One of the most difficult things about working in the business world is the jargon. If you haven’t already spent years in a field, it can be difficult to understand what others are talking about. Unfortunately, this difficulty can even extend to figuring out the difference between jobs. Understanding how an executive director is different from a principal, for example, requires more than just looking at a dictionary. The two positions can seem very similar on the surface, but looking just a little bit deeper can help you understand the differences between the two and help you to better define your career goals. Similarly to business, these two jobs can be interchangeable within the field of education. What is the difference between a principal of a school and the executive director of education?
What is a Principal?
Principal is a business term that, unfortunately, can mean several different things depending on the field in which one works. The major defining factor, though, is that a principal is a person of a significant amount of importance to a business. According to Investopedia, principals can be as varied as company CEOs or those who have a significant amount of equity in a given business. Where these individuals tend to stand out, though, is in their decision-making capacity. In one manner or another, a principal is a person who has a certain degree of authority in business dealings. In the field of education, a principal is the head of the school. The principal makes the decisions for the entire school, including teachers, support staff and students.
What is an Executive Director?
Executive directors, much like principals, are often difficult to define. Even more so than its counterpart, the definition of the term director has drifted with time. According to the Business Dictionary, an executive director is first and foremost an employee of the company. He or she may have a significant amount of power within the company and may make many important decisions, but his or her role will be very specifically defined. Unlike a principal, an executive director will be unlikely to have any sort of major equity in the company.
What’s the Difference?
While the matter of equity seems to be the major point of difference between an executive director and a principal, there are at least a few others. In the world of private equity firms, for example, Street of Walls would point out that principals and executive directors tend to have very different roles in who they supervise. Principals would be more involved in day to day operations, while directors would take more of a top-level view of the company. Executive director also tends to be a title that is used in 501(c)(3) non-profits, while principals tend to operate in more profit-drive settings.
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What Comes Next
Principals and executive directors can seem to fill many of the same roles in education, but they are truly quite different. While both are positions of authority, only one has a real ownership stake in the school itself. Determining whether you want to be an employee or if you want to take on the responsibility of ownership is just one of the decisions you’ll need to make if you decide upon this sort of career path. Coupled with the right research and education, knowing how an executive director is different than a principal can help you determine your career goals in education.