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How to Become a Highschool Teacher

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Preparing Young Adults for College or Career

Make a difference in the lives of students by bringing your passion for your favorite subject into the high school classroom. Being a teacher is one of the most family-friendly occupations you can have, since your work, holiday and vacation schedule will often coincide with that of your school-age children.

Job Description

Teachers prepare and present lessons, guide students through in-class assignments and projects, administer and analyze assessments, grade papers, and maintain records on students’ progress and achievements.

While elementary school teachers are generally responsible for content in all academic disciplines, high school teachers usually focus on one subject, such as English or math.

Within a broad subject area, they may teach classes in sub-fields. An English teacher, for example, may lead classes in composition, an introduction to Shakespeare and a survey of American literature, while a math teacher may provide instruction in algebra, geometry and calculus.

Teachers are needed in courses considered non-academic, such as physical education and vocational-technical education.

Education Requirements

To be hired as a teacher in a public high school, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and have successfully completed a teacher’s training program.

Some colleges offer a major in education and a dual major, or a minor, in the subject area you want to teach. Other colleges offer a major in the subject area and require that you take courses in education, which typically include psychology and teaching methods.

Teaching programs typically require that you spend at least 16 weeks as a student teacher.

You will observe a sponsoring teacher, gradually assuming more responsibility until it’s time to go “solo,” when you’ll have full charge of the classroom.

If you think you want to become a teacher, it is best to make that decision early in your undergraduate career so you can take the courses you need. However, it’s not uncommon for individuals to work in another field before deciding they’d like to teach.

Many colleges and universities with teaching training programs offer alternative certification tracks for people who already have already earned a bachelor’s degree.

Coursework is condensed, and you may get credit for classes you’ve already completed. The student teaching requirements are the same as in an undergraduate program, so it is not possible to prepare for a teaching career solely online.

State certification is mandatory to teach in public schools, and undergraduate course requirements are usually quite specific. Academic advisors will help you plan your class schedule, so you’re prepared.

As with initial certification, each state has its own requirements for certificate renewal. In general, teachers must complete a prescribed number of hours of continuing education within a certain time period, typically three to five years.

Credits can be earned through a variety of sources, including taking online classes, attending seminars and workshops, and participating in professional development activities.

About the Industry

High school students typically rotate through four, five or six class periods per day. As a teacher, you may have a total of 100 students or more. In addition to providing instruction in a subject area, high school teachers can serve informally as guidance counselors and college/career advisors. They may have additional duties such as study hall or cafeteria supervision. They may organize field trips. Some have opportunities to earn extra pay as coaches or sponsors of extracurricular activities or clubs.

A teacher’s workday does not begin and end on the same schedule as the students. High school teachers may arrive before the first bus to plan and prepare lessons, and they may stay long after the last student has left to meet with other teachers, administrators, support personnel or parents.

Evening or weekend work may be required for special events such as College Night or Open House or if the teacher supervises extracurricular activities. High school teachers typically do not work during the summer unless they choose to teach classes.

Years of Experience

Teacher salaries depend greatly on geographic location. Pay varies from state-to-state and even within a state since salaries are set by each district. Level of education also matters, with increases on the pay scale for individuals with graduate and post-graduate credits and degrees.

The median annual salary for a high school teacher is $62,870, which means that half in the field earn more money, and half earn less. Typical salary ranges, based on years of experience, include:

  • Less than 1 year of experience: $49,996 to $57,121
  • 5 to 6 years of experience: $58,035 to $64,018
  • 10 to 14 years of experience: $58,948 to $64,786
  • 20+ years of experience: Up to $69,241

Job Growth Trend

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for high school teachers is expected to be around 8 percent, which is average compared to anticipated growth for all other occupations. Job availability depends on a variety of factors, including geographic location, school funding and the subject you teach.