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Career Information for Teacher Education for Specific Subject Areas

Teachers who offer instruction in multiple subjects are generally employed at the pre-kindergarten through elementary grade levels, while teachers who choose to teach specific subject areas typically find employment as middle and secondary school teachers, postsecondary teachers and vocational school teachers.

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Career Options for Teachers of Specific Subjects

Middle and Secondary School Teacher

Teachers at the middle school or high school levels typically teach single subjects, such as math, science, social science, history, English, foreign languages and physical education. Some subjects are subdivided, providing teachers the opportunity to specialize further and teach, for example, only algebra or geometry rather than all math classes. Teachers perform duties in addition to classroom instruction, such as preparing lesson plans, grading papers and tests, keeping student records, counseling students and meeting with parents.

Education and Licensing Requirements

Requirements to teach specific subject areas include a bachelor's degree in the chosen subject and a state-issued teaching license. States issue licenses for specific grade levels and for specific subjects. To obtain a state license, teachers must satisfy a number of qualifications, including completing an approved teacher preparation program, passing a basic skills test and completing supervised student teaching.

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers include those who teach undergraduate and graduate courses in their chosen subject, typically on college campuses or online. Job titles depend on whether a teacher has achieved tenure and how far they have advanced along the tenure track. For example, assistant professors are non-tenured, while associate professors are tenured, which means they have met institution requirements in areas, such as years of experience and research requirements. In addition to providing classroom instruction, professors might also prepare lesson plans, maintain laboratory facilities, grade papers and tests, meet with students and supervise student research projects. Other duties might include performing research, contributing to articles for publication, attending professional conferences and composing grant proposals.

Education and Licensing Requirements

Qualifications to work as a postsecondary teacher at a 4-year college or university usually include a doctorate degree in a chosen subject. Teaching at the 2-year college level typically requires a master's degree. Some employers prefer college-level teaching experience, which candidates can obtain by working as graduate teaching assistants while pursuing their graduate degrees. There are no licensing requirements to teach at this level.

Vocational Teacher

Vocational teachers provide training that is intended to prepare students for a specific career. They teach at the secondary and postsecondary levels. Their teaching methods rely heavily on providing hands-on experience in addition to classroom instruction in a particular area. Vocational teachers may arrange for students to work in local businesses to enhance practical experience. Common vocational subjects vary widely but can include the trades, such as heating and air conditioning, plumbing and auto mechanics, as well as computer repair, business, health occupations and agriculture science.

Education and Licensing Requirements

Vocational teachers become qualified by obtaining a bachelor's degree in their chosen subject or a related field. A state-issued teaching license is also required in order to teach at a public school through grade 12. Alternatively, some of these requirements may be waived if the vocational teacher possesses significant, relevant work experience.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, from 2012-2022, employment is expected to grow by 12% for kindergarten, elementary and middle school teachers; 6% for high school teachers; 19% for postsecondary school teachers; and by 9% percent for all vocational education teachers ( As of May 2012, the BLS stated that the median annual salary was $50,120 for kindergarten teachers, $53,400 for elementary school teachers, $53,430 for middle school teachers, $55,050 for secondary school teachers, and $47,990 for postsecondary vocational education teachers. The median salary for postsecondary teachers in general was $68,970 in that same year.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics