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Teacher Certification Degrees » Teaching Career Center » High School Teacher Career Guide
High School Teacher Career Guide
A secondary school teacher instructs students in grades 9 through 12 in both public and private educational institutions. The primary objective of these teachers is to educate students and prepare them for college and the job market. This guide provides further information on what high school teachers do, how to become one, and the occupation’s salary and outlook.
High School Teacher Job Description
Teachers of high school students typically plan and teach lessons to classrooms of students. They may also teach small groups or do individual mentoring, depending on the needs of their students. Secondary school teachers typically specialize in one or two subjects such as math, English, the sciences, art, history, Spanish, French, or music, usually teaching several classes within their specialty subject over the course of a day. Teachers evaluate students’ performance, grade papers and tests, and prepare them for state tests. In order to be an effective and successful secondary school instructor, the ability to communicate well with teenagers and earn their respect is key. A consistent and approachable attitude will help a teacher maintain order, good behavior, and discipline in their work with teenage students.
High School Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks
The responsibilities of a teacher at the high school level include preparing courses, assigning and grading homework and tests, creating classroom rules, and meeting with parents to discuss student progress and behavior issues. They also may spend extra time with struggling students, often mentoring and tutoring them after hours. Although high school teachers commonly work in a classroom setting, they may work in other settings as well including the outdoors, gymnasiums, the school library, or a computer lab. Teachers at the secondary level also maintain order in the classroom and during breaks and lunch periods. Teachers are also often involved in a variety of extracurricular activities. High school teachers must have the ability to impart knowledge effectively to teenagers. Calmness and patience are attributes that teachers need in their everyday job; their role may be seen as being part instructor and part mentor.
How to Become a High School Teacher
Becoming a teacher in a secondary school requires earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education or in a teachable subject like biology. To teach in public schools, a state teaching license or certification is required. Secondary school teachers in a private school are typically not required to hold certification, though this is a growing preference in private school systems. To become a high school teacher, the most common steps are:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree with a major in the subject you wish to teach while completing your school’s teacher preparation program.
- Complete a student teaching internship in the subject(s) you wish to teach.
- Take the teaching and subject-area tests for teacher licensure required in your state.
- Apply for your teaching license.
- Begin applying for open positions in your subject area(s).
In addition to earning a major in the particular subject you wish to teach, you must take a teacher preparation program approved by your state in order to qualify for certification. Many four-year colleges and universities require students to wait until their sophomore or junior year before applying to teacher programs. These programs include a student teaching internship, during which students have a chance to work under experienced educators who act as mentors as well as teachers. During this time, they also have the opportunity to see how the school works, receive reviews on their teaching skills, learn how to discipline students, and develop a general feel for the school atmosphere. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in the subject you want to teach but did not complete a teacher preparation program, a master’s degree or another alternative route to licensure may be a good fit for your goals.
High School Teacher Salary and Job Outlook
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for high school teachers was $57,200 in 2015.1 The top-earning 10% of teachers earned upwards of $91,190.1 Key factors that determine salary are geographic location, subject, and experience. Overall, the teaching profession at the high school level is expected to see jobs growth of about 6% through 2024.1 Science, mathematics, English as a second language, and special education teachers are in highest demand in most school districts. High school teaching positions are found in both private and public schools in rural, urban and suburban environments, with more job openings on the horizon for teachers in rural and urban areas.
High School Teacher Career Interviews
- Sasketchewan French and Spanish Teacher, Krista Gates
- Kansas Teacher of the Year Nominee, Scott Keltner
- Science Teacher in Korea, Chris Mitchell
Helpful Skills and Experience
Organizational skills, excellent communication and presentation skills, and sound decision-making skills are important for prospective high school teachers. Teachers should be calm, fair, and patient. Teachers with prior experience, postgraduate education, and industry certification from organizations like the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) will stand out from others. Knowledge or certification in a shortage-area subject will make a teacher more desirable, particularly in the subject areas of math and science, which are seeing an overall shortage of teachers.
- Teach.org – Teach.org provides information on how to become a teacher, teaching jobs in your zip code, as well as scholarship and networking opportunities.
- US Department of Education – This website provides information about dropout rates, K-12 reforms, the No Child Left Behind Act, and more.
Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a High School Teacher
Question: What degree do I need to teach high school?
Answer: To teach high school, you must earn at least a bachelor’s degree in a subject that is teachable at the high school grade level. In addition to your degree, you must earn a teacher certificate or license to teach in public schools. The qualifications for certification vary by state, but nearly all states require completing a teacher preparation program at a university. If you already have a bachelor’s degree but did not complete teacher preparation, you may be eligible for an alternative certification program .
Question: Do you need a master’s degree to teach high school?
Answer: You do not need a master’s degree to become a high school teacher. A bachelor’s degree and certification is adequate. However, some states require that you earn a master’s degree within several years of starting a teaching job in order to keep your teaching license. These include New York, Connecticut, Kentucky, Oregon, Michigan, Maryland, Mississippi, and Montana.
Question: Why do teachers leave the profession?
Answer: There are many reasons, some personal, that teachers leave the profession. Some common reasons cited are a lack of support, an emphasis on standardized testing, struggles with student discipline, poor pay, and a lack of respect for teachers in general.
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
How to Become a Science Teacher
Jump to Section
- What are the Requirements for Teaching Science?
- Who Will My Students Be?
- What Does A Science Teacher Do?
- Science Teacher Jobs & Job Description
- Where Can Certified Science Teachers Teach?
- What is the Salary of a Science Teacher?
- Science Teacher Organizations & Associations
Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science. Edwin Powell Hubble
A science teacher can actually teach several science related topics depending on the grade level. A science teacher can specialize in a particular area, but should be well versed in all things science. Science teachers need to be able to break down complicated science topics into understandable parts for students of varying ages and abilities. A science teacher should also be willing to perform, set-up, and explain experiments while ensuring safe practices for all students.
On the Job Duties
Science teachers are good at answering questions through the use of visuals and hands-on experimentation. These teachers are far from squeamish when it comes to dissection or typically uncomfortable topics. A science teacher is responsible for teaching a core subject area in which students will be tested through the use of standardized tests. A science teacher will usually be expected to perform typical duties and have all the responsibilities of every teacher. This may include taking attendance, keeping discipline within a classroom, attending meetings, contacting parents, and much more. A science teacher is part of an educational team.
College classes for this degree will include basic developmental classes, classroom management classes, and classes to write appropriate lesson plans based on Science standards. In addition, Science majors will take Science specific classes, complete observation hours, and student teach before graduation. As an education major, most schools offer dual programs that allow the student to receive both a degree and teaching certification simultaneously.
Tests to Pass for Teaching Science
In order to become a certified Science teacher, the candidate will need to pass a Basic Skills exam on reading, writing, and mathematics. In addition, a Science subject test will also need to be passed based on the specific area in which you wish to teach. Most states will accept the PRAXIS series of exams, however some state require their own state-exam. Required scores for these tests are set by the state in which you will be teaching.
Becoming a science teacher offers a growing job opportunity as the Bureau of Labor Statistics foresees a positive outlook for teachers of middle and high school through 2028. Science teachers are much more likely to be teaching at these levels as science taught in elementary school is typically part of an overall elementary curriculum taught by an elementary certified teacher. Science teachers can move up to higher grade levels and advanced placement classes, but further certification may be required.
What are the Requirements for Teaching Science?
Education Requirements for Teaching Science
The typical route to becoming a Science teacher is through the obtainment of a four year Bachelor’s Degree in education with teacher preparation courses specific to science. To be meaningful, the degree must come from an accredited college or university as deemed appropriate by CAEP, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
Many Science teachers earn a degree in Secondary Education or Education , with an endorsement in Science.
Alternative Certification for Science Teachers
However, in certain “high-needs” regions, Science teachers may be offered an opportunity specific to only science and math teachers through alternative certification. This means that a four year degree in Science, without a teaching credential, could still allow for a teaching job. However, if this route is chosen, the teacher will be expected to take classes to gain teacher training in a condensed format.
Each state has specific licensing requirements.
Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State
Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington, DC
- West Virginia
Who Will My Students Be?
