High School Teachers

Quick Facts: High School Teachers
2017 Median Pay $59,170 per year
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 1,018,700
Job Outlook, 2016-26 8% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 76,800

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High School Teacher’s Career, Salary and Education Information

What high school Teachers Do

High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college or to enter the job markets.


high school teachers

Duties of High School teachers

High school teachers typically do the following:

  • Plan lessons in the subjects they teach, such as science or history

  • Assess students to evaluate their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses

  • Teach students in full class settings or in small groups

  • Adapt lessons to any changes in class size

  • Grade students’ assignments and exams

  • Communicate with parents about students’ progress

  • Work with individual students to challenge them, to improve their abilities, and to work on their weaknesses

  • Prepare students for standardized tests required by the state

  • Develop and enforce classroom rules and administrative policies

  • Supervise students outside of the classroom—for example, during lunchtime or detention

High school teachers generally teach students from the 9th through 12th grades. They usually specialize in one subject area, such as math, science, or history. They may teach several different classes within that subject area. For example, a high school math teacher may teach courses in algebra, calculus, and/or geometry. Others may teach the same material—for example, world history—to more than one class if the school has many students taking that subject.

High school teachers may teach students from different grades throughout the day. For example, in one class they may have students from the 9th grade, and then in the next class they may have 12th-grade students. In many schools, students are divided into classes on the basis of their abilities, so teachers need to change their courses to match the students’ abilities.

When they do not have classes, teachers plan lessons, grade assignments, and meet with other teachers and staff.

Some high school teachers instruct special classes, such as art, music, physical education or English as a second language (ESL). ESL or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) teachers work exclusively with students who are learning the English language. These students are often referred to as English language learners (ELLs). These teachers work with students individually or in groups to help them improve their English language skills and help them with assignments for other classes.

Students with learning disabilities and emotional or behavioral disorders are often taught in traditional classes. Therefore, high school teachers may work with special education teachers to adapt lessons to these students’ needs and to monitor the students’ progress.

Teachers must be comfortable with using and learning new technology. They may use websites to communicate with parents about students’ assignments, upcoming events, and grades. For students, teachers may create websites or discussion boards to present information and to expand a lesson taught in class.

Some high school teachers coach sports and advise student clubs and other groups, activities that frequently take place before or after school.

Work Environment for high school teachers

High school teachers held about 1.0 million jobs in 2016. The largest employers of high school teachers were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local: 84%

Elementary and secondary schools; private: 13%

Most states have tenure laws, which provide job security after a certain number of years of satisfactory classroom teaching.

Watching students develop new skills and gain an appreciation for knowledge and learning can be very rewarding.

However, teaching may be stressful. Some schools have large classes and lack important teaching tools, such as current technology and up-to-date textbooks. Occasionally, teachers must cope with unmotivated or disrespectful students.

Work Schedules for high school teachers

High school teachers generally work during school hours, which vary from school to school. However, they often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. In addition, they may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. Plus, teachers who coach sports or advise clubs generally do so before or after school.

Many work the traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. They also have a short midwinter break. Although most do not work during the summer, some may teach in summer programs.

Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 9 weeks in a row and then have a break for 3 weeks before starting a new school session.

How to Become high school teacher

High school teachers must have a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.


All states require public high school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Most states require public high school teachers to have majored in a subject area, such as science or history. Teachers typically enroll in their institution’s teacher preparation program and take classes in education and child psychology as well.

In teacher education programs, prospective high school teachers learn how to present information to students and how to work with students of varying abilities and backgrounds. Programs typically include a student-teaching program, in which they work with a mentor teacher and get experience teaching students in a classroom setting. For information about teacher preparation programs in your state, visit Teach.org.

Some states require high school teachers to earn a master’s degree after earning their teaching certification and obtaining a job.

Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools typically seek high school teachers who have a bachelor’s degree and a major in a subject area.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed or certified in the specific grade level they will teach. Those who teach in private schools typically are not required to be licensed.

High school teachers typically are awarded a secondary or high school certification, which allows them to teach the 7th through the 12th grades.

Requirements for certification or licensure vary by state but generally involve the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree with a minimum grade point average

  • Completion of a teacher preparation program and supervised experience in teaching, which is typically gained through student teaching.

  • Passing a background check

  • Passing a general teaching certification test, as well as a test that demonstrates their knowledge in the subject they will teach.

For information on certification requirements in your state, visit Teach.org.

