Middle School Teacher Career Guide
A middle school teacher typically educates children in grades six to eight. In some school districts, grades five and/or nine may also be considered part of middle school. The job of a middle school teacher varies depending upon the course(s) he or she is teaching. Excellent communication skills, a love for teaching, and a compassion for children are necessary to be a good middle school teacher. This guide provides further information on what middle school teachers do, how to become a middle school teacher, and middle school teacher salary and outlook.
Middle School Teacher Job Description
Middle school teachers typically specialize in teaching children in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Since middle school is between elementary school and high school, middle school teachers review concepts learned in elementary school and build on these with more in-depth information, preparing students for the high school years ahead. Middle school teachers plan and deliver appropriate lessons, assess students on their progress, and grade assignments.
Middle School Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks
Teachers in middle schools normally focus on specific subjects such as math, English, social studies, science, art, or physical education. Within these broader areas, a middle school teacher might instruct multiple courses. For example, a middle school teacher specializing in the subject area of science may teach courses in biology and natural science. Their responsibilities vary and include preparing courses, assigning lessons, grading homework and tests, creating classroom rules, and meeting with parents to discuss student progress and behavior issues. They also may spend extra time with struggling students, often mentoring and tutoring them after hours.
How to Become a Middle School Teacher
The path to becoming a middle school teacher can vary depending upon the chosen field and specialty area. However, there are some general requirements. First, every state requires a bachelor’s degree, an appropriately accredited or state-approved teacher preparation program, and a teaching certificate to become a public middle school teacher. To teach the middle grades, the bachelor’s degree earned typically includes a major in the subject to be taught. Following are the common steps towards becoming a middle school teacher:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in the subject(s) you wish to teach that includes a teacher preparation program.
- Complete a student teaching internship in a middle school classroom.
- Pass your state’s required tests for educators.
- Apply for your state teaching certificate.
- Begin applying for open middle school teaching jobs.
While you will need to major in at least one subject to teach that subject in the middle grades, it is becoming more common for schools to offer middle school teaching programs that include preparation for two related subjects, such as science and math or English and reading, depending on state-level subject requirements for teacher licensing. Teacher licensing requirements differ from state to state but typically include an exam that demonstrates an individual’s teaching skills and knowledge as well as proficiency in the subject to be taught. Private schools may or may not require educators to hold teaching certification. If you already hold a bachelor’s degree in the subject you wish to teach, you may be eligible for an alternative route to certification. Earning a master’s degree in education is another route to a teaching career in many states.
Middle School Teacher Salary and Job Outlook
Most states have a great need for qualified teachers, especially in shortage areas like math and science. The national average salary for middle school teachers is $55,860.1 Location, experience, and specialty subject have a large impact on teacher salaries. Most school systems offer a benefits package in addition to salary, which may include medical, dental, and vision insurance coverage, as well as paid vacations. Teachers are typically able to increase their income through tutoring, furthering their education, gaining experience, and/or entering the administrative area of teaching.
Overall, the job outlook for middle school teachers is strong. Employment is expected to grow for middle school teachers by about 6% by 2024 due to enrollment growth and a focus on improving student-to-teacher ratios.1 Also by 2024, many teachers are expected to reach retirement age, subsequently opening more positions for prospective educators.1
Middle School Teacher Career Interviews
- Middle School Spanish Teacher, Lisa Butler
- Illinois Science Teacher, Terie Engelbrecht
- Michigan Middle School Teacher, Cossondra George
- Illinois Middle School Math Teacher, Elizabeth Gates
- Winnepeg Eighth Grade Teacher, Miles MacFarlane
Helpful Skills and Experience
Organizational skills, excellent communication and presentation skills, and sound decision-making skills are important for prospective middle school teachers. Teachers should be calm, fair, and patient. Teachers with prior experience will stand out from others. Knowledge or certification in a specialty subject will make a teacher more desirable, particularly in the subject areas of math and science, which are experiencing a shortage of teachers in many areas of the US.
- Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) – AMLE provides information and resources on teaching ages 10 to 15 as well as scholarship and networking opportunities.
- US Department of Education – This website provides information about dropout rates, K-12 reforms, the No Child Left Behind Act, and more.
- Top Middle School Teacher Blogs – Our ranking of the top blogs by and for middle school teachers.
Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Middle School Teacher
Question: Do I need a teacher certification to teach middle school?
Answer: While certification requirements vary from state to state, public schools in all states do require that middle school teachers be certified. Private schools may not require state certification. You can check with your state Board of Education or college program for further information on certification requirements in your state. You can also get started with our state guides to traditional certification and alternative certification.
Question: What types of courses do I take to become a middle school teacher?
Answer: The courses required will vary depending on the school, but most aspiring middle school teachers take courses in their chosen field of study, as well as courses in education, child psychology, and curriculum design and instruction. Talk to your school’s advisor or refer to your state Board of Education to find out what courses are required in your state.
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm