Skip Navigation
Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education

Characteristics of Public School Principals

(Last Updated: May 2020)

The percentage of public school principals who were female in 2017–18 (54 percent) was 10 percentage points higher than in 1999–2000 (44 percent). The percentage of public school principals who were White was lower in 2017–18 than in 1999–2000 (78 vs. 82 percent). In contrast, the percentage who were Hispanic was higher in 2017–18 than in 1999–2000 (9 vs. 5 percent).

During the 2017–18 school year, public schools in the United States employed 90,900 principals: 68 percent were elementary school principals, 22 percent were secondary school principals, and 9 percent were principals at combined elementary and secondary schools. The number of public school principals in 2017–18 was about 8 percent higher than in 1999–2000 (83,800), while the number of public schools in 2017–18 (98,500) was 7 percent higher than in 1999–2000 (92,000).

Select a subgroup:

Select a subgroup characteristic from drop-down menu below to view relevant text and figures.

Figure 1. Percentage distribution of public school principals, by sex and race/ethnicity: 1999–2000 and 2017–18
Figure 1. Percentage distribution of public school principals, by sex and race/ethnicity: 1999–2000 and 2017–18

— Not available.

# Rounds to zero.

NOTE: Data are based on a head count of full-time and part-time principals rather than on the number of full-time-equivalent principals. Separate data on principals who were Asian, Pacific Islander, and of Two or more races were not available in 1999–2000. In 1999–2000, data for principals who were Asian included principals who were Pacific Islander, and principals of Two or more races were required to select a single category from among the offered race/ ethnicity categories (White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native). Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), “Public School Principal Data File,” 1999–2000; and National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Principal Data File,” 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 212.08.

Figure 2. Percentage distribution of public school principals, by years of experience as a principal: 1999–2000 and 2017–18
Figure 2. Percentage distribution of public school principals, by years of experience as a principal: 1999–2000 and 2017–18

NOTE: Data are based on a head count of full-time and part-time principals rather than on the number of full-time-equivalent principals. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), “Public School Principal Data File,” 1999–2000; and National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Principal Data File,” 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 212.08.

Figure 3. Percentage distribution of public school principals, by highest degree earned: 1999–2000 and 2017–18
Figure 3. Percentage distribution of public school principals, by highest degree earned: 1999–2000 and 2017–18

1 Education specialist degrees or certificates are generally awarded for 1 year’s work beyond the master’s level. Includes certificate of advanced graduate studies.

NOTE: Data are based on a head count of full-time and part-time principals rather than on the number of full-time-equivalent principals. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), “Public School Principal Data File,” 1999–2000; and National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Principal Data File,” 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 212.08.

Figure 4. Principals’ average annual salary at public schools, by school level and locale: 2017–18
Figure 4. Principals’ average annual salary at public schools, by school level and locale: 2017–18

NOTE: Average annual salaries are reported in constant 2018–19 dollars based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Principal Data File,” 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 212.10.


1 Separate data on principals who were Asian, Pacific Islander, and of Two or more races were not available in 1999–2000. In 1999–2000, data for principals who were Asian included principals who were Pacific Islander, and principals of Two or more races were required to select a single category from among the offered race/ethnicity categories (White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native).

2 Constant dollar estimates are based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis.

3 A regression analysis was run using the National Teacher and Principal Survey Public School Principal Data File. The dependent variable was the average principal salary; the independent variables were school locale and level and principal’s highest level of educational attainment, years of experience as a principal, sex, and race/ethnicity.

Supplemental Information

Table 212.08 (Digest 2019): Number and percentage distribution of principals in public and private elementary and secondary schools, by selected characteristics: Selected years, 1993-94 through 2017-18;
Table 212.10 (Digest 2019): Highest degree, average years of experience, and salaries of principals in public and private elementary and secondary schools, by selected characteristics: Selected years, 1993-94 through 2017-18;
Table 214.40 (Digest 2019): Public elementary and secondary school enrollment, number of schools, and other selected characteristics, by locale: Fall 2014 through fall 2017;
Table 214.10 (Digest 2017): Number of public school districts and public and private elementary and secondary schools: Selected years, 1869-70 through 2015-16;
Table 83 (Digest 2005): Principals in public and private elementary and secondary schools, by selected characteristics: 1993-94 and 1999-2000
CLOSE