High School Teacher: Requirements & Career Info

Dec 04, 2019

For those interested in teaching at the high school level, the typical minimum high school teacher requirements are possession of a bachelor's degree and teaching certificate. In addition, most states require that a high school teacher be certified in the subject area of the bachelor's degree in order to teach at a public school.

How to Become a High School Teacher

To become a high school teacher, an individual usually needs to systematically progress through a teacher education program. Some of the common requirements of teacher education programs include the following:

  • Take courses in a major area of study, such as science, mathematics, or English
  • Complete a variety of education courses
  • Complete and document classroom observations, in addition to a student teaching experience
  • Earn a bachelor's degree (some states require a master's degree in hand or within a specified amount of time)
  • Pass a certification examination to demonstrate specific subject area knowledge

Specialized Education Courses, Student Teaching, and Obtaining a Teaching Certification

In addition to the courses they take in their major areas of study, future high school teachers take specialized courses that are designed to prepare them for the teaching experience. The following are a few topics covered in these courses:

  • Educational psychology
  • Teaching methodologies
  • Curriculum development and implementation
  • Educational philosophies
  • Technologies for education

Classroom observations, both before and during student teaching, are important parts of learning how to become a high school teacher. During classroom observations, students might focus on how lessons are constructed and designed for all learning styles and levels, how lessons are presented with and without technology, how experienced teachers manage a classroom, and how disciplinary issues are handled. During student teaching, lesson planning, development, and presentation are often practiced, and student teachers grade papers, take attendance, attend faculty meetings, and fulfill the responsibilities expected of a full-time high school teacher.

Certification (or licensure) to teach in public schools is required by all states; however, the requirements to obtain certification vary from state to state. For example, to become an art teacher in New York individuals must pass multiple certification examinations. However, to become a history teacher in Florida the certification examination requirements are different. Generally, though, the minimum requirements to obtain a teaching certification include the following:

  • Bachelor's degree, although some states require a master's degree
  • Successful student teaching experience
  • Passing score on a general subject-matter test
  • Clear background check

Alternative Paths to Obtaining a Teaching Certificate

For individuals who already possess a bachelor's degree and want to become a high school teacher, every state offers an alternative path into the classroom. Some states provide provisional certificates so that individuals can teach while taking education classes. Other states offer programs that allow individuals to teach with supervision while learning about the topics covered in specialized education courses.

Career Information for High School Teachers

The subject being taught and the area of the country affect job prospects for high school teachers. For example, teachers of subjects such as English as a second language, science, or math may be in higher demand in some geographical areas; however, the projected job growth for high school teachers from 2018-2028 is 4% nationwide, which is considered as fast as average by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The average salary nationwide in 2018 was $64,340, said the BLS. The following are the states with the highest employment and average high school teacher salary:

States with Highest Employment* Number of High School Teaching Positions (2018)*
California 112,960
Texas 110,420
New York 74,830
Ohio 52,240
Pennsylvania 50,460

States with Highest Salaries* Average Salary (2018)*
New York $85,300
California $80,510
Massachusetts $80,020
Alaska $77,920
Connecticut $76,980

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Individuals who hope to become high school teachers will need to earn at least a bachelor's degree, gain classroom experience through student teaching, and obtain teaching certification. There are alternative programs to obtain certification for individuals who already have bachelor's degrees. Each state has specific requirements for being a high school teacher, and anyone interested in learning how to become a high school teacher should contact the state's Department of Education.

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