How to Become a High School Teacher: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a high school teacher. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career in secondary education. View article »

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  • 0:00 Career Info
  • 1:21 Get Bachelor's Degree
  • 3:09 Earn Teacher Credentials
  • 4:20 Get Voluntary Certification

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Video Transcript

Career Info

High school teachers, also known as secondary school teachers, instruct students in subjects through classroom discussions, lectures and other methods and then evaluate a student's progress in a subject through examinations and coursework. Those interested in being a high school teacher must be proficient not only in the subject matter, but also in the administrative and technological aspects of the classroom. High school teachers should also be able to communicate effectively with parents, students, and other staff members. Working with demanding and sometimes unruly teenagers can be tiring and often requires a great deal of patience. Teachers are often able to observe their students' accomplishments, however, and may earn great satisfaction.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Secondary education, subject-specific field
Experience Student teaching internship
Licensure/Certification High school certification and/or state teaching license required for public schools
Key Skills Patience, instructional abilities, flexibility, communication skills, computer and basic technical skills, and development techniques
Salary $57,200 (2015 annual median salary for all high school teachers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONET Online,

Get Bachelor's Degree

State requirements or preferred degree programs for aspiring high school teachers can vary. Generally, students will complete a major in the subject area they intend to teach, with a minor in education or with concurrent enrollment in a teacher preparation program. However, some schools have students major in secondary education and minor in the particular subject area in which they plan to teach. Whether a student is enrolled in a teacher preparation program or another type of education degree, they generally complete a student teaching or mentorship teaching component in the program.

Most teacher preparation programs include student teaching. However, there will likely be additional opportunities to gain field experience or complete volunteer work through the school or community. Students should consider these opportunities to gain an understanding of their subject matter as well as to round out and populate their resume for obtaining positions after graduation.

Students who show a proficiency in subject areas, demonstrated by grades in related classes and cumulative GPA, are likely also eligible to tutor these subjects through the school or university. These positions are often paid and students can specialize in one subject area or tutor in several.

Alternative teacher programs generally take 1-2 years to complete and are available to students who already possess a bachelor's degree that is closely related to the subject area in which he or she wishes to teach. This can be an expedited route to begin teaching for students who already hold a relevant bachelor's degree.

Earn Teacher Credentials

After bachelor's degree attainment, there are additional exams and requirements necessary to complete in order for a student to obtain his or her initial teaching credentials. These also vary by state. Generally, the student will have a basic skills exam in addition to an exam specified to the subject in which they intend to teach. These test scores in conjunction with transcripts showing completion of the bachelor's degree and teacher prep program as well as state and federal background checks must be submitted with a completed application to the State Board of Education.

States also require teachers to complete several requirements to obtain permanent credentials. This can include additional coursework, exams, and tests. Some teachers may be required to earn a master's degree, as well as a minimum amount of teaching experience.

Most teachers associations offer programs that teachers can utilize to gain additional teaching techniques and other skills in addition to staying current on technology commonly used in the classroom.

Get Voluntary Certification

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pursuing additional credentials, such as those offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), can increase job prospects for teachers. The NBPTS offers the National Board Certification, which is an advanced teaching credential. These certificates are available in a variety of areas, including health, library media, mathematics, physical education, and science, for secondary teachers.

To recap, aspiring high school teachers must earn at least a bachelor's degree that contains both a teacher preparation program and courses covering the subject area the individual wishes to teach. Upon graduation, gaining hands-on experience and licensure are required.

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