How to Become a High School Teacher

A teacher is a compass that activates the magnets of curiosity, knowledge, and wisdom...Ever Garrison

High school teachers are responsible for the education of students between grades 9 to 12.

On the Job Duties

Usually, high school teachers are responsible for teaching a single subject, like English or Math. Lessons are typically taught through classroom discussions, lectures, and other methods. Teachers tend to evaluate student progress through coursework, projects, and examinations. High school educators have the opportunity to teach memorable lessons and various skills to students that will remain with them in their lives after graduation.

Qualities of a High School Teacher

Prospective high school teachers should be able to communicate effectively and frequently with parents, students, and other staff members. They must be proficient in their subject matter as well as the administrative and technological aspects of a classroom. Working with teenagers at the high school level can require a great deal of patience. However, this position is also rewarding and satisfying when one sees their hard work pay off through their students' accomplishments.

What are the Requirements for Teaching High School?

Education Requirements for Teaching High School

Prospective high school teachers should at least have earned a Bachelor's Degree. If available, the degree can be in Education or Secondary Education, concentrating in the area the candidate wishes to teach (English, Math, Science, etc.). Programs vary nationwide and from college to college. In some programs, candidates will major in their subject area and minor in education. Some schools have their prospective High school Teachers enroll in a secondary education program and minor in the subject area they wish to teach. Other colleges or universities combine teacher training and Bachelor's Degree coursework. Whether a student is enrolled in a teacher preparation program or education degree, they will be required to complete student teaching.

Many High School teachers earn a degree in Secondary Education or Education. Click on the links to learn more about those degrees.

Tests to Pass for Teaching High School

After a prospective high school teacher has completed their education requirements, they will be required to pass state examinations prior to applying for certification. Requirements for certification vary from state to state, but all typically require the candidate to complete a Basic Skills exam and a Subject Matter Competency exam in the subject they intend to teach. These scores as well as the completion of the Bachelor's Degree and teacher education program will be submitted with their application to the state board of Education.

Beyond a Bachelor's Degree

In most cases, the completion of a Master's Degree allows teachers to move up in the pay scale, thus receiving a higher salary. With an advanced degree, many teachers even desire to become coordinators, administrators, or department chairs.

Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State

Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.

High School Teacher by Degree Level

The tables and charts below break down the education level obtained as averaged across the U.S.

Degree LevelPercent (%)
Less Than High School Diploma0.2%
High School Diploma0.2%
Some College2.3%
Associate Degree1.5%
Bachelors Degree43.4%
Masters Degree48.3%
Doctorate Degree4.0%

Data taken from BLS Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2010-11 (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_111.htm)

Who Will My Students Be?

High school teachers will be teaching students in grades 9-12. This means they will be teaching a room of teenagers. Classes may vary including all grades, or some will be grade specific. High school teachers should expect to work with students from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Students at this age go through many changes in their lives, from peer-pressure to changing bodies. With that said, a teacher should be prepared to deal with the associated sensitivities, stresses, and excitement that is caused by this period of growth.

What Does A High School Teacher Do?

High school teachers generally teach students from the 9th through 12th grades. They usually specialize in one subject area, such as math, science, or history. They may teach several different classes within their subject area. For example, a High School Math teacher may teach courses in geometry and algebra.

High School Teachers must be able to communicate with other teachers, administrators, and parents to discuss their student's needs. In addition, teachers should be engage students. A good high school teacher will strive to make the curriculum relevant and interesting. Teachers should also be willing to explain and modify difficult concepts in terms that struggling students can understand.

They may teach a variety of different grade levels throughout the day ranging from 9th to 12th grade. Their course work will need to change based on their students capabilities. High school teachers plan lessons, assess students, grade student's work, and prepare students for standardized testing that is required by the state.

High School Teaching Jobs & Job Description

Educating students from grade 9 to 12 requires the accreditation and license to do so. Most high school teachers have an area of specialty that they are licensed to or prefer to teach. While exact requirements vary from state to state and from subject to subject, all secondary teachers perform the same tasks throughout their practice:

  • Show a commitment to the development of all students in the classroom
  • Teach and support student achievement in the subject at hand
  • Act equitably toward all students, without discrimination, and with intrinsic respect
  • Provide an environment ready for student to learn with appropriate structures and routines in place
  • Encourage students to be problem-solvers and contributing members of a changing global society now and in post-secondary
  • Have a deep knowledge of the subject matter, education legislation, Common Core standard and curriculum
  • Have a ‘toolkit' of effective teaching practices geared toward the grade level and subject at hand
  • Have appropriate visuals, presentations, and manipulatives as appropriate
  • Ensure that tasks and projects carry beyond the school day and require deeper connections with a student's own personal experiences and the broader world
  • Deploy a variety of effective classroom management strategies geared toward older learners
  • Practice a variety of assessment and evaluation techniques to ensure that teaching practice is effective
  • Understand how each individual student learns, and how this can influence academic achievement
  • Communicate proactively and effectively with fellow-teachers, parents, students, and administration
  • Report at regular intervals on student progress in line with administrative standards
  • Adapt and improve teaching practice over time through self-reflection, student need, and accredited professional development
  • Use technology in the classroom as appropriate and for administrative purposes
  • Collaborate with colleagues within the department, curriculum consultants and other learning partners
  • Engage in ongoing professional development to improve subject knowledge and practice
  • Understand teacher performance review gradings and strive to remediate gaps in practice
  • Keep documentation regarding classroom attendance, lesson planning, and student behavior
  • Support staff meetings to encourage goals and operation of the school
  • Support extracurricular and co-curricular activities to enhance student development and their enthusiasm for collaborative activity as well as the subject matter at hand
  • Become a community stakeholder as a member of the students' community
  • Set rigorous academic and time management goals for students to achieve
  • Praise students to acknowledge their academic development and achievements
  • Work collaboratively with students and their families to achieve best behavioral and academic outcomes
  • Work in a professional manner at all times
  • Assist departmental planning, programming, and curriculum development as needed
  • Be aware of each students' learning needs; prepare to alter instructional methods to accommodate
  • Guide activities and learning opportunities by student interest, classroom dynamic, and events in the world
  • Teach students about influencing social, cultural and historical factors as they apply to classroom subject matter
  • Be ready to receiving teaching feedback and support from teaching partners and administration
  • Demonstrate creativity and economy, while maximizing student experience; seek additional sources of funding and materials where appropriate
  • Be active listeners

