A career path that would allow one to become a vice principal, also commonly called an assistant principal, generally requires a minimum of a four-year college degree and a master's degree in education or educational leadership. Many vice principals also complete post-master's work in the form of a Rank 1 or PhD program. Many colleges and universities across the United States offer specific programs for people seeking to become a vice principal or otherwise earn educational administration certification.
In most U.S. states and school districts, a person must have at least three years of successful classroom teaching experience before applying for a job in administration. Administrators must also typically pass a standardized test or tests as part of a licensing process that varies from state to state. Many states detail the process and outline the steps necessary to become a vice principal or other school administrator on official state government websites.
The core job duties of an assistant principal include handling student discipline, managing and implementing curriculum needs, overseeing budgetary matters, hiring and evaluating teachers and non-certified personnel, attending board and staff meetings, acting as a liaison between the school district and the community, and providing general assistance and oversight in a broad range of school functions and activities. In general, a successful vice principal should be an effective communicator, have superior organizational skills, and be able to facilitate a strong learning environment. Like all administrators, a vice principal or assistant principal works more days per calendar year than a classroom teacher — closer to 245 days than 187 days. Most people who become a vice principal work between 50- and 60-hour weeks while school is in session and 40-hour weeks during the summer months.
A vice principal must routinely attend school events, functions, and meetings after school hours. With national educational reform movements such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the accountability for public school administrators has increased. This means vice principals are expected to ensure that the schools at which they are employed comply with all state and national academic standards. All states have a protocol for identifying struggling or non-compliant schools, and administrators can be terminated, asked to resign, or reassigned if their schools fail to meet minimum educational requirements.
Administrators and teachers employed in the private sector usually earn significantly less than their publicly employed counterparts. Those teaching in the private sector, however, might cite other job benefits in explaining their job choice.