An assistant principal is the vice-principal of a school and is an essential part of the administration. In order to be hired for such a position you do need to have a post-graduate degree as well as teaching experience. As a rule, most vice-principals hold a Master’s degree and a teaching certificate in the state in which they work. Being a vice-principal is usually a stepping-stone to becoming a principal as it helps you gain experience in what it means to manage a school. Prior to being hired for this position, many also hold other types of administrative positions, such as department heads or co-coordinator positions at the school district level.
The requirements for becoming an assistant principal vary from state to state and in the various types of educational facilities. For example, in a private school you may not need to have a teaching certificate and as part of the administration of a daycare facility, you may not even need to hold a university degree.
In the regular school system, you do need to be licensed to work as an assistant principal. This means you have to take the tests for the state licensing and pass courses dealing with school administration. For the first year on the job, your work will be evaluated, after which time you may be offered the position permanently. The principal is responsible for this evaluation and it is this person who will provide you with the support, guidance and mentoring you need in the position.
Some of the qualities a principal will look for when hiring an assistant principals include willingness to learn and adapt to new situations, a sense of innovativeness in trying new techniques, knowledge of how the school and school system works and ability to deal with diverse students and teachers. The discipline of students usually falls within the responsibility of this position, so you do need to have experience handling different kinds of discipline problems. You need to know when to be strict and when to be more lenient with students when they break the school rules.
Depending on the size of the school, as an assistant principal, you may also have teaching duties for at least half of the time. Schools with large populations rarely have a teaching vice-principal, whereas this is common in schools with lower enrollments or in small rural schools. When teachers call in sick and there is no substitute teacher available, you may be the one that has to fill in for that teacher and make arrangements to cancel the prep periods of other teachers to fill in for part of the time. One of the duties regularly assigned to this position is that of designing the school timetable or schedule of classes and supervisory duties. This requires knowledge of the time limits for each subject mandated by the state in order to fulfill the requirements of each subject area. Other duties that you will be involved in include interviewing new teachers, attending staff and school district meetings and evaluating new teachers. From time to time, you may have to fill in for the principal when this person is absent from the school.