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High School Teacher Career Guide

What is a high school teacher?

A high school teacher is a professional educator tasked with imparting knowledge and critical thinking skills to students during their crucial, formative teenage years. This role is vital in our society, as it helps students prepare for college, vocational training, or the workforce by teaching specific subjects such as math, history, science, or English. These professionals help raise the next generation of knowledgeable citizens who are well-equipped to contribute constructively to their communities and the wider society. They have the challenging task of ensuring their students meet educational standards while fostering a love of learning and preparing them for life beyond the classroom.

They play a versatile role not only in academic instruction but also in their students’ personal and social development. Teachers at this level provide educational and emotional support, promoting good citizenship and teaching life skills alongside traditional subjects. Their work touches many lives, remarkably influencing students’ perspectives, characters, and lives. This role extends beyond teaching the subject matter; they contribute significantly to our youth’s intellectual and emotional development, preparing them to be responsible and engaged adults.

Duties and responsibilities

A high school teacher’s workload involves many tasks. They are responsible for planning and delivering lessons, adhering to state and district curriculum guidelines. They create and implement lesson plans, which should be engaging and able to cater to the diverse needs of students. These teachers also prepare exams and grade assignments, quizzes, and tests.

They actively track the performance of individual students and advise them for improvements. Teachers also interact with parents, apprising them of their child’s progress, behavior, and any areas that need attention. Additionally, they often participate in or lead extracurricular activities such as coaching sports teams, advising clubs, or coordinating departmental tasks.

Work environment

A high school teacher primarily works in classroom settings at public, private, or charter high schools. These environments are dynamic and interactive since they often cater to large groups of students with varying attention spans, interests, and abilities. Given the size and diversity of the student body, teachers must be adaptable and sensitive to the needs of individual students.

Outside the classroom, they also work in offices where they plan lessons, grade assignments, and meet with parents or colleagues. Additionally, their roles may extend beyond school premises to include outdoor environments for field trips, sports events, or other extracurricular activities. The job may be rewarding but demanding – dealing with disciplinary issues or administrative tasks requires considerable effort and patience.

Typical work hours

High school teachers generally follow a school calendar, working around ten months a year and having two months off during the summer. During the school year, their working hours often coincide with school hours, typically from early morning until mid-to-late afternoon. However, their work often extends beyond these hours. Lesson planning, grading, and responsibilities related to extracurricular activities often require additional hours spent before or after school.

The total hours they work per week can vary greatly depending on the school, their involvement in after-school activities, and whether they participate in additional activities like parent-teacher conferences or training seminars. Despite the challenges, many teachers find the role fulfilling and enjoy the opportunity to positively impact their students’ lives.


How to become a high school teacher

This career guide section outlines the steps to become a high school teacher. The journey involves acquiring relevant education, gaining experience in teaching by student teaching, completing exams, and obtaining state certification.

Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree is the first educational requirement. Most aspiring teachers often major in education or the specific subject they intend to teach, such as mathematics, chemistry, and history. This four-year degree program comprises both general education and teaching courses and prepares graduates for a career in teaching.

Step 2: Complete a student teaching experience

Practical experience is an essential component of your journey. University education programs often require students to complete a student teaching internship. This experience allows you to practice your teaching skills in a real classroom setting under the guidance of a seasoned educator.

Step 3: Obtain a state teaching license

Each state has its own licensing requirements, which usually include having a bachelor’s degree, completing a teacher preparation program, and passing at least one competency exam in your subject area. Check the specific requirements for the state where you plan to teach.

Step 4: Pursue a master’s degree (optional)

While it’s not always a requirement, some teachers pursue a master’s degree in education or their subject field to advance in their careers. Further education can also increase salary and offer a chance to dive deeper into teaching strategies and research.

Step 5: Gain teaching experience

Upon receiving certification, the final step is to gain real-world experience. As a first-year high school teacher, you can expect to continue learning and developing your teaching style. It is also valuable to interact with other teachers for guidance and mentorship.

Step 6: Maintain certification

Most states require teachers to renew their licenses every few years. Renewal often requires continuing education, which can be achieved through workshops, seminars, or graduate classes. Always stay informed on the renewal requirements in your state.


How much do high school teachers make?

High school teacher salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Additional factors include specialty subject matter, private or public school employment, and urban or rural school location.

Highest paying industries

  • Junior Colleges – $71,210
  • Technical and Trade Schools – $68,360
  • Elementary and Secondary Schools – $65,340
  • Other Schools and Instruction – $63,450
  • Educational Support Services – $62,780

Highest paying states

  • New York – $85,300
  • California – $80,510
  • Massachusetts – $79,710
  • New Jersey – $76,390
  • Connecticut – $75,480

Browse high school teacher salary data by market


Types of high school teachers

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for high school teachers. This section provides a comprehensive breakdown of the major roles within the profession, highlighting their unique facets and requirements.