Licensed high school teachers have a number of career paths open to them, both in secondary schools, and as tutors and teachers in private schools. Read on to learn more.

Where Can Certified High School Teachers Teach?

High School Teachers often teach in public, private schools, or charter schools.

Public Schools

Public schools are free for students and will be supported by federal and state funds. Public schools are governed by the US Department of Education, the state's board of education, and by the local school district. School districts will control the curriculum, funding for the program, and the hiring of teachers within the district. Public schools are required to admit any student who lives within the district. High School teachers can work with a diverse group of children from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Prospective public High School teachers are often required to apply directly to the district prior to seeking employment at a specific school.

Private Schools

Private schools will charge tuition for a child to attend as they receive no money from the federal government. These schools are funded solely by tuition and donations. Private schools are typically governed by a private school board or organization. The school board often sets the standards for teachers and students. Many private schools are founded by religious groups. With that said, educating students on specific beliefs is not uncommon. If a prospective High School teacher is interested in teaching at a private school, they should check with the school in which they wish to teach to find out specific criteria.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are independent schools that do not require tuition. Although these schools have more flexibility than public schools, they are expected to perform better. Charter schools are unique from public schools in that they typically have their own specific "charter" or mission. The charter acts as a school's contract. This will detail the schools mission, vision, curriculum, and goals for performance and assessment methods. In addition, charter schools are typically smaller in size and can be more selective. Please note that charter schools may have additional requirements for their High School teachers.

High School Teacher Organizations & Associations

What is the Salary of a High School Teacher?

On average, certified high school teachers make between $45,058 (Payscale.com) and $54,050 (BLS.gov) when at the beginning stages of their career. Certified teachers earn more with each year of experience as well as units of higher education. High school teachers in private schools generally earn an average of $10,000 less a year. However some of the perks of the private system are that parental involvement is high, as is student engagement and achievement. Experienced teachers may earn as much as $11,000 more than their less experienced colleagues.

To find out more about a High School Teacher's salary, you can visit our Teacher Salary page.

Salary (2016) and Job Outlook (2012 to 2020) by State

According to the published BLS data from 2016, the national average salary for High School Teachers is $61,420, with an estimated 1,003,250 being employed nationwide. Also, the job outlook growth projection from 2012 to 2020 is expected to increase by 5.5%.

StateProjected Growth (%)Avg Salary
Alabama4.8%$50,170
Alaska9.6%$71,040
Arizona14.8%$43,040
Arkansas8.6%$47,970
California6.5%$69,260
Colorado12.9%$51,540
Connecticut7.7%$69,290
Delaware3.0%$58,790
Florida11.9%$49,230
Georgia24.8%$54,750
Hawaii4.2%$55,930
Idaho7.0%$46,510
Illinois0.1%$67,580
Indiana9.5%$51,700
Iowa5.2%$46,820
Kansas8.8%$48,140
Kentucky7.0%$51,960
Louisiana6.6%$49,470
Maine-$48,440
Maryland5.3%$63,360
Massachusetts4.3%$69,340
Michigan-$62,050
Minnesota2.0%$59,840
Mississippi9.1%$42,820
Missouri3.5%$47,510
Montana2.2%$49,480
Nebraska10.0%$49,820
Nevada5.0%$53,660
New Hampshire3.9%$56,390
New Jersey0.4%$70,870
New Mexico19.8%$50,380
New York1.5%$75,250
North Carolina9.5%$43,510
North Dakota10.5%$46,850
Ohio6.3%$59,100
Oklahoma5.0%$44,210
Oregon12.0%$55,820
Pennsylvania-$61,470
Rhode Island-$69,990
South Carolina7.5%$50,440
South Dakota2.3%$40,530
Tennessee13.1%$49,250
Texas20.5%$51,850
Utah21.8%$53,700
Vermont-$54,350
Virginia11.3%$61,180
Washington14.1%$61,210
Washington, DC-$56,630
West Virginia-$45,000
Wisconsin1.5%$54,980
Wyoming7.6%$59,440

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for High School Teachers (SOC Code: 25-2031)

Salary (2016) By Largest Metropolitan Areas

AreaEmployedAvg Salary
Anchorage990$89,960
Reno990$55,530
Fort Collins980$51,620
Cedar Rapids980$53,930
Lake Charles980$48,700
Waterbury980$76,180
Atlantic City, Hammonton970$67,690
Longview950$47,580
Fort Smith930$50,390
Reading930$66,630
Tallahassee930$44,520
Ponce920$37,250
Lansing, East Lansing910$59,200
College Station, Bryan900$48,360
Charleston890$45,060
San Rafael890$70,400
Medford890$63,200
Pensacola, Ferry Pass, Brent880$50,030
Florence, Muscle Shoals880$49,690
Laredo870$59,430

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for High School Teachers (SOC Code: 25-2031)