The assistant principalship: Becoming a school administrator

Patricia Mary Tripken, Fordham University


The assistant principalship is the initial step into school administration for most aspiring school administrators. Yet research has shown that there is little in the way of preparation for the actual tasks and responsibilities that new assistant principals are assigned. New assistant principals experience professional shock and surprise as they learn their tasks and attempt to attain the necessary skills to move up the career ladder. Qualitative research methodology was utilized for this study. Data were collected from 5 new assistant principals in secondary schools located in suburban New York City. Participants were obtained through purposeful selection. All participants were in their first administrative position and had served between 1 and 3 years in this position. Several findings emerged from this research. The required coursework and internship experience did little to prepare these assistant principals for the job they do each day. None of the participants received a job description before they took the position. The principal for whom these assistant principals work define their positions. New assistant principals are not prepared for the tasks they are assigned. New assistant principals view themselves as the person within the organization who makes the day run smoothly. The job is filled with stress and uncertainty. New assistant principals quickly learn that school administration is a political minefield that they must learn to manage in order to ascend the career ladder. Most participants aspire to the principalship and view this position as a necessary stepping stone toward that goal. Results of this study suggest several changes should be implemented regarding the certification and job description of assistant principals. Universities and colleges should be addressing the needs of new administrators by offering a course dedicated to the assistant principalship that accurately reflects the tasks and responsibilities of practicing 21st century assistant principals. Principals need to offer leadership opportunities to their assistants in order to prepare them for the principalship. Assistant principals themselves must seek leadership opportunities and work closely with their principal in order to prepare themselves for the principalship. Continued research is suggested regarding this critical position in school administration.

Subject Area

School administration|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Tripken, Patricia Mary, "The assistant principalship: Becoming a school administrator" (2006). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3210283.