How to Become a High School Teacher

Some individuals just have a knack for communicating with teenagers and young adults, these individuals should consider a career as a high school teacher. If you want to help students at a critical stage of development, learn the skills to step out into the world and follow their dreams into adulthood, this can be a rewarding role.

What is great about this path is that you can test the waters by becoming a substitute teacher before working as a full-time salaried teacher. In fact, many young professionals armed with just a bachelor’s degree and the want to teach fill in for full-time faculty every day, across the nation.

High school teachers require a great deal more specialization in their role than an elementary teacher. Since teachers generally focus on subject matter, with revolving classes of student every hour, you should focus your bachelors education on your preferred specialization.

Whether you want to teach math, English, music, or a foreign language, you should become proficient in your subject as you develop the skills to become an effective teacher. After all, you can be the best mathematician, or the best musician in your state, but if you haven’t learned what it takes to communicate effectively with students, your talents will never improve your students’ lives.

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Advancing Your Education with a Masters Degree & In-Depth Subject Knowledge

High school teachers must have an in-depth knowledge of their subject and be able to communicate in an interesting and interactive manner. Interpersonal skills are also required for effective communication with parents and administrators.

Understanding of statistics assists in effectively teaching within the requirements set forth by state mandated testing requirements. High school teachers may choose to obtain a Bachelors or Masters degree in Secondary Education.

Read on to find several featured schools that have online K-12 or Secondary Education programs. These degrees are some of the most common for high school teachers. A Masters in Education degree is the most common degree to pursue for current teachers. You can reach out to these schools directly by clicking “More Info”. We recommend you ask them pertinent questions specific to their degree: career outcomes, program length, learning environment, and financial aid assistance.

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Learning to Respect Young Adults While Guiding their Learning

High school teachers often are required to step into a more involved role with their students. This is because they are starting to understand the pressures of adulthood, while still facing the pressures that stem from coming into their maturity. High school students are thinking about a lot of things: which college is best, how to handle intimate relationships, and dealing with a wide spectrum of emotions as their brains continue to develop. Not to mention, many high school students come from families that expect them to start working after school and weekend jobs for extra money and to learn the value of hard work.

When you add all these elements together, you can see why these young adults look to their teachers for guidance and support, in addition to the knowledge and tools an education provides. This is why you may consider taking as many psychology and behavior focused classes while you earn your degree in K-12 (or Secondary Education).

State Certifications for High School Teaching

Many states also now offer an option to obtain teaching credentials with a degree in the field in which one will be teaching, such as History or English. State certification is required for teaching in public schools, private schools may offer less restrictive requirements.

Understanding of statistics assists in effectively teaching within the requirements set forth by state mandated testing requirements. High school teachers may choose to obtain a Bachelors or Masters degree in Secondary Education.

Career Outlook and Trending for High School Teachers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “The median wage for high school teachers was $56,310 in 2014 (source). Of course, every state will have its own average salary depending on a number of variables, including cost of living and type of school. High school teachers generally make an average of $3,000 more than preschool, primary, secondary and special education teachers, according to the BLS.

The job growth for high school teachers is expected to grow about 6% annually from 2014-2024 – also according to the BLS. This growth will be affected by state budgets for education, which can also vary wildly by state. The best thing you can do to become better informed is talk to schools in your area about employment and salary statistics. The projected growth for this position in the next ten years is 5-9%, which is below average. Individuals completing degree work towards becoming a high school teacher should consider employment opportunities in high-demand areas, such as inner city school districts such as those in the Midwest or isolated rural communities, especially ion the West coast.

The positions offer more job security for those just entering the market. High school teachers are especially poised to have a positive impact on young adults during trying periods of life, this position offers significant career fulfillment.

Skills & Requirements of a High School Teacher

High school teachers often counsel, support and coach their students. This career requires a great deal of knowledge in effectively communicating with teens, as well as the ability to build trust with and motivate young adults. Individuals pursuing an education to become a high school teacher often must master the following subjects:

  • A specialization in their field of teaching (math, science, history, language arts)
  • Adolescent Psychology
  • Counseling and Support
  • Computer and Internet Technology
  • Curriculum Design and Implementation

Most Important Skills to Teach K-12 Students

Motivation
Able to inspire students to learn and study.
Expert Knowledge
Subject matter expert on the area of study you are teaching.
Public Speaking
Able to speak concisely to keep students interested.

Motivation
With an age group that has many forms of distractions, especially with new technology, you must be motivated to show up and inspire your classes every day. Sure, you can’t be perfect all the time, but if you don’t have a real passion for teaching, and respect for your students, you won’t be effective in your role. They will sense it if you aren’t there mentally, and you’ll find it pretty lonely at the head of the class.

Expert Knowledge
If you are going to be convincing in your lessons, you simply can’t fake it around high school age kids. They are simply too inquisitive to sit back and absorb information without questioning, debating, and trying to catch you slipping up. They also have the internet at their disposal, which means they can cross-examine what you tell them the moment you speak. But this doesn’t have to be a scary thing. First, learn your subject matter and become an expert. If you prepare, you won’t slip up. Second, if you do make a mistake and a student calls out your error, don’t be defensive. Applaud their effort and ability to question others and seek the truth.

Public Speaking
High school students can also be a tough crowd. If you are timid, especially in the wrong classroom, you might find yourself with an out of control room of kids. Even if you’re an introvert, you can practice techniques to build confidence in your ability to speak in front of 20+ young adults. It isn’t just about your confidence, it’s about earning the respect of your students so they will value the words that come out of your mouth. Student teaching can give you real world experience in this area before you have your own class. In most education related degree programs you will gain first hand experience in a real classroom before earning your degree.

Associations and Organizations You Can Lean on for Support

It is also a good idea to talk to organizations and associations focused on education, specifically high school teachers. However, it is good to join education focused associations, even if they are more broad than high school in focus. Here are a few that can get you started…

National High School AssociationWebsite
The main purpose of this association is to foster communication and support among high school educators and administrators. They have professional advice, seminars and guidance for furthering your career as a high school teacher.

Association of American EducatorsWebsite
This organization seeks to act as a support system by offering representation and advocacy for high school teachers. They also offer grants and other opportunities that help educators be more effective and make an impact in the field of education.

American Federation of TeachersWebsite
This is a trade union that represents educators and works to impact public policy to help reform education and better the system. If you want to stay in the loop about how big and small government are affecting education, learn more about this organization.

The best way to discover the best way forward for your career as a high school teacher is talk to schools in your area about their degree programs to see how they line up with your goals in teaching. Whether you want to start as a substitute teacher to test the waters or jump right into the field, you can’t map your path until you gain inspiration from educators who work to inspire people like you to inspire our next generation of learners.