Be a Junior High Teacher: Education and Career Roadmap

Jan 02, 2019

Learn how to become a junior high teacher. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as a junior high teacher.

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Becoming a Junior High Teacher

So you think you might like to become a junior high teacher? Junior high teachers, often called middle school teachers, are typically responsible for educating 5th - 8th grade students in general academics or specific subject areas, such as math, language arts, social studies, and science. Teachers plan lessons, presenting them with interesting, hands-on methods; assign and evaluate students' work; and assess their progress. The lack of classroom materials available for teaching and the fact that students can be sometimes unmotivated and unruly can make teaching a stressful profession. However, teaching middle school may be especially rewarding when teachers are able to observe their students' wide accomplishments and readiness for high school.

Career Requirements

Degree Level A bachelor's degree is required; some states also require a master's degree
Degree Field Elementary education; subject areas, such as science, math, history, foreign language, etc.
Experience Student teaching experience is required
Licensure and/or Certification State certification required to teach at public schools
Key Skills Instructing, speaking, listening, social perceptiveness, understanding of learning strategies
Salary $55,860 (Annual mean salary for a middle school teacher)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), O*NET Online

So what are the career requirements? Starting with the right education is important. Junior high teachers need at least a bachelor's degree, and some states require teachers to also have a master's degree. The degree field is education, and many will also obtain a degree in the subject area they want to teach like math, English, science, history, arts, and more. Teachers need a license to teach in all states. State licensing requirements may vary by state. Educational degrees all include a student teaching experience, and this provides new teachers the experience they need to secure their first teaching job. Key skills include instructional skills, speaking, listening, social perceptiveness, and knowledge of learning strategies.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for middle school teachers is $55,860.

Let's trace the steps to become a junior high teacher.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

All states require aspiring junior high school or middle school teachers in public schools to earn a bachelor's degree in education or in the subject area in which they plan to teach. Depending on the school, students could enroll in an elementary, middle or secondary education degree program. At the bachelor's degree level, teaching programs may cover applicable areas of middle school education, some of which include curriculum planning, child and adolescent development and instructional techniques. Programs may also require that aspiring middle school teachers choose two or four subject areas to study, such as language arts, science, math or social studies.

Most bachelor's degree programs require students to complete several credit hours of student teaching to graduate. A student teaching internship is usually mandated to receive state certification. Graduates of bachelor's degree programs are generally eligible to take state teaching licensure examinations, although requirements vary between states.

Success Tips

  • Work as a substitute teacher during college. Accepting employment as a substitute teacher provides the chance to acquire experience in the classroom and hone essential skills to thrive as a teacher, including good communication and classroom management. Additionally, being a substitute teacher permits aspiring educators to obtain knowledge from experienced professionals.

Step 2: Get State Certification

While the content of teaching licensure examinations may vary, most exams assess competency in general educational methods and basic academic areas, such as math, science and reading. They may also test aspiring teachers' knowledge in the specific subject area(s) they intend to teach. Most states permit newly certified educators to begin teaching immediately; however, some states expect teachers to get master's degrees within a prescribed amount of time.

Step 3: Obtain a Master's Degree

Not every state requires junior high teachers to earn a master's degree. However, numerous states have laws specifying that public school educators must obtain master's degrees in education or a related area within a certain amount of time after gaining certification and beginning to teach. Many universities provide graduate degree options for both certified teachers who wish to continue their education and individuals who already have a bachelor's degree and would like to become certified to teach.

One graduate degree program created for professional educators who wish to further their careers through additional education is the Master of Education (MEd). An individual with a bachelor's degree who is not certified to teach but wants to achieve initial certification can complete a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree.

Earning a bachelor's degree, getting your state teaching license, and obtaining a master's degree are great steps to take to make the most of a career as a junior high teacher.

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