals, those residing in the Far West regions tend to earn the highest salaries and those residing in the Southwest tend to have the lowest salaries.
As one might expect, a school district’s enrollment size also affects principals’ salaries. The data demonstrate that principals and assistant principals from districts with less than 2,500 pupils tend to be paid substantially less than their counterparts from larger districts. To illustrate this point, senior high school principals from districts with larger pupil enrollments (i.e., 2,500 or more) take home salaries in excess of $100,000, on average. Those from districts with less than 2,500 pupils, however, take home salaries ranging in the low eighties (averaging $82,392)—about 20% less than districts with the larger enrollment sizes.
When examined in terms of the per-pupil expenditure level of a district, we find principals and assistant principals from districts spending $10,000 or more per pupil tend to receive higher salaries than their counterparts in districts with lower per-pupil expenditure levels. Junior high and middle school principals from districts with per-pupil expenditure levels of less than $7,000 earn an average salary of $81,450—10.8% less than the average salaries overall for junior high and middle school principals. However, junior high and middle-level principals from districts with per-pupil expenditure levels of $10,000 or more earn an average salary of $96,582—about 5.7% higher than the average salary for this group overall. Similar patterns exist for senior high school principals and assistant principals.
The Salaries & Wages Paid Professional and Support Personnel in Public Schools, conducted annually since 1973 by ERS, randomly selects a stratified sample of U.S. school districts of varying pupil enrollment sizes (e.g., 25,000 or more; 10,000 to 24,999; 2,500 to 9,999; and 300 to 2,499). Average salaries paid to personnel in 33 professional and support positions are collected. For the 2007–08 school year, 669 school districts throughout the United States reported data. NL
Prepared by Nancy Protheroe, director of special research projects, and Chris Licciardi, issues analyst, from the Educational Research Service (ERS). Copyrighted in 2008 by ERS with all rights reserved. To order Salaries & Wages Paid Professional and Support Personnel in Public Schools, 2007–2008, call 800-791-9308 or visit www.ers.org.
1 States included in geographic region: New England (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT); Mid-East (DE, DC, MD, NJ, NY, PA); Southeast (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV); Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH, WI); Plains (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD); Southwest (AZ, NM, OK, TX); Rocky Mountains (CO, ID, MT, UT, WY); Far West (AK, CA, HI, NV, OR, WA).
2 Enrollment is defined as all pupils in grades K–12. Half-day kindergartners are counted as ½ pupils.
3 “Per-pupil expenditure” is defined as the amount of the school district’s general operating budget (excluding capital outlay, debt services, and preK and adult education funds) divided by the enrollment of the school district.
* Percent change in CPI is for the calendar year beginning in the year shown (e.g., 2007–08=2007 CPI year).
** Data categorized by geographic region and per-pupil expenditure level may be subject to considerable sampling and response variation and should be used only as general indicators of the current relationships among the categories. These data are not appropriate for year-to-year trends.