How to Become a High School Teacher in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for high school teachers. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary and job duties to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Teaching - K-12 degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A High School Teacher?

High school teachers instruct students in grades nine through twelve. They use provided curriculum guidelines to develop lesson plans, teach classes, assign work to students and grade work. They may also meet with parents to discuss their child's progress. High school teachers usually specialize in a specific subject that they teach, or subject area. They are required to have a bachelor's degree and a teaching license if they work in the public school system. High school teachers may also work for private schools.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Secondary education with emphasis on subject to be taught
Key Skills Good verbal and written communication skills; good organizational skills; creativity and resourcefulness; patience
Licensure and/or Certification Public school teachers are required to be licensed in all states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%*
Median Salary (2015) $57,200*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of a High School Teacher?

A high school teacher is an educator who provides instruction in a specialized subject to students in grades 9-12 or 10-12. Your duties would include enforcing classroom discipline; developing lesson plans; delivering lectures and presentations; leading class discussions; adapting lessons to the needs and interests of students; setting assignments and homework; grading tests, papers and assignments; and maintaining records on student performance.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Some schools offer bachelor's degree programs in secondary education that emphasize a subject area, such as mathematics, the natural sciences, the social sciences or foreign languages. These programs are typically 4-5 years in length and include courses in teaching and learning, classroom management, education and classroom technologies. Toward the end of your degree program you would complete your student teaching internship at a local high school.

Step 2: Complete a Teacher Education Program

If you complete a bachelor's degree program in the subject you plan to teach, such as math or English, but your degree program did not include a teaching component, you'll need to complete a teacher education program. Many schools grant admission only after you've finished your first year as an undergraduate. These programs address conceptual issues such as curriculum design, education psychology and education theory, and practical skills such as lesson planning, classroom management and performance assessment. Like the above bachelor's degree programs, these programs conclude with a student teaching internship.

Step 3: Obtain a Teaching License

You'll need a license in all U.S. states to teach in public schools; however, some private schools don't require high school teachers to be licensed. Licensure typically includes passing a competency exam known as Praxis, which covers basic reading and writing skills, teaching skills and subject matter proficiency (www.ets.org). You'll also need to pass criminal and child abuse background checks. Additionally, many school systems have provisional licensing programs that may require you to demonstrate teaching subject matter proficiency over a period of time. License renewal entails completing a specified number of continuing education credits.

Step 4: Obtain a Job

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that just over 961,600 high school teachers held jobs in 2014 (www.bls.gov). Employment was projected to rise six percent to just over 1 million from 2014-2024. As of May 2015, high school teachers earned a median salary of $57,200, according to the BLS. Check the websites of high schools in you area for job vacancies, and send your resume to all the high schools in your area. You could also check websites geared specifically toward teachers searching for jobs. You'll need to have all your teaching credentials in order when applying for teaching positions, including your degree, teaching license and test scores from the Praxis or state exams.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Multiple avenues of advancement are open to high school teachers. You could earn a voluntary certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). The benefits of earning national certification can include a higher salary, state reimbursement for continuing education or easier transfer of a license from state to state

You could also earn a master's degree in your subject area or in an education specialty, such as teacher leadership, curriculum and instruction, education counseling or administration. These degrees could lead to a promotion to mentor teacher or to positions outside the classroom as an instructional coordinator, guidance counselor or school administrator.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Middle school teachers perform many of the same tasks that high school teachers perform. The primary difference is the age of the students; middle school teachers work with students in grades six through eight. They focus on preparing those students to enter high school, while high school teachers focus on preparing their students for college. Middle school teachers need a bachelor's degree and teaching license. Postsecondary teachers instruct college students in a specific subject area that they specialize in. They may need a master's or doctoral degree to enter their career field. An instructional coordinator is another similar position, but requires a master's degree. Coordinators determine what material should be used in the curriculum for each subject and grade taught. They typically work for school boards and provide this information to teachers and administrators and then assess its effectiveness and modify the curriculum as needed.

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