High school teachers teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.
What they do
High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college or to enter the job market.
High school teachers typically do the following:
- Plan lessons and instruct their students in the subject they teach
- Assess students’ abilities, strengths, and weaknesses
- Adapt lessons to changes in class size
- Grade students’ assignments and exams
- Communicate with parents about students’ progress
- Work with individual students to challenge them and to improve their abilities
- Prepare students for standardized tests required by the state
- Develop and enforce classroom rules and administrative policies
- Supervise students outside of the classroom—for example, during lunchtime or detention
High school teachers generally teach students from the 9th through 12th grades. They usually specialize in one area. Some teach core subjects, such as math, science, or history. Others specialize in elective courses, such as art, music, or physical education. They may teach several different classes within their subject area. For example, a high school math teacher may teach algebra, calculus, and/or geometry.
High school teachers may instruct students from different grades throughout the day. For example, one class may have mostly students from the 9th grade, and another may have 12th-grade students. In many schools, students are divided into classes on the basis of their abilities, so teachers need to adapt their lessons based on students’ skills.
Outside of their instructional time, teachers plan lessons, grade assignments, and meet with other teachers and staff.
Teachers of English as a second language (ESL) or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) work exclusively with students who are learning the English language. These teachers work with students individually or in groups to help them improve their English language skills and help them with assignments for other classes.
Students with learning disabilities and emotional or behavioral disorders are often taught in traditional classes. High school teachers work with special education teachers to adapt lessons to these students’ needs and to monitor the students’ progress.
Teachers must be comfortable with using and learning new technology. With parents, they may use text-messaging applications to communicate about students’ assignments and upcoming events. With students, teachers may create websites or discussion boards to present information and to expand a lesson taught in class.
Some high school teachers take on additional responsibilities, such as coaching sports or advising academic clubs, activities that frequently take place before or after school.
Most states have tenure laws, which provide job security after a certain number of years of satisfactory classroom teaching.
Teachers may find it rewarding to watch students develop new skills and gain an appreciation for knowledge.
However, teaching may be stressful. Some schools have large classes and lack important teaching tools, such as current technology and up-to-date textbooks. Occasionally, teachers must cope with unmotivated or disrespectful students. Some states are developing teacher mentoring programs and teacher development courses to help with the challenges of being a teacher.
How to become a High School Teacher
High school teachers typically must have at least a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.
All states require public high school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Many states require high school teachers to have majored in a subject area, such as science or history.
High school teachers typically enroll in their college’s teacher education program, which instructs them on presenting information to students of different abilities and background. Programs typically include a student-teaching program, in which prospective teachers work with a mentor teacher and get experience instructing students in a classroom. For information about teacher preparation programs in your state, visit Teach.org.
Some states require high school teachers to earn a master’s degree after earning their teaching certification and obtaining a job.
Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools typically seek high school teachers who have a bachelor’s degree and a major in a subject area.
All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed or certified in the specific grade level they will teach. Those who teach in private schools typically are not required to be licensed.
High school teachers typically are awarded a secondary or high school certification, which allows them to teach the 7th through the 12th grades.
Requirements for certification or licensure vary by state but generally involve the following:
- A bachelor’s degree with a minimum grade point average
- Completion of a student-teaching program
- Passing a background check
- Passing a general teaching certification test, as well as a test that demonstrates their knowledge in the subject they will teach.
For information on certification requirements in your state, visit Teach.org.
Teachers often are required to complete professional development classes to keep their license or certification. Some states require teachers to complete a master’s degree after receiving their certification and obtaining a job.
All states offer an alternative route to certification or licensure for people who already have a bachelor’s degree but lack the education courses required for certification. Some alternative certification programs allow candidates to begin teaching immediately with supervision by an experienced teacher. These programs cover teaching methods and other topics, such as resource management. After they complete the program, candidates are awarded full certification. Other programs require students to take classes in education before they can teach.
The median annual wage for high school teachers was $61,660 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,540, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $99,660.
Employment of high school teachers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Rising student enrollment should increase demand for high school teachers, but employment growth will vary by region.
Similar Job Titles
Art Teacher, English Teacher, High School Science Teacher, History Teacher, Mathematics Instructor (Math Instructor), Science Teacher, Secondary Teacher, Social Studies Teacher, Spanish Teacher
Director-Religious Activities and Education, Elementary School Teacher, Middle School Teacher, Career/Technical Education Teacher, Adult Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teacher and Instructor
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
- American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
- National Association for Music Education
- National Business Education Association
- National Council for the Social Studies
- National Council of Teachers of English
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
- National Education Association
- National Federation of State High School Associations
- National High School Association
Magazines and Publications
- Teach Magazine
- Education Week
- Scholastic Teacher Magazine
- Independent Teacher Magazine (NAIS sponsored)
- Green Teacher Magazine
Secondary school teachers help students prepare for life after high school, from taking college entrance exams to getting ready for a career. They specialize in teaching seventh to twelfth grade students a single subject, such as English, physical education, science, or music. Secondary school teachers must adapt to students' varied abilities, including limited English proficiency, learning disabilities, and emotional or behavioral disorders. During open periods in their day, teachers plan lessons, grade assignments, and meet with other teachers and staff. They may post grades and assignments on school websites. Some high school teachers coach sports and advise clubs and other groups after school. Teaching can be challenging, especially where classes are large and important resources are in short supply. Teachers are often held accountable for students’ performance on standardized tests, and at times, must go to great lengths to engage students and maintain a respectful learning environment. Communication skills, patience, and resourcefulness… are important characteristics in this career. Teachers generally work a ten-month school year with a two-month break for summer, although some teach summer programs. A bachelor’s degree is required to enter this field, along with state certification or licensure to work at public schools. Candidates must also pass a test in their subject area. The payoff for teachers' commitment is seeing students develop a strong foundation for their future.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOne Stop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org