How to Become a High School Teacher

high school teacher

Table of Contents

Overview

Job Responsibilities

  • Arrange lesson plans and instruct high school students through lectures, discourse, and demonstrations
  • Design a curriculum for the high school students’ assigned subject 
  • Ensure mastery of the subject being taught in his/her class
  • Plan out activities that will motivate high school students to engage in lessons
  • Align teaching methods to the high school students’ needs and interests
  • Integrate technological advancements into lessons and instructional materials
  • Serve as a mentor and a role model to the high school student body
  • Create improvement plans for failing high school students
  • Evaluate each high school student’s performance through record tracking
  • Prepare grade cards for high school students
  • Report the progress of high school students to their parents
  • Chaperone students during external activities like educational trips
  • Impose class rules and disciplinary actions
  • Attend continual professional conferences to enhance teaching capabilities

How Much Does a High School Teacher Make?

High school teachers made a median salary of $61,660 in 2019. The best-paid 10 percent made $99,660 that year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent made $40,540.

high school teacher wage

Common Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree in education or subject areas to be taught
  • Completed a high school teacher preparation program
  • Passed the state’s required test for certification
  • Secured a high school teacher certification
  • Subject area mastery

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Teacher Assistants

Common Skills

Subject expertise

Technological literacy

Communication skills

Leadership

Patience

Good sense of humor

Persistence

Presentation skills

Confidence

Ability to be a role model

MEDIAN SALARY

$61,660 per year

JOB OUTLOOK

4%

NUMBER OF JOBS

1,050,800

A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming a High School Teacher

High school teachers play a very significant role in molding our youth to become successful in their future endeavors. They lay out the foundation of knowledge that high school students need prior to deciding what career they will embark on.

What life would be like without the aid of teachers out there? They basically carry the future of any nation. So if you have been dreaming of turning to a high school teacher, here’s a guide we’ve prepared just for you!

What Does a High School Teacher Do?

High school teachers get ready students for their future endeavors after graduation. They influence grades 9-12 to learn fundamental knowledge they could use upon their entry to college. Their job is not limited to teaching students in academics, but also molding them to be well-rounded individuals.

A high school teacher’s duties typically include the following:

  • Arrange lesson plans and instruct high school students through lectures, discourse, and demonstrations
  • Design a curriculum for the assigned subject
  • Ensure mastery of the subject being taught in his/her class
  • Plan out activities that will motivate high school students to engage in lessons
  • Align teaching methods to the high school students’ needs and interests
  • Integrate technological advancements into lessons and instructional materials
  • Serve as a mentor and a role model to the high school student body
  • Create improvement plans for failing high school students
  • Evaluate each high school student’s performance through record tracking
  • Prepare grade cards for high school students
  • Report the progress of high school students to their parents
  • Chaperone high school students during external activities like educational trips
  • Impose class rules and disciplinary actions
  • Attend continual professional conferences to enhance teaching capabilities

High school teachers teach grade 9th-12th students with the subject they are specialized in. The core subjects include science, math, or history. However, there are also other subjects that secondary high school teachers specialize, which include art, foreign language, music, physical education, health, and more. High school teachers are mostly specialized in one area, which they could use to teach several subjects falling into that area. 

Signs You Should Consider Becoming a High School Teacher

Pursuing a career in education is not for the fainted heart. Before you decide to jumpstart a career as a high school teacher, you need some time to evaluate yourself how much you fit the role. There are telltale signs that display your potential in the field, and here are some of them.

You are a highly organized person.

Do you have a penchant for organizing things? If you do, being a high school teacher will work well with you. High school  teachers are required to have good organizational skills as they juggle multiple tasks at hand. They have lesson plans, homework assignments, examinations, high school students’ grades, and other things that they need to think of and organize accordingly.

You enjoy working with the youth.

You are working with 14 to 18-year-old teenage students, so you need to have the capacity to get along with them. Having the knowledge and interpersonal skills to get down to their level will help you easily build a relationship with them. As someone who guides them, you need to develop an approachable façade to ease up your lessons and conversations.