Teachers are required to complete annual professional development classes to keep their license or certification. Some states require teachers to complete a master’s degree after receiving their certification and obtaining a job.

All states offer an alternative route to certification or licensure for people who already have a bachelor’s degree but lack the education courses required for certification. Some alternative certification programs allow candidates to begin teaching immediately under the supervision of an experienced teacher. These programs cover teaching methods and child development. After they complete the program, candidates are awarded full certification. Other programs require students to take classes in education before they can teach. Students may be awarded a master’s degree after completing either type of program.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Teachers must collaborate with other teachers and special education teachers. In addition, teachers need to discuss students’ needs with parents and administrators.

Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. High school teachers must be patient when students struggle with material.

Resourcefulness. High school teachers need to explain difficult concepts in terms students can understand. In addition, they must be able to engage students in learning and adapt lessons to each student’s needs.


Experienced teachers can advance to be mentors or lead teachers. In these positions, they often work with less experienced teachers to help them improve their teaching skills.

With additional education or certification, teachers may become school counselors, school librarians, or instructional coordinators. Some become assistant principals or principals. Becoming a principal usually requires additional instruction in education administration or leadership. For more information, see the profiles on school and career counselorslibrariansinstructional coordinators, and elementary, middle, and high school principals.

salaries for high school teachers

The median annual wage for high school teachers was $59,170 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,080, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $95,380.


In May 2017, the median annual wages for high school teachers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local: $59,860

Elementary and secondary schools; private: $53,120

High school teachers generally work school hours, which vary from school to school. However, they often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. In addition, they may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. Plus, teachers who coach sports or advise clubs generally do so before or after school.

Many high school teachers work the traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. They also have a short midwinter break. Although most do not teach during the summer, some may teach in summer school programs for which they are paid.

Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 9 weeks in a row and then have a break for 3 weeks before starting a new school session.

Union Membership

Most high school teachers belonged to a union in 2016.

Job Outlook for high school teachers

Employment of high school teachers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as average for all occupations. Rising student enrollment should increase demand for high school teachers, but employment growth will vary by region.

Employment growth for public high school teachers may depend on state and local government budgets. If state and local governments experience budget deficits, school boards may lay off employees, including teachers. As a result, employment growth of high school teachers may be reduced by state and local government budget deficits. Conversely, budget surpluses at the state and local level could lead to additional employment growth for high school teachers.

Job Prospects for high school teachers

From 2016 to 2026, a significant number of older teachers will reach retirement age. Their retirement will create job openings for new teachers.

Many schools report that they have difficulty filling teaching positions for certain subjects, including math, science, English as a second language, and special education. As a result, teachers with education in those subjects or certifications to teach those specialties should have better job prospects. For more information about high school special education teachers, see the profile on special education teachers.

Opportunities are likely to be better in in urban and rural school districts than in suburban school districts. Flexibility in job location may increase job prospects.

Employment projections data for Secondary Education, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 1,018,700

Projected Employment, 2026: 1,095,500

Change, 2016-2026: +8%, +76,800

Careers Related to high school TeacherS

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers instruct adults in basic skills, such as reading, writing, and speaking English. They also help students earn their high school equivalent diploma.

Career and Technical Education Teachers

Career and technical education teachers instruct students in various technical and vocational subjects, such as auto repair, healthcare, and culinary arts. They teach academic and technical content to provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to enter an occupation.

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

Elementary, middle, and high school principals manage all school operations, including daily school activities. They coordinate curriculums, oversee teachers and other school staff, and provide a safe and productive learning environment for students.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects, such as math and reading, in order to prepare them for future schooling.

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. They help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They may also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5 who have not yet entered kindergarten. They teach language, motor, and social skills to young children.

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills needed to succeed in school. Career counselors help people choose careers and follow a path to employment.

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Teacher Assistants

Teacher assistants work under a teacher’s supervision to give students additional attention and instruction.

Career and Technical Education TeachersBachelor's degree$55,240
Elementary, Middle, and High School PrincipalsMaster's degree$94,390
Kindergarten and Elementary School TeachersBachelor's degree$56,900
Middle School TeachersBachelor's degree$57,720
Postsecondary Teachers$76,000
Preschool TeachersAssociate's degree$28,990
School and Career CounselorsMaster's degree$55,410
Special Education TeachersBachelor's degree$58,980
Teacher AssistantsSome college, no degree$26,260
Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma TeachersBachelor's degree$52,100


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm