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High School Teacher: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Research what it takes to become a high school teacher. Learn about what high school teachers do, how to become one and what the career outlook is to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a High School Teacher?

High school teachers deliver instruction to students in subjects ranging from calculus to English. Their overall goal is to prepare students for life after graduation. High school teachers will evaluate their students' skills and abilities in a subject and create lesson plans to teach additional information in the subject. They will monitor progress through assignments and tests. High school teachers will often need to adapt their plans to classroom size and work with individuals who may be struggling to overcome special challenges. They communicate with parents, supervise students outside of the classroom and enforce school policy and class rules. The following chart gives an overview of this teaching career.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Secondary education
Key Skills Teaching core subjects or electives, evaluating students, designing a curriculum
Licensure Required for public school teachers
Job Growth (2018-28) 4% (average)*
Median Salary (May 2018) $60,320*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Do High School Teachers Do?

As a high school teacher, you may instruct students in core subjects such as history, math, English or science and elective subjects such as drama, art or foreign languages. Some of your responsibilities may include designing your teaching curriculum, leading classroom discussions, teaching lessons, grading papers and maintaining the classroom. A large part of your job will involve evaluating each student's performance, providing additional instruction when necessary and offering guidance. You may also help students prepare for college entrance exams.

What Degree Do I Need?

If you work in private institutions, it's common for employers to require a bachelor's degree. Most education requirements for teachers in public schools are based on state licensing guidelines. In some states, only a bachelor's degree is required, but there are states that require a master's degree or require a master's degree to be earned within a specific period after receiving an initial teacher's license.

Bachelor's degree programs in secondary education are offered for prospective high school teachers. In a secondary education program, you typically are able to choose your concentration area such as math or science. These programs usually include general education requirements, major-specific coursework and a practicum or student-teaching experience.

A master's degree in education allows you to concentrate in a subject such as math, science or education while gaining experience in the classroom from student teaching and internship opportunities. Core courses in a master's program may cover teaching theory, classroom management and leadership. You also take courses in your specialty or concentration area.

Do I Need To Be Licensed?

All public high school teachers must hold a state teaching licensing. States set the licensing requirements, but usually the basic requirements include holding a bachelor's degree in education, having practical teaching experience and passing a teaching proficiency exam. Licensing is usually not required for private high school teachers.

What is the Career Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), high school teachers who specialize in math or science may see better opportunities as shortages of teachers in these subjects continue to rise (www.bls.gov). A large number of high school teachers are expected to retire in the 2018-2028 decade, which will result in more job openings for new teachers. The BLS reported an expected growth in employment for high school teachers of 4% from 2018-2028.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Alternative careers that are related to teaching at the high school level include middle school teachers, special education teachers and career and technical education teachers. All of these positions also require a bachelor's degree. Middle school teachers educate students in the middle grades (typically 6th through 8th grades) to build on the basics they learned in elementary school and prepare them for high school. Special education teachers modify lesson plans and help teach basic skills to students with physical, emotional, mental or learning disabilities. Career and technical education teachers prepare their students for a future career by teaching them a technical or vocational subject like auto repair.