High School Teacher Careers

Is working as a high school teacher the right career move for you? Discover the requirements, job outlook, and teaching options to help you decide.

High School Teachers

High school teachers generally teach just one subject, such as math or history, to 9th-12th grade students. As a high school teacher, you'll be able to focus on a topic you enjoy and spread that love of learning to your students, while guiding your students toward graduation and preparation for college or the job market.

Your job duties as a high school teacher can include planning lessons, leading a classroom, giving and grading exams, and gauging your students' knowledge. You'll also be expected to interact with other teachers, discuss student progress with parents, and help students follow administrative rules and policies.

To become a high school teacher, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree in the subject you want to teach and complete a teacher preparation program, although some states may require a major in secondary education with a minor in the subject you wish to teach. If you want to teach in a public high school, you'll also need to be licensed, which requires passing a state-approved exam and passing a background check.

High School Teacher Job Outlook

The job outlook for high school teachers is encouraging through 2026, with an expected growth of 8%. As a large percentage of current teachers approach eligibility for retirement, more teaching positions will open up during the period from 2016 to 2026.

To improve your chances of finding employment, consider teaching subjects that are most in-demand or that represent hard-to-fill teaching positions, such as science, math, special education, or english as a second language (ESL).

Types of High School Teachers

High school teachers can lead classes in topics ranging from the primary subjects of math, science, English, and history to more diverse fields of study, including psychology, computer-aided design, or art. Some high school teachers teach a variety of topics in the same general field. For instance, high school science teachers may teach one or more physical science courses such as biology, chemistry, physics or earth science.

In prepping to become a high school teacher, you'll need to pick a subject to concentrate in as part of your bachelor's degree. For example, the requirements to become a high school health teacher may include majoring in a health education field or taking health-related courses so they can effectively teach students about healthy lifestyles, exercise methods, and nutrition. If you want to become a physical education teacher, you should take physical education courses in college in order to know how to effectively run gym classes, coach sports, and encourage physical activity in students.

High School English Teacher

If you loved reading books and plays in high school, like Romeo and Juliet, The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, you can relive that experience by becoming a high school English teacher. In addition to instilling in students a love of reading through well-known literary works, you'll also teach them about literary terms, grammar, reading strategies, and writing methods. English teachers help students understand context through literary analysis, build vocabulary using context clues, and improve writing skills in order to be successful in college and/or careers. Sometimes known as English language arts teachers, these professionals may also teach elective subjects like journalism, video production, or technical writing.

High School Math Teacher

As a high school math teacher, you'll teach different subjects depending on the age group of the students. The table below shows the most common math subject taught in each grade level.

Grade Subject
9th grade Algebra 1
10th grade Geometry
11th grade Algebra 2
12th grade Pre-calculus

You might also teach accelerated math subjects like AP courses to advanced students, or your school might require courses in areas like trigonometry, calculus, statistics, or advanced algebra. To become a high school math teacher in a public school, you'll need to major in math in college, complete a teacher preparation program, and earn a license.

High School Psychology Teacher

Psychology teachers plan lessons and guide classroom discussions on the basic principles of psychology. Job duties for psychology teachers include introducing well-known theories and leading psychologists to students. As a psychology teacher, you'll teach a variety of psychological topics in your courses, including:

  • Human behavior
  • Development across the lifespan
  • Motivation and personality
  • Psychological disorders
  • Perception and sensation
  • Biological basis of behavior

Psychology teachers can teach grades 9-12 and may also teach AP courses in psychology.

High School History Teacher

History teachers inspire students to see the impact of past events on current issues in our society. As a history teacher, you can teach students about specific eras and events in history, such as World War I, the Industrial Revolution, or the fall of the Roman Empire. The requirements to become a history teacher include majoring in history or a related field, completing a teacher prep program, and earning a license. Specific high school history classes can include:

  • U.S. history
  • World history
  • Geography
  • Government/ Economics

High School Art Teacher

Drawing, painting, and creative expression are just some of the concepts that you can help students in grades 9-12 practice in an art class. As an art teacher, you'll develop students' knowledge of art techniques, drawing fundamentals, design principles, and art appreciation methods.

As part of your teaching duties as an art teacher, you will instruct students on topics like the proper brushes to use, how to care for their tools, and the history of art. Art teachers are also responsible for coordinating art exhibits that showcase student work and may oversee school art clubs or related extracurricular activities.

High School Biology Teacher

If you're interested in becoming a high school biology teacher, you need to first earn a degree in biology or a related field and complete a teacher prep program before acquiring a biology teaching license. Once in the classroom, you'll help students with science experiments and lab activities, in addition to leading classroom discussions. High school biology teachers prepare students for exams and inspire learning in topics like:

  • Cell biology
  • Plant biology
  • Invertebrates and vertebrates
  • Reproductive systems
  • Viruses

High School Chemistry Teacher

Chemical reactions, atoms, molecules, and matter are just some of the topics that chemistry teachers can help their high school students learn about. The path to becoming a chemistry teacher is similar to that for other high school teachers, and includes earning a degree in chemistry, participating in a teacher prep program, and passing a licensing exam.

As a chemistry teacher, you'll need to be well-versed in basic scientific and mathematical principles in order to effectively teach the subject. Chemistry teachers engage students in learning by asking leading questions or creating demonstrations and experiments. Other job duties include preparing the chemistry lab for experiments and teaching students about the vocabulary associated with the study of chemistry.

High School Physics Teacher

If you want to become a physics teacher, you'll need knowledge of advanced math techniques in addition to specialized training in physical science to guide high school students in this topic and prepare them for standardized tests and/or college. Physics is often taught to older students, so you can expect to see juniors and seniors in your classroom. Physics teachers utilize labs for scientific experiments and investigations to expand on the topics they cover in classroom lectures. Common topics at the high school level include:

  • Forces and motion
  • Magnetism
  • Electricity
  • Newton's laws
  • Work and energy

Is Being a High School Teacher a Good Job?

If you're wondering whether you should become a high school teacher, you'll want to consider both the pros and cons of the position before making a decision. High school teachers can choose the topic they want to teach, so you'll have the opportunity to continually discuss and explain a subject you're passionate about. Depending on what school district you work for, you could also have summers off, giving you the chance to take vacations, get a second job, or expand your knowledge with additional education. Teachers have paid sick days, receive health insurance benefits and are often part of teachers' unions, especially in public schools.

As for high school teachers' salary, they earned a median income of $59,170 in May 2017, compared to the median salary for all occupations of $37,690. There are several factors that impact how much you can earn, such as the location in which you teach. For example, teachers in suburban areas typically make more than teachers who opted for rural school districts. You'll also find that teacher pay can vary from state to state. States with the highest average salaries for high school teachers in 2017 included Alaska, California, and New York.

All statistics come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017) and the National Center for Education Statistics (2012).