Becoming a High School Teacher: What You Need to Know

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If you’re interested in becoming a high school teacher, the good news is that job prospects are generally good for this highly rewarding career choice. Your job prospects are even better if you’re bilingual, or if you specialize in teaching subjects such as mathematics, science, or technology.

High school teachers play an important role for students during their formative years by fostering their developmental growth, both intellectually and socially. Within the classroom environment, they can provide their students with the proper tools and training to develop into responsible adults.

Becoming a high school teacher isn’t difficult. At minimum, it requires a bachelor’s degree, preferably as an education major, plus completion of an approved teacher education program. Likewise, some states may offer alternative licensing programs to high school teachers interested in applying for hard-to-fill or in-demand positions, such as jobs teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects.

High School Teacher Job Description

Before becoming a high school teacher, it’s important to understand that there’s more than just teaching involved. While the teacher’s primary responsibility is to teach a specified subject or multiple subjects, there are other essential duties, as well.

For example, high school teachers have to read and grade papers and homework, conduct exams, listen to oral presentations, prepare report cards, and observe each student’s overall performance level. They also have to attend periodic staff meetings, even on days when classrooms are closed.

High school teachers may be responsible for leading field trips, overseeing study halls, and creating a variety of educational and entertaining classroom activities. Plus, high school teachers might be responsible for providing career guidance, assisting students in choosing colleges or careers, helping with job placement, and following up with students after they graduate.

Additionally, high school teachers must be ready to meet with parents whenever necessary, and be willing to discuss students’ personal or educational problems that might challenge their academic progress. And if a student has trouble in a particular area, high school teachers must be able to assess the problem, and spend time working with the student to help them improve.

As for the teaching process, high school teachers must develop their own individual style. Teachers can use a variety of resources, including props, videos, and even real-life experiences, to make subjects more vital and relevant to their students. Teachers can also use multiple technological resources, including educational software specially created for high school classrooms. 

Ultimately, the goal is to teach students to think critically, cohesively, and clearly, and to act responsibly. This gives students the information, skills, and training they need to succeed in their chosen careers and make sensible choices throughout their lives.

How to Become a High School Teacher

In every state, high school teaching positions at public schools require a bachelor’s degree and a license from a certified teacher education program. In some cases, a master’s degree in education might also be required. Candidates applying for a teacher’s license are tested in subjects such as reading, writing, and teaching. However, for private schools, high school teachers generally only need a bachelor’s degree.

Additionally, high school teachers in public schools must obtain a license from the state board of education or a licensure advisory board. Those working in private schools do not need a license.

To maintain accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, high school teachers must complete courses in computers and technology. In addition, they may also need to complete a student-teaching internship.

For the best job prospects, high school teachers should major in the subject they wish to teach, and should also take preparatory teaching courses from certified educational programs. Toward that end, there’s a variety of alternative licensure programs available for teachers with a bachelor’s degree who may not meet certain educational requirements for their ideal teaching jobs. Plus, many professional development schools offer one-year programs that allow high school teachers to continue taking post-bachelor’s degree courses, even after they’ve started their teaching career.

These programs are created to help bring more people to the teaching profession. Extra certification and training can also help high school teachers get better pay, as well as higher-salaried positions as supervisors and guidance counselors.

What are some personal qualifications for becoming a high school teacher? Essential character traits and qualifications include good communication skills, patience, creativity, imagination, and a passion for teaching, learning, and motivating students in a positive way. You’ll also need to have training and skills to work with students from a wide variety of backgrounds. If you have a highly developed sense of compassion and empathy, coupled with excellent communication, your students will relate to you better. As a result, you’ll improve learning and retention in your classroom.

High School Teacher Salary

The median annual wage for salaried high school teachers is around $61,800, as of May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earn approximately $37,000, while the highest 10 percent earn about $80,000 (as of May 2022). Be aware, however, that salaries for high school teachers vary from state to state.

High school teachers typically work 40 hours a week during the 10-month school year. Most have a two-month break when classes end for summer vacation, plus a short midwinter break. Some teachers, however, may opt to continue working during the summer and participate in tutoring or summer school programs. Some teachers in school districts with a year-round schedule often work a schedule of nine consecutive weeks, followed by a three-week break throughout the year.

Teachers who don’t want to work full-time can choose substitute teaching or specialty teaching jobs in music, art, or other extra-curricular subjects.

As for job prospects, there are an estimated 77,400 job openings each year for high school teachers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment tends to be highest in California, Texas, and certain east coast states, although these numbers can vary. Regardless of location, applicants who have a license, are geographically mobile, are bilingual, or have extra skills will have the best job opportunities.

Before becoming a high school teacher, it’s also important to look at job security. Typically, tenure is granted to high school teachers who have taught for more than three years. Although it doesn’t guarantee how long the job will last, teaching tenure offers an extra layer of job stability.

High School Teacher Challenges

As a high school teacher, your experience can vary greatly depending on the school where you teach. While many teachers find their jobs rewarding and fulfilling, others may experience some stress and frustration. Heavy workloads, large classrooms, and a rundown school environment can contribute to this stress. Working with unmotivated students or students with behavior issues can also be challenging.  

Smaller school districts and private schools typically have smaller classrooms and less overcrowding, but sometimes these schools may not have the technical resources of larger, better-funded schools.    

In addition, some school districts follow a site-based management model. In this scenario, teachers and parents have more input regarding management decisions about the school including budgeting, textbook choices, and curriculum formats. 

It’s a good idea to carefully consider all options and situations if you’re thinking about becoming a high school teacher. This is also important when applying for a teaching job. Ultimately, the school where you teach and the level of support you receive from students, staff, parents, and the school district can have a significant impact on your mental, emotional, and even physical health.

Making a Difference

Teaching high school can be an immensely rewarding and satisfying career, especially for those who have a natural love of learning, coupled with a passion for education. With a bachelor’s degree and a teacher’s certificate, you can be well-equipped to pursue one of the many thousands of teaching jobs available each year. And by taking additional courses and becoming bilingual, your chances of getting the ideal teaching job can improve significantly.


High School Teacher | Requirements | Salary | Jobs |

High School Teachers : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (

High School Teacher Salary | PayScale

Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education (

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