Middle School Teachers

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

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grade. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals taught in elementary school and prepare students for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.

Duties of Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers typically do the following:

  • Create lesson plans to teach students a subject, such as biology or history
  • Assess students to evaluate their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Teach lessons they have planned to an entire class or to smaller groups
  • Grade students’ assignments and exams to monitor their progress
  • Communicate with parents about their child’s progress
  • Work with students individually to help them overcome specific learning challenges
  • Prepare students for standardized tests required by the state
  • Develop and enforce classroom rules
  • Supervise students outside of the classroom—for example, at lunchtime or during detention

Middle school teachers generally teach students from sixth to eighth grades. However, in some school districts, they may teach students as early as fourth grade or as late as ninth grade.

In many schools, middle school teachers are responsible for only some of the subjects their students learn. For example, one teacher may be responsible for teaching English and social studies while another may be responsible for teaching math and science. Some middle school instructors teach specialized classes, such as art, music, or physical education. 

Students typically change classrooms several times a day to attend lessons in different subjects. As a result, middle school teachers see several different classes of students throughout the day. However, in some middle schools, teachers teach all the subjects for one class of students the entire day. In either type of school, teachers use time during the day when they do not have classes to plan lessons, grade assignments, or meet with other teachers and staff.

Some middle school teachers work in teams that teach the same group of students. These teachers meet to discuss students’ progress and to plan future lessons.

In some schools, teachers of English as a second language (ESL) or 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). ESL and ESOL teachers work with students individually or in groups to help them improve their English language skills and to help the students with assignments for their other classes.

Middle school teachers may also work with special education teachers to adapt lessons taught in traditional classes to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities and emotional or behavioral disorders. In some cases, middle school teachers may co-teach lessons with special education teachers.

Some teachers maintain websites to communicate with parents about students’ assignments, upcoming events, and grades. For their students, teachers may create websites or discussion boards to present information or to expand a lesson taught in class.

Some middle school teachers coach sports teams and advise student clubs and groups, whose practices and meetings frequently take place before or after school.

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

Middle school teachers hold about 627,500 jobs. The majority of middle school teachers work in public and private schools.

Most states have tenure laws, which mean 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 current textbooks.

Additionally, most teachers are held accountable for their students’ performance on standardized tests, which can be frustrating. Working with middle school students also can be challenging because the students are becoming adolescents and teachers need to be able to understand what they are going through.

Middle School Teacher Work Schedules

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

Many work the traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. Some teachers teach summer programs.

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

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

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

Middle School Teacher Education

All states require public middle school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Many states require middle school teachers to major in a content area, such as math or science. Other states require middle school teachers to major in elementary education. Middle school teachers typically enroll in their college’s teacher preparation program and take classes in education and child psychology in addition to the classes required by their major.

Teacher education programs teach prospective middle school teachers 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 middle school teachers to earn a master’s degree after receiving their teaching certification.

Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools typically seek middle school teachers who have a bachelor’s degree and a major in elementary education or a content area.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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

Certification of middle school teachers varies considerably from state to state. In some states, they are certified to teach elementary school grades, which are typically first through sixth grades or first through eighth grades. In other states, they are certified to teach middle school grades, which include sixth through eighth grades. Other states provide middle school teachers with a secondary school or high school certification, which often includes seventh through twelfth grades.

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

Teachers are often 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 of these programs.

Middle School Teacher Training

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

Important Qualities for Middle School Teachers

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

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

Physical stamina. Working with middle school aged students can be tiring. Teachers need to be able to physically, mentally, and emotionally keep up with the students.

Resourcefulness. Middle school teachers need to be able to explain difficult concepts in terms that students can understand. In addition, they need to be able to get students engaged in learning and adapt lessons to each student’s needs.

Advancement for Middle School Teachers

Experienced teachers can advance to serve as mentors to newer teachers or to become lead teachers. In these positions, they help less experienced teachers to 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, both of which generally require additional education 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.

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

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Entry Level Experienced

The median annual wage for middle school teachers is $55,860. 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 $37,350, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,060.

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

Many work the traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. Some teachers teach summer programs.

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

Middle School Teacher Union Membership

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

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

Employment of middle school teachers is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth is projected because of expected increases in enrollment. However, employment growth will vary by region.

The number of students in middle schools is expected to increase over the coming decade, and the number of classes needed to accommodate these students is projected to rise also. As a result, more teachers will be required to teach the additional classes of middle school students. In addition, the average classroom size is expected to increase. This means that each teacher will be responsible for more students.

Despite expected increases in enrollment, employment growth for middle school teachers will depend on state and local government budgets. If state and local governments experience budget deficits, they may lay off employees, including teachers. As a result, employment growth of middle school teachers may be somewhat reduced by state and local government budget difficulties.

Middle School Teachers Job Prospects

Over the next ten years, a significant number of older teachers are expected to reach retirement age. Their retirement will increase the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

There is wide variation of job opportunities by region. Opportunities will vary by region and school setting. There may be better opportunities in urban and rural school districts than in suburban school districts.

Employment projections data for Middle School Teachers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Middle school teachers, except special and career/technical education 627,500 664,200 6 36,800


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

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