Teacher: Career Definition, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Find out the job duties and average salary for elementary and secondary school teachers. Learn education, training and licensure requirements for this profession. Schools offering Teaching & Learning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Teacher?

Teachers work in many settings, including preschools, primary schools, and secondary schools. If teaching is your chosen career, you'll find that you can also work in trade schools, community and enrichment centers, fitness and recreational facilities, churches, prisons and corporate offices. You may lecture on the history and background of a subject and demonstrate relevant learning techniques. You are responsible for evaluating your students' progress, and you may encourage further learning in various subjects. You'll also provide the discipline and framework necessary for learning. When not in the classroom, you may focus on research or writing in your area of specialization. Often, time outside the classroom is utilized to prepare materials and assignments. Teachers are also required to participate in ongoing professional development. Below, the table provides some important details about careers in both elementary and high school teaching:

Elementary TeachersHigh School Teachers
Degree Required Bachelor'sBachelor's
Education Field of Study Elementary EducationSecondary Education (with a major in the subject you would like to teach)
Key Responsibilities Create lesson plans for a variety of subjects, introduce students to foundational educational concepts, observe students and create progress reports, communicate with parentsCreate lesson plans, give exams, track student progress, prepare students for college entrance exams
Licensure Requirements Licensure required for public schoolsLicensure required for public schools
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6%6%
Mean Salary (2015)* $54,550$57,730

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is My Employment Outlook?

The employment outlook for teachers was variable depending on location, grade and teaching specialty, but overall, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted the profession would to grow by 6% from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). Job opportunities would be best for teachers of foreign language, mathematics, physics and chemistry, particularly in rural and lower-income urban communities, the BLS noted. It was also believed that job prospects would be especially good for teachers who were licensed in multiple subjects and able to relocate for employment.

The BLS predicted that, as a result of increased employment prospects and growing public concern for education, more teachers would be hired. As of May 2015, average annual income for teachers who worked in elementary schools was $54,550 and secondary school teachers earner an average of $57,730, the BLS indicated.

What Education Requirements Must I Complete?

To become a teacher, you must enroll in a teacher education program and receive a bachelor's degree. You may first need to decide whether you'd like to teach elementary school or high school subjects. Curricula for aspiring elementary school teachers will prepare you to teach a broad range of courses ranging from art to science. Specifically, your elementary teacher education program will offer courses such as teaching, learning and assessment, methods of elementary mathematics, child growth and development, educational psychology and early childhood program administration.

If, however, you'd like to become a high school teacher, often called a secondary school teacher, you should major in the subject you'd like to teach, in addition to participating in a teacher preparation program. The Teacher Education Accreditation Council and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education both approve teacher education programs. Enrollment in an accredited program can ultimately help you to acquire a teaching license.

Depending on the employer, locality and various levels of education, you may need actual teaching experience before obtaining a provisional license. Public school teachers who intend to teach kindergarten through 12th grade will usually need to acquire a bachelor's degree or higher, complete a teacher education program and undergo a period of supervised teaching before being eligible for a general education license. Private school teachers often need no licensing. Some states stipulate that teachers must earn master's degrees in education after having taught for a time. Before a license is granted, you'll be tested in areas such as reading and writing skills and teaching proficiency.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A similar but more specific career in education is that of a special education teacher. These professionals perform many of the same tasks as a teacher, but adapt lesson plans and activities to work for students with various kinds of learning, physical or emotional disabilities. Special education teachers need at least a bachelor's degree. Another alternative career that requires at least a bachelor's degree is a social worker. Social workers help people deal with problems in their lives and respond to crisis situations. Some of these professionals are even qualified to diagnose and treat various kinds of emotional and behavioral issues.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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