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High School Teacher Job Description & Career Outlook

A high school teacher instructs students in grades 9 through 12 in both public and private educational institutions. Secondary school teachers typically specialize in one or two subjects such as math, English, the sciences, social studies, art, history, Spanish, French or music, usually teaching several classes over the course of a day. Teachers at the secondary level also maintain order in the classroom, during breaks and lunch periods, and are often involved in a variety of extracurricular activities. High school teachers must have the ability to impart their knowledge effectively to teenagers. Calmness and patience are attributes that teachers need in their everyday job; their role may be seen as part instructor, part mentor, and part surrogate parent.

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How to Become a High School Teacher

Prospective high school teachers most often major in the particular subject in which they wish to teach. Additionally, they are faced with taking a prescribed teacher preparation course. Many four-year colleges and universities require students to wait until their sophomore year before applying to teacher programs. There is also an application for admission for the programs that vary by institution. Other secondary education schools now include computer classes as part of their programs, as well as several other technologies. Most include a student-teaching internship, where students of the bachelor program have a chance to work under experienced educators who act as mentors as well as teachers. They also have the opportunity to see how the school works, get reviews on their teaching skills, learn how to discipline students, and get a general feel for the school atmosphere. Education programs for the bachelor degree are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education as well as the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, but it is not needed to become a teacher and may make the licensing process easier.

High School Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

How to become a teacher in a secondary school in the public system is by obtaining a bachelor’s degree, and a state teaching license or certification. High school teachers in a private learning institution are not required to have specific degrees or certification; qualifications are dependent on the individual employer. For a high school teacher, training in their desired subject of instruction offers the best chance of employment. To be an effective and successful secondary school instructor, the ability to communicate well with teenagers, and earn their respect, is key. A firm manner combined with an approachable attitude will help a teacher maintain order, good behavior, and discipline in their work with teenage students. A secondary school teacher’s tasks will include developing their class study plans, assigning homework, administering and grading tests and exams, maintaining student records and grading results and completing progress assessments.

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High School Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a public high school teacher was $52,200 in 2009. The top ten percent of teachers earned upwards of $80,970. Key factors that determine salary are geographic location, subject, and experience. Overall, the teaching profession should see growth of about 13 percent through 2018. Science, mathematics, bilingual and foreign language secondary school teaching positions will offer more job availability. Southern and Western states are expected to have better prospects for teaching jobs than states in the Northeast and Midwest. High school teaching positions are found in both private and public schools in rural, urban and suburban environments, with more job openings on the horizon for teachers in rural and urban areas.

Teaching Degrees and Programs

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  • Master of Arts in Education/Curriculum and Instruction
  • A.A. in Education
  • M.A. in Education/Adult Education and Training
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  • MA Teaching: Middle Grades
  • M.Ed. - Teaching and Learning
  • M.Ed: Teaching & Learning Student Services
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  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Social Studies
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Common Core State Standards Instructional Leader
  • M.Ed: Special Education (Non-Endorsement)
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  • MS in Education (for Existing Teachers Grades K-12)
  • MS in Higher Education - College Teaching and Learning
  • MS in Higher Education - Online College Teaching
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  • B.S. in Educational Studies (Does Not Lead to Teacher Licensure)
  • M.A. in Reading with an Emphasis in Elementary Education
  • B.S. in Elementary Education: English
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Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a High School Teacher

Question: What degree do I need to teach high school?

Answer: To teach high school, you must earn a bachelor’s degree in a subject that is teachable at the high school grade level. In addition to your degree, you must earn a teacher certificate or license. The qualifications for certification vary according to state, but all require completing a teacher preparation program at a university.

Question: Do you need a masters to teach high school?

Answer: You do not need a master’s degree to become a high school teacher. A bachelor’s degree and certification is adequate. However, some states require that you earn a master’s degree within several years of starting a teaching job. These include New York, Connecticut, Kentucky, Oregon, Michigan, Maryland, Mississippi, and Montana.

Question: Why do teachers leave the profession?

Answer: There are many reasons, some personal, that teachers leave the profession. Some common reasons cited are a lack of support, an emphasis on standardized testing, struggles with student discipline, poor pay, and a lack of respect for teachers in general.