A discrepancy exists between the ideal and the actual roles played by vice‐principals (VPs). This gap between roles influences the level of job satisfaction, which, in turn, affects their desire for a principalship. This study used a questionnaire survey of about 300 Hong Kong VPs to examine the core responsibility dimensions pertaining to their work and how these contribute to the success of their schools. It also explores the deviation in the responsibilities undertaken by VPs with different school backgrounds and career orientations. The study identified seven core responsibility dimensions of VPs. The results show that the dimension leader and teacher growth and development is a predictor of a VP’s desire for principalship. Issues of attention included staff management and leader and teacher growth and development, as well as a call for better alignment between the actual and ideal responsibilities and roles of VPs. Copyright © 2009 Taylor & Francis.