High School Teachers

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: High school teachers teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Work Environment: High school teachers work in schools. They work during school hours but may also work evenings and weekends to prepare lessons and grade papers. Most do not teach during the summer.

How to Become One: High school teachers typically have at least a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license, which may require an academic background in the subject(s) they will be certified to teach.

Salary: The median annual wage for high school teachers is $60,320.

Job Outlook: Employment of high school teachers is projected to grow 4 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Rising student enrollment should increase demand for high school teachers.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of high school teachers with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a high school teacher with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 High School Teacher Jobs

  • High School Special Ed. Teacher - Fairview, OR - SPEDJobs.com - Fairview, Oregon

    An amazing and supportive school district in Fairview, Oregon is working with ProCare Therapy to contract a Special Education Teacher to work with a High school population.We ultimately are looking ...

  • High School Teacher - American Indian Model Schools - Oakland, CA

    Provide a high -quality instruction within a small school environment where every student is known ... Valid California Teaching Credential * English Language Learner Authorization required * NCLB ...

  • Middle and High school opening for Special Education Teachers - SPEDJobs.com - Overland Park, Kansas

    Middle and High Schools * Mild/moderate * Gen ed setting * Pull out * Co- teaching * hiring now Job Requirements: * Must be licensed in KS * Write IEPs * Commit to at least 1 semester How to apply

See all High School Teacher jobs

What High School Teachers Do[About this section] [To Top]

High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college or to enter the job market.

Duties of High School Teachers

High school teachers typically do the following:

  • Plan lessons in the subjects they teach, such as science or history
  • Assess students to evaluate their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Teach students in full class settings or in small groups
  • Adapt lessons to any changes in class size
  • Grade students' assignments and exams
  • Communicate with parents about students' progress
  • Work with individual students to challenge them, to improve their abilities, and to work on their weaknesses
  • Prepare students for standardized tests required by the state
  • Develop and enforce classroom rules and administrative policies
  • Supervise students outside of the classroom—for example, during lunchtime or detention

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 that subject area. For example, a high school math teacher may teach courses in algebra, calculus, and/or geometry. Others may teach the same material—for example, world history—to more than one class if the school has many students taking that subject.

High school teachers may teach students from different grades throughout the day. For example, in one class they may have students from the 9th grade, and then in the next class they may have 12th-grade students. In many schools, students are divided into classes on the basis of their abilities, so teachers need to change their courses to match the students' abilities.

When they do not have classes, teachers plan lessons, grade assignments, and meet with other teachers and staff.

Some high school teachers instruct special classes, such as art, music, physical education or English as a second language (ESL). ESL or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) teachers work exclusively with students who are learning the English language. These students are often referred to as English language learners (ELLs). These teachers work with students individually or in groups to help them improve their English language skills and help them with assignments for other classes.

Students with learning disabilities and emotional or behavioral disorders are often taught in traditional classes. Therefore, high school teachers may work with special education teachers to adapt lessons to these students' needs and to monitor the students' progress.

Teachers must be comfortable with using and learning new technology. They may use websites to communicate with parents about students' assignments, upcoming events, and grades. For students, teachers may create websites or discussion boards to present information and to expand a lesson taught in class.

Some high school teachers coach sports and advise student clubs and other groups, activities that frequently take place before or after school.

Work Environment for High School Teachers[About this section] [To Top]

High school teachers hold about 1.1 million jobs. The largest employers of high school teachers are as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local 83%
Elementary and secondary schools; private 14%

Most states have tenure laws, which provide job security after a certain number of years of satisfactory classroom teaching.

Teachers may find it rewarding to watch students develop new skills and gain an appreciation for knowledge.

However, teaching may be stressful. Some schools have large classes and lack important teaching tools, such as current technology and up-to-date textbooks. Occasionally, teachers must cope with unmotivated or disrespectful students. Some states are developing teacher mentoring programs and teacher development courses to help with the challenges of being a teacher.

High School Teacher Work Schedules

High school teachers generally work during school hours when students are present. They may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. They often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. Teachers who coach sports or advise clubs generally do so before or after school.

Many teachers work a traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. They also have a short midwinter break. Some teachers work during the summer.

Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 9 weeks in a row and then have a break for 3 weeks before starting a new school session.

How to Become a High School Teacher[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for High School Teachers near you!

High school teachers must have a bachelor's degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.