Subject-specific teacher

In high school settings, educators often specialize in specific subjects. The subjects can include but are not limited to English, mathematics, science, social studies, music, and art. These specialists are responsible for the creation and execution of lesson plans that meet the educational needs and curriculum standards for their particular subject.

Special education teacher

These professionals concentrate on helping students who have unique learning needs. This classification comprises students with physical, emotional, mental, or learning disabilities. Special education teachers adapt their lesson plans to accommodate these students’ needs and collaborate with other educators, parents, and professionals to ensure the learners receive a quality education.

Career and technical education teacher

These teachers instruct students in practical and vocational skills, preparing them for specific careers or trades. These career paths can range from automotive technology to culinary arts to health professions. By guiding the students through hands-on learning exercises, they offer insights into the expectations and operations of specific industries.

Advanced placement teacher

Certain educators hone their skills to teach advanced learners. They are responsible for instructing Advanced Placement (AP) classes, which allow students to earn college credits while still in high school. This demanding role requires a deep understanding of the AP curriculum and the ability to prepare students for the strenuous AP exams.

Instructional coordinator

While not directly involved in classroom instruction, these professionals are crucial in shaping the direction of a school’s teaching processes. They evaluate the effectiveness of curriculum plans and teaching techniques, implementing changes as needed. Their role frequently involves collaboration with others on the faculty and fostering positive experiences for students and teachers alike.


Top skills for high school teachers

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a high school teacher.

Communication skills

Good communication skills are fundamental. This role is far more than just conveying information – you’ll also need to effectively explain complex subjects in a way that young teenagers can easily understand, respond to queries, and provide clear feedback. You’ll also need to communicate with the parents and other school staff regularly.

Patience

When dealing with students in this stage of development, patience becomes a requisite skill. Adolescence can be a turbulent time for many students, and this can often manifest in the classroom. A good teacher needs to manage their own emotions and reactions, providing a constant, patient presence for their students.

Creativity

Fostering learning in students often requires the capacity to design unique and engaging learning experiences. Using creativity to find effective ways to teach complex topics can make them more accessible and enjoyable for high school students. Interactive lessons and creative problem-solving exercises can often be more impactful than traditional teaching approaches.

Organizational skills

These professionals have to juggle multiple responsibilities such as lesson planning, grading assignments, tracking student progress, and managing classroom activities. Good organizational skills are vital to ensure the smooth running of all these tasks and to make sure all student needs are being met.

Empathy

An empathetic teacher is well-positioned to understand and respond to the diverse range of emotional, social, and academic challenges that their students may face. This emotional intelligence allows them to create a supportive learning environment where students feel seen, heard, and understood.


High school teacher career path options

A high school teacher with dedication and the right set of skills can consider multiple futures. Not only is this profession a noble job, but it may also open many doors toward exciting and fulfilling career paths. Here are a few potential options:

Principal or vice principal

After several years of experience in teaching, some teachers decide to step up their game and move into administrative roles like principals or vice principals. These positions involve the overall management of school activities, providing academic leadership, and developing and implementing strategic plans.

School counselor

Teachers with a knack for communication and a desire to help students navigate their teenage years can consider a career in school counseling. This role includes assisting students in making wise decisions about their academic and professional lives.

Instructional coordinator

Those with strong organizational skills and a thorough understanding of curriculum standards might find a rewarding career as an instructional coordinator. Essentially, they work behind the scenes to design, coordinate, and implement educational programming and curriculum in schools.

Academic advisor in colleges or universities

Transitioning into higher education roles, such as being an academic advisor in colleges or universities, can be another path. Academic advisors work closely with students to help them fulfill their academic goals, select courses effectively, and guide them toward job opportunities after graduation.

Education consultant

If you love the theory and methodology behind teaching and shaping young minds, you might consider becoming an education consultant. In this field, you’ll help schools, nonprofits, and other educational organizations improve their policies and programs, implementing change on a broader scale.


The role of a high school teacher continues to evolve within the education system. Traditionally, the main focus was delivering a set syllabus, but now their work involves a wider scope. This includes creating a stable and informative learning environment, fostering students’ holistic growth, and applying innovative technologies in the classroom to boost learning outcomes. The trend of implementing technology is projected to continue, ushering in a new era of digital education. The benefits of this include broadening the students’ knowledge base and fostering self-learning abilities.