A certified science teacher will most seek employment at the high school or middle school levels. Students will range in age and ability in the sixth to twelfth grade. Though science is taught at the elementary level, it is by a certified elementary teacher, not a science certified teacher.
Students in middle school and high school will be teenagers. Keep in mind that there will likely be age related issues as students at this age experience hormonal and bodily changes. However, students at this level will also be learners that can be inspired, shaped, and molded into great scientists and lifelong learners.
Teaching Science in Middle School
Science teachers at the middle school level are required to teach all students in a specific grade level or levels. The science topics could vary, but life science is the typical topic for sixth grade, and biology is taught in seventh. Students will be highly diverse in ability and interest level during each year of science.
Teaching Science in High School
High school students are also required to take at least one or two years of science, depending on the state. High school science classes may include chemistry, physics, physical science, or advanced placement classes. Additional certification may be required to teach these classes.
What Does A Science Teacher Do?
A science teacher starts by doing what every teacher of every subject does, teach. A science teacher will prepare and teach daily lessons based on required standards. The topics will then be tested through a variety of assessments. A science teacher will be required to teach lessons through multiple methods and strategies, as science often does not come easy to students.
A science teacher will be required to take attendance, meet with parents, perform necessary school duties, grade papers, and keep a classroom organized and running smoothly. A science teacher may be required to help students participate in or arrange a science fair depending on grade level.
Science Lab and Classroom
Science teachers will be required to help students complete basic experiments with safety precautions in place. This will typically take place in the science classroom or adjoining lab in larger schools. The typically classroom will have student desks, lab tables, sinks, experimental equipment, and cabinets for storage. Many science classrooms also have wash stations and first aid kits in case of accidents during experiments. Many science rooms will also have digital equipment such as computers or white boards for sharing.
Science Teacher Jobs & Job Description
Teaching science to students at the elementary and high school levels involves introducing and reinforcing students’ understanding of a number of key concepts about the world, humans, and natural systems. The job does vary in scope and depth between science taught that the elementary level – usually grouped in science, technology and social sciences, and science taught in high school; below is a typical job description for each of the panels
Elementary School Science Teacher
Elementary school science teachers often introduce students to a number of scientific pathways including general science, social studies and technology. With that goal in mind, elementary science teachers:
- Help students develop the skills and strategies for scientific problem solving
- Understand the basic concepts of science
- Assist students in understanding the natural and human-designed worlds
- Teach students how to obtain knowledge about nature
- Show students historical models of biological and chemical processes and concepts and explain how they’ve changed
- Show students what scientists do as individuals and as a community
- Explain clearly scientific ethic and societal contributions
- Demonstrate and model how scientific hypotheses are created and tested
- Lead students through discourse in scientific philosophy – explain the benefits and risks of scientific discoveries using historical and emerging examples
- Relate scientific thought in abstract to environmental warming in specific and abstract
- Help students understand the concepts that underlie individual scientific facts and perspectives
- Assist students in developing and applying an objective inquiry-driven mindset
- Enthusiastically participate in collaborative co-curricular and extracurricular teams; draw students into these projects
- Be open to receive teaching feedback and support from teaching partners and administration
- Demonstrate creativity and economy, while focusing on the scientific method; seek additional sources of funding and materials where appropriate
- Show students relationships between facts and ‘big ideas’ – the underlying fundamental scientific concepts and laws that nature adheres to
- Teach students how to ask scientific questions and how to demonstrate curiosity about the world and its natural systems in order to become scientific thinkers
- Engage in professional development on a planned and ad hoc basis
- Proactively communicate with families and students about individual and class progress
- Promote the school culture and practices, as well as instructional strategies and student rules through extracurricular and co-curricular activities and staff leadership
- Praise students in meaningful ways regarding their positive choices and achievements
- Collaborate with other teachers to support the school’s mission statement and values
- Develop positive and professional relationships with students and their families
- Conduct every work and related activity in a professional manner
- Develop an emergent sense of whether a scientific question and ‘answer’ are fair or unfair according to scientific objectivity
- Lead students to make educated hypotheses or predictions as to possible outcomes of a process or experiment
- Model safety in the classroom with teacher-selected equipment for observation and measurement
