Being a high school principal can be a thankless job — you juggle issues arising from teachers, parents and students, all while frequently dealing with severe budgetary constraints. On the plus side, you get to set the tone for the school and help shape children’s minds. Despite this, principals are chronically underpaid for someone in the sort of administrative post they occupy.
The average principal makes about $88,000 a year, which is almost $40,000 more in salary than the national median. However, when you consider that the job typically requires a master’s degree and usually means working 60 hours a week or more, that’s still below what a similar position in the private sector could expect. The average corporate operations officer, for instance, pulls down over $93,000 a year and doesn’t always need an MBA to do so.
In some states, however, principals do make more. In 12 states and the District of Columbia, the average principal earns more than $100,000 a year, according to career matching platform Sokanu, potentially indicating states where there’s a larger commitment to public education. Here’s a look at all 13 of those states, including average teacher salary.
Click through to learn how much principals get paid, and how it compares to teachers’ salaries.
13. District of Columbia
- Average Principal Salary: $100,110
- Average Teacher Salary: $57,936
- Difference: $42,175
In Washington, D.C., principal pay is good for 13th overall but teacher salaries are the fourth-highest in the country. That $100,110 might seem like a pretty great deal, but given that the nation’s capital is so expensive to live in, it likely won’t go nearly as far as it would in other cities on this list.
- Average Principal Salary: $100,870
- Average Teacher Salary: $51,384
- Difference: $49,486
Minnesota just managed to clear the threshold for this list by less than $1,000 a year, but there’s a good chance that you might be able to get more for your money than the higher-paid principals living in more expensive states. Minnesota is right at the national average for basic costs.
- Average Principal Salary: $102,450
- Average Teacher Salary: $45,516
- Difference: $56,934
A state with comparatively low teacher wages, Illinois is still among the stronger states for the compensation it’s paying to its principals. Earning six figures likely makes the daily struggle of managing an entire school in the Chicago suburbs just a little easier to cope with.
10. Rhode Island
- Average Principal Salary: $103,490
- Average Teacher Salary: $44,340
- Difference: $59,150
Rhode Island’s teacher salary puts it firmly in the bottom half of the country, even while its principal salaries are among the top dozen, resulting in a pay gap of almost $60,000 — pretty large for America’s smallest state. Making under $45,000 likely means teachers have to buy in bulk even as their supervisors can likely afford some of the finer things.
- Average Principal Salary: $103,810
- Average Teacher Salary: $52,966
- Difference: $50,844
A state where principals aren’t quite making double that of the average teacher, Massachusetts is among the 10 states with the highest average compensation for classroom instructors. However, it’s a clear example of why someone looking to maximize their income likely isn’t planning on becoming a teacher: Despite being among the 10 highest, the average teacher’s salary is still below that of the nationwide median salary.
- Average Principal Salary: $104,530
- Average Teacher Salary: $48,775
- Difference: $55,775
It’s worth noting that there’s a lot of overlap between the states where principals make more than $100,000 a year and the states with the highest concentrations of millionaires — seven of the 10 states with the most millionaires per capita are also on this list. While it’s hard to say precisely what the correlation is, it could be that a larger tax base helps public education systems pay their administrators more.
- Average Principal Salary: $107,410
- Average Teacher Salary: $64,814
- Difference: $42,596
Most of the states on this list could hire two teachers for what they’re paying their principals, but there are five instances where teacher salaries are over half that of principals’. One of the most pronounced cases, though, is in Alaska, where the highest average teacher salary in the country means you would be over $20,000 a year short of a second instructor for the $107,410 the average principal makes.
It’s a good thing teachers are paid well — the cost of living in Alaska is high.
- Average Principal Salary: $108,310
- Average Teacher Salary: $46,131
- Difference: $62,179
Based on a 40-hour week, principals in Washington are making $52.07 an hour. However, if you consider the fact that the average work week during the school year clears 60 hours, that wage drops to under $35 while school is in session.
- Average Principal Salary: $108,800
- Average Teacher Salary: $56,342
- Difference: $52,458
While $108,800 might not be enough to make your home in Bethany Beach — home to the state’s most expensive zip code — it is probably more than enough to live comfortably.
- Average Principal Salary: $114,270
- Average Teacher Salary: $48,298
- Difference: $65,972
California is another state where teacher salaries don’t appear to be in line with those of principals, with the average teacher pulling down under $50,000 a year. If you’re wrapping up a career in education that hasn’t left you with a lot of savings, consider calling the town of Hanford home. It’s the best place in the state to live on a fixed income.
3. New York
- Average Principal Salary: $120,810
- Average Teacher Salary: $52,203
- Difference: $68,607
New York might be accused of compensating its principals at the expense of its teachers — the $68,607 gap between the two is second only to New Jersey. So, while teachers probably can’t expect to afford a vacation in the city on what they’re earning, their supervisors potentially could.
2. New Jersey
- Average Principal Salary: $125,760
- Average Teacher Salary: $53,208
- Difference: $72,552
In New Jersey, principals get generous wages while teachers suffer. With an average teacher salary of just $53,208, the gap between principals and teachers is at its highest in the Garden State.
- Average Principal Salary: $127,110
- Average Teacher Salary: $60,702
- Difference: $66,408
While Connecticut has the top salary for administrators, it’s also not doing too shabby in the teacher salary department with the third-highest average wage in the country in that category.
For the most part, there’s a strong correlation between teacher and principal salaries, but there were some outliers among the states where principal salaries didn’t cross $100,000. North and South Carolina were both among the top five for teacher salary, but paid the average principal $68,660 and $83,330, respectively.
Click through to see the average cost of education in every state.
More on Making Money and Jobs
- Senior-Friendly Jobs That Are Perfect for Retirement
- Here’s the Highest Paid Job in Your State
- 28 Weirdest Ways to Make Money
Methodology: GOBankingRates used data from Sokanu, the career matching platform, to determine the highest paid school principals on average, along with their hourly wages. Teacher salary data is also from Sokanu.
About the Author
Joel Anderson is a business and finance writer with over a decade of experience writing about the wide world of finance. Based in Los Angeles, he specializes in writing about the financial markets, stocks, macroeconomic concepts and focuses on helping make complex financial concepts digestible for the retail investor.