High School Teachers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 high school teacher Jobs

  • High School English Teacher, 2017-2018 School Year - Connections Academy - San Juan Capistrano, CA

    It serves families and schools with a variety of digital learning and online school solutions including Connections Academy, International

  • High School Math Teacher - Achievement First - Hartford, CT

    In addition to participating in weekly professional development and team planning meetings, teachers receive consistent high-impact coaching and

  • High School Social Studies Teacher, 2017-2018 School Year - Connections Academy - San Juan Capistrano, CA

    It serves families and schools with a variety of digital learning and online school solutions including Connections Academy, International

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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 and 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 biology 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 to monitor progress
  • 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, at lunchtime or during 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.

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.

High school teachers see several different classes of students throughout the day. They may teach the same material—for example, world history—to more than one class if the school has many students taking that subject.

Some high school teachers instruct special classes, such as art, music, and physical education.

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

In some schools, teachers of English as a second language (ESL) and teachers of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) 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 often are 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.

Some teachers maintain 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 961,600 jobs.

Most high school teachers work in either public or private schools. Some teach in public magnet and charter schools. Others teach in private religious or secular schools.

Most states have tenure laws, which state that, after a certain number of years of satisfactory classroom teaching, teachers may have some job security.

Watching students develop new skills and gain an appreciation for knowledge and learning can be very rewarding.

However, teaching may be stressful. Some schools have large classes and lack important teaching tools, such as computers and up-to-date textbooks. Most teachers are held accountable for their students’ performance on standardized tests, a requirement that can be frustrating. Occasionally, teachers must cope with unmotivated or disrespectful students.

High School Teacher Work Schedules

High school teachers generally work school hours, which vary from school to school. However, they often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. In addition, they may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. Plus, teachers who coach sports or advise clubs generally do so before or after school.

Many work the traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. Although most do not teach during the summer, some may teach in summer programs.

Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row and then have a break for 1 week. They also have a 5-week midwinter break.

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.

High School Teacher Education

All states require public high school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Most states require 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 fieldwork, such as student teaching. 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.

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

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed or certified. Those who teach in private schools are generally not required to be licensed. Most states require teachers to pass a background check.

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 vary by state. In addition to requiring a bachelor’s degree, states require teachers to complete a teacher preparation program and supervised experience in teaching, typically gained through student teaching. States also typically require candidates to pass a general teaching certification test, as well as a test that demonstrates their knowledge in the subject they will teach. Some states require teachers to have a minimum grade point average as well. For information on certification requirements in your state, visit Teach.org.

Often, teachers are required to complete annual professional development classes to keep their license. Some states require teachers to complete a master’s degree after receiving their certification.

All states offer an alternative route to certification 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.

High School Teacher Training

In order to receive certification, teachers need to undergo a period of fieldwork, commonly referred to as student teaching. During student teaching, they work with a mentor teacher and gain experience teaching students in a classroom setting. The amount of time required varies by state.

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 $57,200. 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 $37,800, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,190.

High school teachers generally work school hours, which vary from school to school. However, they often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. In addition, they may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. Plus, teachers who coach sports or advise clubs generally do so before or after school.

Many high school teachers work the traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. Although most do not teach during the summer, some may teach in summer school programs.

Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row and then have a break for 1 week. They also have a 5-week midwinter break.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, high school teachers have a higher percentage of workers who belong to a union.

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

Employment of high school teachers is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Overall growth is expected to be impacted by larger class sizes and enrollment rate. Employment growth will vary by region.

Over the next ten years, the average classroom size is expected to increase, meaning that each teacher is responsible for more students.

Employment growth for public high school teachers will 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.

Student enrollment will vary by region or area which will also affect the demand for high school teachers.

Job Prospects

Over the next ten years, a significant number of older teachers will reach retirement age. Their retirement will create job openings for new teachers.

Many schools report that they have difficulty filling teaching positions for certain subjects, including math, science (especially chemistry and physics), English as a second language, and special education. As a result, teachers with education in those subjects or certifications to teach those specialties should have better job prospects. For more information about high school special education teachers, see the profile on special education teachers.

There is significant variation by region of the country and school setting. Opportunities are likely to be better in in urban and rural school districts than in suburban school districts.

Employment projections data for High School Teachers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Secondary school teachers, except special and career/technical education 961,600 1,017,500 6 55,900


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

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