You want to make a lifelong impact.

Teaching creates a lifelong impact on every student. It is the foundation of most individuals when they pursue a career in their future endeavors. If you love sharing the gift of knowledge to the younger generation, being a high school teacher is the perfect role for you.

You are persistent in challenges.

Meeting challenges is an everyday scenario for a high school teacher. There isn’t really such a lazy day for all the educators out there—you are not only molding your students to be good in academics, but also to become a better version of themselves. It is your job to push them towards being well-rounded young individuals.

You have long patience.

Persistence goes hand in hand with patience. You are working with various kinds of kids—be it rowdy, silent, loud, violent, well-behaved, and more. You need to keep calm and employ various strategies in situations that will test your composure. Also, patience goes a long way in making sure your students learn from your lessons.

You have an impressive sense of humor.

You don’t really have to be a comedian to nail teaching—however, having a sense of humor counts as a skill in making your students feel at ease in your lessons. When you can laugh mistakes off, students will feel less anxious, making them trust you. Being able to lighten the mood during lectures and exams will eradicate any tension the students feel, which makes you a better high school teacher.

You have good control of your senses.

High school  teachers need to monitor their students every minute so as to maintain silence during lectures, avoid cheating during exams, and catch any inappropriate student behaviors. If you can easily sense any suspicious acts even behind your back, you will not have any problem performing your duties as a teacher.

You have a gift for educating people.

Lastly, not all intellectuals are blessed with the ability to pass down their knowledge in a digestible manner. This means that no matter how intelligent a person is, if that person doesn’t understand how to educate, he/she cannot effectively teach. 

There are people who have been given the gift of teaching, which makes it easier for students to understand new knowledge as compared to someone who just spouts knowledge without having to actually educate the high school students.

high school teacher

How Do You Become a High School Teacher?

Well, what does it take to become a high school teacher? There are a few requirements you will need to pass in order to start teaching, and here are they:

1. Earn a 4-year bachelor’s degree.

A major requirement in pursuing to be a high school teacher is having completed a bachelor’s degree that specializes in the subject you wish to teach. Depending on which area you want to teach, it’s best to take up a degree that covers most subjects under one scope. 

In addition, a master’s degree is not a strict requirement for some states. But having a master’s degree that specializes in your subject area displays far better credentials.

2. Complete the student teaching internship for the subject that you wish to teach.

You are required to complete a high school teacher preparation program that is approved by your state to qualify for certification. Colleges typically require students to turn sophomore or junior before applying for an educator preparation program. This includes internships where they will be trained under the supervision of experienced teachers. 

This is where the aspiring high school teacher gets to immerse himself/herself in the real-world. Training will be provided to learn various teaching methods, employ disciplinary actions to high school students, and get to feel what it’s like to be in a school setting to actually teach.

3. Pass your state’s required tests for high school teachers.

Before you get certified, you ought to pass your state’s required tests when you are to teach public schools. On the other hand, those who wish to teach in private schools are not required to get this. For more information about how you can get the examination, visit this website that includes all the state’s list of requirements.

4. Secure your high school teacher certification.

To cap off the requirements, you will need to earn your certification when you apply for a teaching position at a public school. You can get your certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), which offers 25 kinds of certifications covering various subject areas and grade levels. Any certification from this board is honored across all states, and it allows you to enjoy some added benefits upon employment when you have it.

5. When you are not a degree holder of education or any related subjects you wish to teach, you can opt for an alternative high school teacher preparation program.

For aspirants who happen to graduate with a degree that is not related to education, you can still follow some steps on how you can become a high school teacher. These include:

  • Apply for an approved alternative route high school teacher certification program
  • Complete the required coursework before the student teaching experience
  • Get a provisional teaching certificate to complete the student teaching
  • Pass the required state exams for high school teachers
  • Apply for your professional certificate as a high school teacher

What are the Knowledge and Skills Needed to be a High School Tecaher?