There has also been a shift toward more specialized teaching styles to meet the unique needs of every student. Tailored teaching methods can help students with varying levels of understanding better grasp the subjects. Such holistic teaching methods are becoming the norm in the modern educational landscape.

Mental health awareness is also playing a more prominent role. It is now understood that a teacher’s influence goes beyond academic performance. They need to be emotionally supportive and help students navigate the complexities of adolescence.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, employment of high school teachers is expected to grow 5 percent through 2031, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. The number of students in high school is projected to grow over the next decade, and the number of classes needed to accommodate these students will also rise. As a result, more teachers will be needed to handle this increased demand.


High school teacher career tips

Understand the curriculum and standards

You must fully grasp your school district or state’s required curriculum and educational standards. Understanding these rules will not only help you plan your lessons effectively but will also make it easier for you to prepare your students for mandatory standardized tests. Being knowledgeable about the curriculum enables you to answer questions from parents and school administrators, fostering a solid rapport with them.

Invest in continuous learning

Teaching is an ever-changing field with new techniques and tools constantly emerging. Being updated with current teaching methodologies is key to becoming a successful teacher. Participate in training workshops and webinars or take online courses, which will improve your teaching skills and update your knowledge. Consider getting an advanced degree, like a master’s in education, to enhance your skills and make you eligible for advanced job roles.

  • Master’s degree in education
  • Educational workshops
  • Professional webinars

Build a professional network

Building a strong professional network is another powerful tool for advancing your career. A network of fellow teachers can provide you with new teaching ideas, advice on difficult situations, and even job opportunities. Additionally, a good network can expose you to professional opportunities and trends in the education field. In this regard, joining professional associations can significantly expand your network.

  • National Education Association (NEA)
  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • Association of American Educators (AAE)

Engage with parents

Many teachers do not utilize parent-teacher relationships to their full potential. Actively reaching out and keeping the line of communication open with parents can provide critical insights into a student’s behavior, academic performance, and any potential issues they may be experiencing. Additionally, it reflects positively on your skills as an educator when you actively involve parents in their child’s academic journey.


Where the high school teacher jobs are

Top employers

  • KIPP Public Charter Schools
  • Chicago Public Schools
  • Anne Arundel County Public Schools
  • Baltimore County Public Schools
  • Orange County Public Schools

Top states

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • SchoolSpring
  • Teach.org
  • Educators Overseas

FAQs

What qualifications do I need to become a high school teacher?

A minimum requirement for high school teaching is a bachelor’s degree in education. If you plan to teach a specific subject, you’ll typically need a degree in that discipline. To teach in public schools, a state-issued certification or license is also necessary.

What personal skills do I need to succeed as a high school teacher?

Good communication, patience, creativity, leadership, and organizational skills are necessary. You also need to possess the ability to motivate and understand students.

How can high school teachers keep up to date with teaching methods and educational research?

By attending workshops and seminars, joining professional development courses, reading educational resources, and participating in relevant online forums, you can keep updated with the latest teaching innovations and methodologies.

What are the key responsibilities outside the classroom for high school teachers?

Outside the classroom, responsibilities may include meeting with parents, grading assignments and exams, preparing lesson plans, attending staff meetings, and organizing field trips or extracurricular activities.

How can high school teachers handle disruptions in the classroom effectively?

Effective classroom management strategies include setting clear expectations, promptly addressing disruptions, creating a positive learning environment, and applying disciplinary strategies pedagogically. It’s important to tailor your methods to your students’ unique needs and behaviors.

What are the best ways for high school teachers to engage students in learning?

Students are commonly engaged by interactive and relatable lessons. Encourage student participation, use multimedia resources, create group activities, and connect lessons to real-world scenarios. Knowing your students personally can also help in tailoring your techniques.

How can high school teachers help students prepare for their futures?

Providing comprehensive guidance on post-secondary education options, job market trends, aligning students’ interests with potential careers, and fostering transferable skills are useful ways to prepare students for life beyond high school.

What strategies can high school teachers use to manage their workload effectively?

Effective time management, prioritizing tasks, using technology to streamline administrative work, seeking help from colleagues or sharing tasks, and dedicating specific periods to grading can help manage workload effectively. A good work-life balance is key to sustaining a healthy teaching career.

What’s the importance of collaboration for high school teachers?

Collaboration with colleagues helps educators share teaching strategies, learn from one another, create a cohesive learning environment, and foster a supportive work culture. Collaboration with students helps build inclusive learning environments and promotes active participation.

How should high school teachers handle parents’ concerns about their child’s performance?

Address parents’ concerns by openly discussing students’ strengths, areas for improvement, and strategies to enhance performance. Maintain regular communication and reassure them of your commitment to their child’s academic progress.