how to become high school teacher

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how to become high school teacher

How to Become a High School Teacher: Career, Education and Salary Information

Well-prepared high school teachers are essential to students’ academic success during their freshman through senior year of education. High school teachers are professionally trained to provide students with lasting educational experiences. If you are interested in a rewarding career as a high school teacher, it may be helpful to find out specific information about what these professionals do and the path they take to become one. In this article, we discuss what a high school teacher does and how you can become one with detailed steps and answers to frequently asked questions.

What does a high school teacher do?
High school teachers are responsible for teaching students between grades 9 through 12. High school teachers usually teach one specific subject like English or U.S. history, however, they may teach other subjects as well. Their lessons are generally taught through classroom discussions and lectures. Teachers educate their students and evaluate their progress using targeted coursework, exams and projects. They may also spend extra time with students who are struggling with coursework by tutoring or mentoring them after-hours.

Some of their responsibilities may include:

Planning lessons in their subject matter
Evaluating students’ academic abilities, strengths and weaknesses
Teaching students in large or small groups in a classroom setting
Grading students’ assignments to track progress with lesson plans
Preparing and providing students with resources for state standardized testing
Communicating with parents and other school faculty about students’ progress
Enforcing school and classroom rules and administering discipline when necessary
Average salary
The salary of a high school teacher will vary depending on the institution they work for, their level of expertise and their geographical location.

Common salary in the U.S.: $47,145 per year
Some salaries range from $27,000-$75,000 per year
How to become a high school teacher
There are several requirements you must complete before you can become a qualified high school teacher. Here are the most common steps you can follow to become a high school teacher:

Pursue your undergraduate degree
Complete a student teaching internship
Pass state examinations
Obtain licensure
Consider advanced education

  1. Pursue your undergraduate degree
    Every state requires high school teachers to have a bachelor’s degree. It is best if you major in a teachable subject like English, math or biology while also enrolling in your college or university’s teacher preparation program. However, each program will vary depending on the college you go to. Some colleges will have prospective high school teachers major in a subject and minor in education, and others may have students combine their degree coursework with teacher training.

Most colleges and universities recommend students wait until their sophomore or junior year before they begin applying to teaching programs. You will learn about topics such as effective teaching, educational development, curriculum and methodology in secondary education programs.

  1. Complete a student teaching internship
    Many teaching programs include student teaching internships. These internships are required for every prospective teacher, and they take about one semester or 8-12 weeks to complete. During this internship, students will begin to apply their knowledge by integrating theory and practice into teaching and learning in a hands-on setting under the supervision of an experienced educator.

Student teachers will begin to discover their teaching identities and create meaning out of the learning environment as they attempt to discover, grow and develop as teachers. Student teachers are expected to remain receptive to constructive feedback from teachers and faculty throughout the internship process.

  1. Pass state examinations
    Many states require future high school teachers to pass a general teaching certification test before they can apply for certification. Requirements for certification may differ depending on the state you live in, however, all states generally require a teaching candidate to pass a subject matter competency exam and basic skills exam. Check your specific state requirements for more information.
  2. Obtain licensure
    Once you pass the state examinations, you must apply for a license or certification to teach in your state. Your scores from the state examinations and the teacher education program as well as your bachelor’s degree will be submitted with your application to the school board. You will also be required to undergo a background check before you are approved to teach in your state.
  3. Consider advanced education
    You may choose to earn additional certifications or advanced degrees that help your resume stand out to potential employers. Some states may require you to get a master’s degree within a few years of your teaching job, to keep your teaching license. Some employers may also require you to have a master’s degree to teach specialized subject areas. You may consider obtaining your Master’s Degree in Education to advance your career in education beyond teaching.

Frequently asked questions
Here is a list of frequently asked questions concerning the high school teacher career path:

What is the typical day like for a high school teacher?
Teaching high school can be complex, and teachers complete a wide variety of tasks daily. Each day you will teach and interact with students and faculty and contribute to a safe learning environment for the students. The best way to learn more about the daily tasks and responsibilities of a teacher is to connect with someone who is currently working in this role. They will likely be able to offer you their insight and expertise.

What skills do I need to become a successful high school teacher?
Teachers need to be enthusiastic, organized, patient, flexible and possess excellent leadership to ensure success in their classroom.

Can I teach a different subject than the one I majored in?
Yes, you can choose to teach a different subject than the one you got your bachelor’s degree in. However, the requirements vary by state and you must be able to pass a rigorous exam covering the topic you would prefer to teach. Some states do require prior coursework in the subject you’d like to teach and you may have to take additional courses to qualify.

Are there teaching preparation programs that allow me to work while I fulfill credential requirements?
Alternative certification programs will prepare you for your teaching career by allowing you to work as a paid teacher during the day while you attend classes at night or on the weekends.

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