Secondary Education

Secondary education involves the part of a child’s education between grades 6 through 12. It is a more flexible degree than primary education and poses a unique challenge between the instruction and social engagement of early adolescents/young adults with a particular subject of interest. Unlike elementary school teachers, those who study for a secondary education degree focus on one subject such as English, Biology or American History, and go on to teach it in a public middle school, high school or private school of their choosing.

Every state requires middle and high school teachers to possess at least a bachelor’s degree in education or an approved subject, but many also require secondary school teacher’s to hold a master’s degree in secondary education as well.

Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education

A bachelor’s degree in secondary education prepares students to become certified middle or high school teachers. The program structure differs from a primary education degree in that a student chooses an academic discipline that they study alongside courses in adolescent development, teaching methods, assessment and technology, curriculum planning and language and literacy.

Most colleges or universities that offer secondary education bachelor’s degrees will emphasize the importance of passion for prospective undergraduates. A student who wants to become a secondary education teacher doesn’t just need to have a deeply rooted interest in the subject they wish to teach, but also be dedicated to the bettering of students’ lives and have a strong will to tackle the many adversaries and unique challenges that a middle school and high school teacher face on a daily basis. Children in grades 8 through 12 in particular are undergoing large changes throughout all aspects of their lives, and teachers who are able to understand these struggles is critical to helping students reach their full potential.

A Bachelor of Science or Art in Secondary Education generally takes four to five years to complete when attending classes full-time. There are several majors that a student can choose from, with the most common being:

  • English
  • Biology
  • Social Studies
  • History
  • Art
  • French
  • Spanish

Those who wish to teach special education students tend to complete their bachelor’s in their preferred subject and then go on to acquire a master’s degree of special education. Graduate degrees in special education offer concentrations at both the elementary and secondary levels, so those with a particular interest in helping teach middle and high school students with special needs can find a program designed for them.

Many students may also opt to earn a bachelor’s of liberal arts in their content area and move on to a master’s of secondary education to meet the necessary qualifications for state teaching certification and licensure.

Master’s Degree in Secondary Education

Secondary education master’s degrees are required by many states before one can become certified to teach at a middle or high school. Due to the strong emphasis that is placed on the chosen academic discipline during the secondary education bachelor’s program, schools find that a master’s degree that is grounded in secondary education will provide hopeful instructors with an equilibrium between their own area of specialty and secondary education instruction.

A typical master’s of secondary education program takes one-and-a half to two years to complete. There is an increasing rise in popularity of online master’s degree programs, as they allow students to find a job and begin working an entry-level position while finishing their degree. Secondary education master’s degrees, like their predecessors, often have an area of specialization to choose from. This field tends to be more focused than the one studied during a bachelor’s program and can include topics such as English, history, biology, geology (earth science), physics and mathematics.

In addition to class and coursework, students who are part of a master’s degree program in secondary education will spend time in an actual school alongside a mentor teacher in order to fulfill graduation requirements. Each university has its own program specifications in place, but in general a student will move from spending one day a week assisting in a live classroom setting to spending full weeks alongside a teacher learning about all aspects of teaching, along with a university supervisor.

Ph.D. in Secondary Education

A doctorate of secondary education is designed for students who wish to teach students of secondary education or perhaps pursue other education-related administrative positions. A Ph.D. program in any field is comprised of rigorous coursework and guided independent research. A Ph.D. program of secondary education typically involves once again selecting a specialization, such as English or Biology. This specialization lays the framework for the duration of the doctoral curriculum.

Secondary education doctorate programs aim to provide students with a deeper knowledge of their chosen content area along with a broader skillset pertaining to said area. Doctoral level classes are rooted in the acquisition, analysis and application of research. Research regarding curriculum development and theory are core elements of a secondary education Ph.D. program.

Before being able to study for a Ph.D. in Secondary Education, most universities or colleges require that a candidate has completed both their bachelor’s or master’s in secondary education or an approved field, worked for at least two years in a teaching environment (with a letter of recommendation) and be currently licensed to teach in their chosen area of concentration.

Secondary Education Teaching Careers

Most university students who study secondary education wish to pursue teaching careers in middle or high schools. A high school teacher works in a public or private school and can have as many as 120-150 different students each year. They teach multiple classes per day on the same subject, and have a mean annual salary of $59,330 according to the May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Middle school teachers were reported to earn $57,620 each year. Teaching responsibilities for both teachers include preparing lessons, grading papers and exams, participating in any extracurricular activities they supervise and keeping track of individual students’ progress in order to assure that they are on par with the rest of the class. Secondary school teachers may also organize and attend meetings with fellow teachers, school officials and parents to discuss a student’s progress and collaborate on the best course of action.

Since most secondary education majors tend to earn a master’s degree in secondary education, they become qualified for other education positions such as school principals and education administrators. An education administrator makes about $91,780, while secondary school principals earn $87,760 annually according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These education positions still involve playing active roles in students’ lives, however there are additional job duties that involve meeting with teachers, supervisors and education officials who work for the state’s board of education and holding meetings with parents to discuss student progress and behavior.

There are an estimated 13,100 new school principal positions to open up by 2022, according to the BLS. The South and West regions are predicted to pose the highest job opportunities, while the Northeast is anticipated to remain steady and the Midwest is expected to experience an enrollment decline.