How to Become a Middle School Teacher
Teaching middle school is not a job, it's an adventure. Angela K. Bennett
Middle school teachers, formerly junior high teachers, are skilled teachers of specific topics, typically within a specific grade level. Most middle schools contain grades 6 through 8 and offer both core subjects of mathematics, social studies, science and reading, as well as elective courses such as band, chorus, art, physical education and shop. Other classes may be offered by individual schools based on student needs and the area in which the school is located.
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Qualities of a Middle School Teacher
A middle school teacher must be good at classroom management, since he or she will be in charge of multiple classes of varying ability levels. Middle school teachers should also be optimistic, organized, patient and empathetic. Developmentally, students at the middle school level go through many physical and emotional changes. These changes can impact a student's ability to perform well in class. An innovative and creative teacher can help these students stay on track during these years.
On the Job Duties
Middle school teachers are often required to teach 4 to 7 classes daily with students at different levels of learning abilities. Some classes may contain special needs students, but all classes are typically at the same grade level. Though most middle school teachers teach only one subject area, some may choose to teach an extra elective class, monitor a club, or coach a sports team.
A middle school teacher will be responsible for every student who enters their classroom and must teach each student the information necessary to be successful. Middle school teachers are also usually responsible for other duties outside the classroom which may include lunch room, dismissal, bus, hallway, or restroom monitoring. In addition, as with all teachers, the middle school teacher will be required to create, write, and teach lesson plans that are age and grade appropriate, grade assignments, enter grades, and meet with students and/or parents as needed.
Middle school teachers have an average job growth rate as teachers are needed in all areas. However, certain subject areas such as math and science are growing at a higher than average rate. Middle school teachers have students who are old enough to be responsible for their own assignments, but still young enough to need guidance in life lessons. This makes middle school an interesting job no matter the day.
What are the Requirements for Teaching Middle School?
Education Requirements for Teaching Middle School
Those who wish to become certified Middle School teachers are required to hold at least a Bachelor's Degree as well as a state issued teaching certificate. Licensure can be obtained by completing an accredited teacher education program from an accredited college or university. A middle school teacher will need to choose a single subject area, or dual major, to receive a certificate in that area.
Blended Teacher Certification Programs
A number of colleges and universities offer ‘joint' or ‘blended' degree programs which allow teaching candidates to earn a Bachelor's degree and teaching certificate at the same time. In addition, potential teachers that already have a Bachelor's degree in another field may earn a teaching certificate through an alternative path, such as an internship. Though many states offer alternative certification routes, each differs slightly in duration, expectations, and subject level availability. Check with the board of education in your state if an alternate route of study is desired.
Teacher preparation programs tend to focus on pedagogy, teaching methods, and actual field experience in the form of observations and student teaching. Classes for the potential middle school teacher will also focus on classroom management, adolescent development, and subject specific instruction. Middle school teachers will have to learn to adapt instruction to learners at the middle school level, while meeting state standards of instruction.
Tests to Pass for Teaching Middle School
Those teachers who wish to obtain a teaching license for the middle school grades must hold a Bachelor's Degree and pass all required state licensing exams. This typically includes a basic skills exam and a subject specific exam. Specific exams as well as necessary scores may vary from state to state, however most states accept the Praxis series of tests.
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.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington, DC
- West Virginia
Who Will my Students be?
Middle school teachers will be teaching students ages 12 to 15 in most areas. These students are coming into their teenage years with all the angst that puberty often brings. Some students will look like elementary children while others will appear to be adults walking into the classroom. Teachers will be expected to instruct based on the necessary curricula and grade level though maturity levels of the students can vary greatly. Students at this age are moving from the concrete-manipulatory stage into an abstract thinking stage which will change the level of instruction as compared to early grades. Students will not only be learning the core subjects as taught by the middle school teacher, but also the life lessons that are taught throughout the day in the small society that is middle school.
What Does a Middle School Teacher Do?
Middle school teachers instruct students in the middle grades (usually 6th - 8th). Middle school teachers often teach one subject to one grade level of multiple classes. These classes tend to rotate from teacher to teacher each day within the school. A wide range of skills will be covered based on the subject area being taught. A seventh grade science teacher may teach biology to six classes a day, while a sixth grade literature teacher focuses on comprehension and grade appropriate reading choices. The subject area of certification will determine what is taught in general.
Middle school teachers are also expected to instill confidence, responsibility, and other life skills in students on the daily basis. This age group often spends more time at school than with parents meaning that school is a place in which useful lessons can be shared within the context of teaching or simply in passing throughout the day. Most middle school teachers will be able to tell you which students are ‘dating', which are arguing over something, and who is struggling at home. Though these are not necessarily duties of the teacher, they are aspects of being a teacher that are necessary. A middle school teacher is a guide as well as an instructor.
Middle school teachers may be expected to serve on committees, complete bus, lunch, or hallway duties, and act as mediators in student issues. A Middle school teacher will also be required to prepare lesson plans, use these plans appropriately to teach, and record grades on what is taught. Teachers will also be required to give and maintain records for standardized tests for the state and classroom based assessments as needed.
Where can Certified Middle School Teachers Teach?
Certified middle school teachers can teach in public, private, or charter schools in the grades and/or subject areas in which they are certified.
Public Middle Schools
Public middle schools are supported by state and federal funds, which means they are free for all local students to attend. Middles schools typically house only grades 6-8, but grades 5 and 9 may be included in some. Public schools are directed by the U.S. Department of Education, the state board of education, and local boards of education. The local school board is in charge of the curricula chosen, distribution of funds, and hiring of teachers and staff. Public middle school teachers are more likely to have a highly diverse group of students. If you wish to teach in a public middle school, you may be required to first apply directly to the district in which the desired school resides.
Private Middle Schools
Private middle schools are considered to be more autonomous and independent from government control. Private schools are not mandated by law to hire certified teachers; however, most private schools insist on hiring only licensed and highly trained teachers. These schools are usually controlled by the school's board or other organization. These schools are generally funded by tuition and private donations. Some private schools may even have a religious affiliation.
Teachers who wish to teach in a private school may want to check these requirements before applying. Since private schools have the ability to create their own curricula, standards are often higher than those of public schools. If you choose to teach at a private school, it will be necessary to ask about specific requirements of each school. This will be important before application and hiring to make sure you meet the necessary requirements.
Charter Middle Schools
Like traditional public schools, charter middle schools are also free to attend. However, charter schools are more autonomous than traditional public schools. Charter schools are often more selective in choosing teachers as they have a charter plan or petition that must be upheld. Charter schools are much more flexible than public schools in their structure, principles, and governance. In the past, charter schools have been held to much higher standards than public counterparts.
Middle School Teacher Organizations & Associations
AMLE is the go-to source for middle level education peer-reviewed research, best practices and professional development.
What is the Salary of a Middle School Teacher?
Depending on experience, certified middle school teachers can expect to earn around $60K per year, depending on their location, which does not account for health and retirement benefits. Middle school teachers who work in private schools may earn up to $10,000 less per year. Although the pay may be less at a private school, middle school teachers get to enjoy smaller class sizes and more flexibility with curriculum and pedagogy. With more experience and more education, middle school both in the public and private sector can earn a higher salary.
Middle School Teachers:
Entry-level (10th percentile): $39,990
Annual median salary: $59,660
Experienced (90th percentile): $96,280
You can learn more about a teacher's salary by visiting our Teacher Salary page.
(Salary data for elementary, middle-school and high-school teachers reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2019. Figures represent state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Information accessed March 2021.)