How to Become a High School Teacher


High school lecturers instruct students from grades 9 to 12. Well into their teenage years, these students are older and more mature, with a developing sense of independence. High school students also have lives approaching the frenzy and complexity of adulthood, often balancing academics and increased responsibilities at home with athletics, social relationships—including romantic ones—and a job.

Whereas primary school teachers play an important role in the personal and social development of their students, high school lecturers focus more on the content they are teaching. They teach specific and advanced courses, including physics, calculus, government, and literature. Additionally, they must prepare both the students who will be going on to college or university, as well as the students who will be directly entering the job market.

In 2013, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there are close to 1 million high school teachers in America. A career as a high school teacher has long been a popular vocation for women and men. An individual can become a high school teacher with five to six years of post-secondary education, they are generally respected members of the community, and they typically enjoy a higher level of autonomy than teachers working in lower grades of the school system.

What are the requirements for being a high school teacher?

In the U.S., high school teachers are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree. With few exceptions, claiming a subject specialization at the high school level requires an undergraduate degree in an area of specialization.  With the exception of private schools, high school teachers must also complete some form of state certification. Increasingly, a growing number of high school teachers hold graduate degrees either in education, or in their specialization. At some independent schools, high school teachers also hold PhDs, with or without additional degrees or certifications in education.

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What is the career outlook for being a high school teacher?

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Enrollment growth in high school is expected to be slower than enrollment growth in other grades. As such, only a 6 percent growth in high school lecturer employment is anticipated from 2012 to 2022, a lower percentage than the 11% national average occupational growth.

Though expected growth is less than other fields, overall enrollment growth, retiring teachers, and a decline in the student-to-teacher ratio—the number of students for each teacher in a school—means that there will still be high school lecturer openings throughout the decade. This is especially true or positions for certain subjects, such as match and science, which many schools have trouble filling.

Additionally, employment growth differs by region, with the South and West expecting the largest job growth, the Midwest expecting neutral growth, and the Northeast experiencing declines.

What extra-curricular activities do high school teachers complete?

Most high school teachers are also involved in other aspects of school life, such as volunteering to run a club or after-school program, or coaching one or more teams. At the high school level, it is particularly important for teachers to be involved in the culture of the school. High school teachers are mentors, and even friends to teenagers. For this reason, they also frequently find themselves engaged in various levels of crisis intervention.

A high school teacher may be the first person a teenager confides in when dealing with a family crisis, abusive relationship, or eating disorder. In this sense, even high school teachers who do not work in guidance, often dedicate part of their time to guidance-related activities.

What is the typical compensation and are there benefits?

In 2012, the median annual salary for high school teachers was %55,050, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $36,930 and the highest 10 percent earning more than $85,690. Like most teachers, most high school lecturers work from September to June and do not teach during the summer. Most elementary school teachers also enjoy extended health benefits, as well as employer retirement contributions. With a steady number of available openings in the field, most high school lecturers are also able to find work without relocating.

Like their counterparts in other public service positions, high school lecturers working full-time, who meet all the other conditions, are eligible for student loan forgiveness. For this reason, even teachers who accumulate large student loans while completing their bachelor’s degree and initial teacher qualifications may find teaching an affordable career option in the long term. People who enjoy working with children in a dynamic environment will benefit significantly by entering the elementary school teaching profession.

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