What makes an effective educator is by having the right skills and knowledge that will help him/her perform tasks easily. To know what they are, here’s a rundown of what you need to instill in yourself when you embark on this career.

Subject expertise

As a teacher, you are required to have strong subject knowledge. After all, you spent years of training just to attain mastery in your subject area. How can you be trusted to educate hundreds of high school students when you are not capable of teaching? So you must be an expert on your subject before you take the plunge in the field.

Stellar communication skills

High school teachers frequently interact with students and more—they could talk for hours, literally. What will help you be comfortable at executing lesson plans, guiding your high school students, conversing with school staff, and reporting to parents is having good communication skills. You must really enjoy talking!

Patience

There are things you need to keep under control in this job, including those that are unexpected. Your patience will go a long way in keeping yourself and your students calm when there are difficult situations that need composure. As someone who has the authority, you cannot succumb to losing your patience, especially in front of your students.

Leadership

When you are supervising your students, you are serving as their leader. You take charge, control, and accountability in everything that is happening during your class. A good sense of leadership makes it easier for you to grasp what needs to be done in your class to improve the quality of training you are providing your high school students.

Thirst for learning

A teacher doesn’t stop learning once he/she starts teaching. In fulfilling your duties, you are bound to expand your knowledge in your existing expertise. You can’t afford to get stagnant in learning new things, especially since there are subject areas that are highly dynamic.

Good sense of humor

The ability to lighten up the mood comes in handy when students are getting bored with long lectures. This also shows that you can be fun—making students trust you more. Having an approachable vibe makes you seem more likable as you don’t take every aspect seriously, which most students hate.

A good role model

Students look up to their teachers because they are intellectuals who are capable of lots of things. As someone who serves as a role model to the young generation, you shall embody a good intellectual that isn’t just a master of his subject area, but also a well-behaved individual.

Confidence

On a daily basis, you are facing hundreds of your students to share your knowledge. If you aren’t confident enough of your capabilities, do you think you can be an effective educator? High school teachers do not shy away from the spotlight; they take the initiative to do the right things just to ensure their students learn from them.

Here is a list of 2021’s high-ranking universities in the US for education majors, as listed by Niche.

  • Vanderbilt University
  • William & Mary
  • Northwestern University
  • Brown University
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • Brigham Young University
  • Duke University
  • Boston University
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Columbia University
  • University of Rochester
  • New York University
  • Boston College
  • Tufts University
  • University of Georgia
  • Emory University
  • Swarthmore College
  • University of Florida
  • University of California – Los Angeles
  • Martin Luther College
  • Concordia College
  • Florida State University
  • University of Miami
  • Brandeis University
  • University of Minnesota Twin Cities
  • Colgate University
  • Ohio State University
  • Penn State
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Auburn University
  • Wheaton College-Illinois
  • Texas Christian University
  • St. Olaf College
  • University of Washington
  • Southern Methodist University
  • Drake University
  • Gustavus Adolphus College
  • University of California – Irvine
  • Cedarville University
  • Smith College
  • Colorado College
  • University of Dayton
  • Bob Jones University
  • Vassar College
  • Macalester College
  • Concordia University, Nebraska
  • Purdue University
  • University of South Florida

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high school teacher career guide

How to Get a Job as a High School Teacher

There is an unending demand for high school teachers. So, as long as there are youth needing to be educated, there will always be a need to hire high school teachers. To know how you can land a teaching position, here are some tips to guide you!

Check regional school districts and your states’ board of education.

Your first avenue to look for any teaching vacancy is through your district’s board of education. They usually provide a comprehensive list of all the covered districts with any job opportunities for high school teachers like you. Also, you can check directly all the schools nearby you to know if there is anything good for you. Their websites are the best platform for starters.

Look into some nonprofit organizations.

Nonprofit organizations provide opportunities for recently graduated education majors to get teaching positions. Some organizations like this offer assistance in getting experience, having financial support, getting certified, and landing you a teaching position. Here are some nonprofit organizations you can check out:

Attend job fairs in your area.