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Education for High School Teachers

All states require public high school teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree. Most states require public high school teachers to have majored in a subject area, such as science or history. Teachers typically enroll in their institution's teacher preparation program and take classes in education and child psychology as well.

In teacher education programs, prospective high school teachers learn how to present information to students and how to work with students of varying abilities and backgrounds. Programs typically include a student-teaching program, in which they work with a mentor teacher and get experience teaching students in a classroom setting. For information about teacher preparation programs in your state, visit Teach.org.

Some states require high school teachers to earn a master's degree after earning their teaching certification and obtaining a job.

Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools typically seek high school teachers who have a bachelor's degree and a major in a subject area.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for High School Teachers

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed or certified in the specific grade level they will teach. Those who teach in private schools typically are not required to be licensed.

High school teachers typically are awarded a secondary or high school certification, which allows them to teach the 7th through the 12th grades.

Requirements for certification or licensure vary by state but generally involve the following:

  • A bachelor's degree with a minimum grade point average
  • Completion of a teacher preparation program and supervised experience in teaching, which is typically gained through student teaching.
  • Passing a background check
  • Passing a general teaching certification test, as well as a test that demonstrates their knowledge in the subject they will teach.

For information on certification requirements in your state, visit Teach.org.

Teachers are required to complete annual professional development classes to keep their license or certification. Some states require teachers to complete a master's degree after receiving their certification and obtaining a job.

All states offer an alternative route to certification or licensure for people who already have a bachelor's degree but lack the education courses required for certification. Some alternative certification programs allow candidates to begin teaching immediately under the supervision of an experienced teacher. These programs cover teaching methods and child development. After they complete the program, candidates are awarded full certification. Other programs require students to take classes in education before they can teach. Students may be awarded a master's degree after completing either type of program.

Important Qualities for High School Teachers

Communication skills. Teachers must collaborate with other teachers and special education teachers. In addition, teachers need to discuss students' needs with parents and administrators.

Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. High school teachers must be patient when students struggle with material.

Resourcefulness. High school teachers need to explain difficult concepts in terms students can understand. In addition, they must be able to engage students in learning and adapt lessons to each student's needs.

Advancement for High School Teachers

Experienced teachers can advance to be mentors or lead teachers. In these positions, they often work with less experienced teachers to help them improve their teaching skills.

With additional education or certification, teachers may become school counselors, school librarians, or instructional coordinators. Some become assistant principals or principals. Becoming a principal usually requires additional instruction in education administration or leadership. For more information, see the profiles on school and career counselors, librarians, instructional coordinators, and elementary, middle, and high school principals.

High School Teacher Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

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Entry Level Experienced

The median annual wage for high school teachers is $60,320. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,740, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $97,500.

The median annual wages for high school teachers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local $61,040
Elementary and secondary schools; private $54,150

High school teachers generally work during school hours when students are present. They may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. They often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. Teachers who coach sports or advise clubs generally do so before or after school.

Many teachers work a traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. They also have a short midwinter break. Although most do not teach during the summer, some teach in summer school programs for which they are paid.

Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 9 weeks in a row and then have a break for 3 weeks before starting a new school session.

Union Membership for High School Teachers

Most high school teachers belong to a union.

Job Outlook for High School Teachers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of high school teachers is projected to grow 4 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as average for all occupations. Rising student enrollment should increase demand for high school teachers, but employment growth will vary by region.

Employment growth for public high school teachers may depend on state and local government budgets. If state and local governments experience budget deficits, school boards may lay off employees, including teachers. As a result, employment growth of high school teachers may be reduced by state and local government budget deficits. Conversely, budget surpluses at the state and local level could lead to additional employment growth for high school teachers.

Job Prospects for High School Teachers

Many teachers will be needed to replace those who retire or who leave the occupation for other reasons.

Many schools report that they have difficulty filling teaching positions for certain subjects, including math, science, English as a second language, and special education. As a result, teachers who specialize in these subjects should have the best job prospects. For more information about high school special education teachers, see the profile on special education teachers.

Opportunities are likely to be better in in urban and rural school districts than in suburban school districts. Flexibility in job location may increase job prospects.

Employment projections data for High School Teachers, 2018-28
Occupational Title Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28
Percent Numeric
Secondary school teachers, except special and career/technical education 1,072,500 1,110,600 4 38,200


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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