- Teach students how to record data in an objective fashion using pictures, writing, and charts
- Become an active listener
- Support the mission and vision of the school district and school
- Be committed to teaching students in their particular community
- Set rigorous academic, time-management and development goals for students to achieve in the classroom
High School Science Teacher
Secondary school biology teachers are responsible for refining students’ developing scientific experiences and directing them toward a study and appreciation of all living things. With that goal in mind, secondary biology teachers:
- Teach students how to formulate relevant questions and hypotheses between observable variables
- Help students plan investigations to answer their questions
- Use appropriate modes to communicate ideas; use linguistic, numeric, symbolic and graphical examples
- Model how to conduct research by gathering, organizing and analyzing information’s
- Model what is an appropriate source of information
- Discuss at length the concept of scientific objectivity
- Assist students in discovering the scope of human interaction and its impact on biological systems
- Assist students in discerning likely hypotheses for theories of origin
- Teach students formulaic approach to genes, motion, and chemical bonding
- Assist students in determining hierarchal structures and systems: of animals, chemicals, and vector formulas
- Teach students the ways that plant structures differ from animal structures
- Teach students the difference between organic and inorganic chemical processes
- Model for students the creation and deployment of relevant and insightful scientific inquiries
- Have students identify credible sources of information from which to study – link this process to scientific objectivity and the concept of scientific rigor
- Model and asses students as they select, test, and safely use appropriate lab equipment for a variety of experiments and field world
- Show students how to evaluate and report on the results of a scientific inquiry
- Lead students to describe the contributions of scientists from all disciplines
- Lead students to explore a variety of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
- Remediate gender inequalities in classroom practice and lecture
- Demonstrate creativity while focusing on the scientific method; strive to bring real world examples and problems to the classroom
- Commit to active listening
- Promote the school and district mission and vision statements
- Commit to becoming an active part of the students’ home community
- Set rigorous and objective academic goals for students to strive for
- Commit to professional development on a yearly basis
- Communicate proactively and professionally about student grades and behavior with other staff, individual students, and their families
- Support the school’s culture and practices through extracurricular and co-curricular activities and staff leadership
- Conduct all work activities in a professional manner
Certified science teachers have a number of employment avenues open to them, including specialization in teachable subjects like physics, technology, chemistry, and biology. Read on to learn more.
Where Can Certified Science Teachers Teach?
A certified science teacher can teach at any private, public, or charter school in which he or she finds employment. However, science teachers are usually limited to middle or high school classrooms because of the subject area.
Public school teachers will be expected to teach based on the state adopted curriculum and standards. Student achievement levels will be tested and monitored yearly through the use of standardized tests. Public schools teachers usually receive great health and retirement benefits in addition to a salary scale which increases with every year taught. In addition, most public schools offer salary advancements to teachers who continue their education.
Charter schools have the option of being much more selective in student populations. There are often two types of charter schools: Independent Charter Schools and Affiliated Charter Schools. Independent charter schools are often more autonomous than their dependent counterpart, as they are not associated to a school district. Affiliated charter schools are more connected to public school rules and regulations. Often times, charter school teachers do not receive the same pay and benefits as public schools.
A private school requires a paid tuition from students. The student population is usually far less diverse than public schools. The school will choose their own curriculum, which may vary greatly from school to school. Private schools may require affiliation with a particular religion or group in order to teach any subject area. One should be aware of necessary affiliations, especially those that are religious that may limit exactly what can be taught.
What is the Salary of a Science Teacher?
Throughout the United States, a science teacher will earn around $45,058 (Payscale.com) a year. The salary total does not include the great health and retirement benefits. Pay for science teachers will steadily increase each year and with each continuing education unit. Science teachers are found predominately at the secondary level, including middle school and high school. An average salary is approximately $55,050 (BLS.gov) annually in the public sector whereas private school salaries are up to $10,000 less.
Read out Teacher Salary page to learn more.
Science Teacher Organizations & Associations
- NSTA – National Science Teachers Association
- AAAS – American Association for the Advancement of Science
- ASTE – Association for Science Teacher Education
- NESTA – National Earth Science Teachers Association
- NARST – National Association for Research in Science Teaching
- AMTA – American Modeling Teachers Association