A good platform to network yourself and meet potential employers is through job fairs. This is the best way to cover multiple employers at a shorter time. Prepare several copies of your resume and collect business cards at the fair to get in touch with them after the event. Visit the National Education Association website to know the upcoming events across the country.

Scroll through niche databases.

There are various niche databases you can make use of when exploring teaching positions. These platforms consolidate all the career opportunities for high school teachers—making your job search easier! Here are some of the niche job search platforms you can check out.

Visit other general job search platforms.

There are literally hundreds of job hunting platforms you can use in your career exploration. Most employers post in them to ease up the hiring processes. You can include these job portals in your search to expand your options.

Learn About Geographic and Location Pay Differentials

High school teachers earn annually an average of $61,660 based on a statistical report back in 2019. However, the wages still vary according to the state you are teaching at. Here is a complete list of all states and their corresponding mean wage in 2019:

State2019 Mean Annual Wage
New York$87,240
California$85,080
Massachusetts$81,070
Connecticut$78,540
New Jersey$78,090
Maryland$77,050
Rhode Island$75,950
Alaska$75,820
Illinois$74,340
Oregon$71,780
Washington$71,690
Virginia$69,070
Delaware$66,920
Pennsylvania$66,920
Vermont$66,660
Minnesota$64,960
Ohio$64,410
Michigan$63,000
Hawaii$62,580
Wyoming$61,400
Utah$61,050
New Hampshire$60,720
Nebraska$60,500
Georgia$59,860
Wisconsin$59,180
State2019 Mean Annual Wage
Nevada$58,090
Texas$58,000
Florida$57,880
New Mexico$57,410
South Carolina$56,570
Colorado$56,370
North Dakota$56,250
Maine$55,260
Kentucky$55,100
Tennessee$55,060
Indiana$53,150
Montana$53,360
Louisiana$52,090
Kansas$52,050
Alabama$51,950
Arkansas$51,870
Missouri$50,980
Idaho$50,640
Arizona$50,320
North Carolina$49,930
West Virginia$47,610
Oklahoma$47,320
Mississippi$46,580
South Dakota$44,610

Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Make Your Resume Stand Out

More than your teaching certification, one factor that will land you a job is crafting an impressive resume. A well-written resume amplifies your chance of getting an interview from potential employers. Make sure you send a polished resume to your prospective educational institutions with these guidelines to help you.

1. Bring uniqueness in your introduction.

Do not provide a general introduction that’s redundant to other applicants’. Focus on sharing some characteristics and vision that you can bring to the table. Be able to highlight your advocacy in promoting the personal and academic growth of high school students. Adding uniqueness in your introduction will help you leave a remarkable impression on potential employers.

2. Emphasize your teaching experience.

You have adequate training under your belt before you even got your certification as a teacher. Make sure you shed some light on your experience in your resume. Share the deliverables you can do, your teaching approach and methods, and quantifications of capabilities and achievements. By listing these down on your resume, you are giving your potential employer a glimpse of how competent you are.

3. Display your capacity to meet the special needs of young students.

Since you are handling 14 to 18-year-olds, teenagers already have the minds of their own. As their teacher, you are there to guide them all the way. In your resume, drop some valuable abilities that will show your genuine care for the welfare of the students. Give some proof that you value their needs as you understand them, and that you are willing to align your teaching approach to what they need.

4. Use some keywords in your resume.

Utilizing some keywords in your resume will amplify your chance of getting noticed by employers. There are tons of other applicants’ resumes on the pile waiting to be read. So gear up your resume with the right keywords to exude your expertise in your subject area. Here are some keywords you can sprinkle on your resume.

  • Positive learning environment
  • Discipline management
  • Student-centered instruction
  • Parent/teacher liaison
  • Academic goals and standards
  • Individualized educational plans
  • Growth mindset
  • Research-based practices
  • Technology integration
  • Collaborative environments
  • Classroom management
  • Interactive classroom

5. Include some of your professional references.

Having a professional connection who can vouch for your expertise is an important part of your resume. You can include your mentors, previous supervisors, professors, and previous school staff who got to experience working with you. List them down at the latter part of your resume.

Tips to Land High School Teaching Jobs

Here are some additional tips on how you can land a career as a high school teacher:

1. Prepare a great cover letter and resume.

As previously discussed, your resume is an overview of your skillset and qualifications. Failing to ensure your resume is foolproof minimizes your chance of getting noticed by employers. In addition, you should never miss including a cover letter to go with it. Having a cover letter proves your genuine interest to apply for the said job. It explains why you are after the job and highlights your assets and accomplishments.

2. Ready your portfolio.

Your teaching portfolio refers to the tangible documents that prove your experience in teaching. You will have to bring this in your interview or send a copy to employers when asked to. A professional portfolio showcases your best work experience that employers can easily take a look into. 

3. Obtain letters of recommendation.

Letters of recommendation are a typical requirement when applying for a teaching job. These letters of recommendation came from professionals you have previously worked with. They could be former education professors, mentors, or instructors who have been with you during your internships. Having this kind of document demonstrates your attitude and work ethic in the field as proven by people who had firsthand experience working with you.

 4. Volunteer, if possible.

If you are really keen on getting into a specific high school, you should opt to volunteer for the said school. This is one of the best ways to show your interest in being hired as a teacher. You can volunteer for help in some school departments or even assist in the library. Volunteering is a surefire way to get noticed in the said school district, increasing your chance of getting hired. 

5. Sub for a school you want to work for.

Aside from volunteering, subbing is another way to get the school district’s attention you want to work for. This can be done by applying as a substitute for teachers you have previously worked with. This works better when you spent your student teaching days in the said school as this means you have already made a network there. Inform the school and teachers about your interest in being a substitute, leave your credentials and business card, and wait for their call.

Ace Your High School Teacher Interview

You are nearing the end of this search! Make sure you do your best once you have landed an interview with a prospective employer. Nail that interview by preparing ahead and reviewing some common interview questions for high school teachers. 

Here are some interview questions you should watch out for on the big day.

1. How will you describe your teaching style and philosophy?

Every teacher has his/her own approach to educating high school students. The interviewer seeks to know your methods in ensuring your students get the quality education they need. Also, having a teaching philosophy ensures that you are driven to help high school students learn. And that’s what the interviewer needs to hear from you—that you actually care about how your students are going to absorb all the learnings.

2. What role does discipline play in learning? How do you employ it in your strategies?

Discipline plays a huge role in maintaining an effective learning experience for your students. How do you ensure it is properly maintained in your class without being forceful? Well, you set expectations, limits, and classroom policies that your students should agree to. Discipline is the key to taking accountability of high school students over their actions. 

3. How do you provide motivation to your students?

Being able to provide motivational support to students is a must for every teacher. You are not only limited to making sure they are receiving a good education, but also the motivation they need to keep on learning.

There will be times when students lose hope when there are difficult situations affecting them. You should be there to regularly check up on them and provide the support they need. It’s what you do as a teacher. So be able to share your approach on how you will motivate students not just in times of need, but even in regular days.

4. How will you interact with the students’ parents?

Parents play an essential role in the learning process of a student. As the students’ teacher, you should be able to bridge the gap between you and your students’ parents as you both have the common goals of attaining the success of the student. 

This question wants to know how you will engage with their parents and how you are going to team up with them. You can display your initiative of giving your personal contact number for parents to reach you when they have questions about their children. This way, you can be transparent and be able to help them any way you can just to ensure the students learn.

5. How do you integrate the technological advancements to your instructional materials

The technology has paved the way to ease up the creation of instructional materials. The interviewer wants to assess how knowledgeable you are in integrating it into your methods. 

Knowing how and when to utilize such doesn’t just display your resourcefulness, but having done it will help you teach your students to do the same too. High school students are in need of technological literacy as well.

Top Online Courses for Aspiring High School Teachers

Sharpen your skills in Secondary Education by taking these top online courses

Here are some online classes that can gear you up on your journey to become a high school teacher:

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