Pros and Cons of a Career as a High School Math Teacher
Math is one of the more difficult subjects to find qualified teachers for, which may lead to better job opportunities. Read the following list of pros and cons to find out if becoming a high school math teacher is right for you.
|Pros of Becoming a High School Math Teacher|
|Many states have tenure laws, which provide job security*|
|Despite slow job growth, high school math teachers may have better job prospects*|
|Can find entry-level jobs with a bachelor's degree*|
|Many high school teachers have summers off*|
|Many find work as a teacher rewarding*|
|Cons of Becoming a High School Math Teacher|
|All high school teachers may see slow employment growth (6% expected from 2012-2022)*|
|Some states require teachers to earn master's degrees*|
|Teaching can be stressful (overpopulated schools, lack of funding for resources, student behavioral problems)*|
|May have to complete continuing education regularly to maintain certification*|
|Long hours can be required to prepare lessons, grade papers and meet with parents and students*|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Description and Duties
High school math teachers are responsible for preparing study programs that teach mathematical concepts to students in grades 9 through 12. In creating these programs, you need to consider the strengths and weakness of individual students and accommodate for various learning styles. In public schools, high school math teachers typically adhere to certain state-mandated curriculum guidelines to ensure their students' success on standardized tests. Daily duties may also include tracking student attendance, implementing classroom rules and evaluating student progress. With the profusion of extracurricular activities available at many high schools, some high school teachers may choose to take on extra responsibilities, such as coaching a sport or supervising a club.
Salary Info and Outlook
As of May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that high school teachers of all subjects earned annual median wages of about $56,000. The BLS also predicted that all high school teachers could see an employment increase of 6% between 2012 and 2022, which was considered lower than average when compared to other jobs in the U.S. Changes in student-to-teacher ratios, as well as enrollment, can affect employment growth and will vary by regions.
You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to teach high school math. Most schools require that you major in math, and many also prefer candidates who have completed teacher-education programs. Teacher-education programs instruct you on teaching methods and usually include student-teaching experiences. Many colleges and universities offer relevant degree programs that include options for teacher education. Depending on your school, you can major in mathematics and choose a concentration in secondary education, or you can major in secondary math education. You can expect to complete courses in several mathematical disciplines and a few classes in related fields, such as physics. The teacher-education portion of the curriculum may cover topics like classroom management, human development or psychology, student evaluation methods and communication. Usually in your senior year you participate in a student-teaching experience where you gain practical training in a high school classroom. This real-world experience also gives you a chance to hone some of the most important qualities that teachers should have: effective communication abilities, engaging and effectual teaching methods and patience.
If you plan to teach in a public school, check with your state's licensure regulation board to see if teachers in your state have to eventually earn master's degrees. Many schools offer 5-year master's programs in this field and cover similar coursework as the undergraduate programs. These programs, which are usually designed for individuals without teaching certification, may save you from returning back to school later. If you're currently employed as a licensed math teacher, you can also find master's programs designed for licensed teachers. These programs can be good options if you're looking to advance to leadership positions, conduct research or prepare for a doctoral program.
All public school teachers must obtain licensure, more commonly referred to as certification. The criteria for earning certification vary by state, but the BLS reported that there are some similarities. For instance, all states require candidates to earn bachelor's degrees, complete teacher-education programs and complete student-teaching experiences. Additionally, exams that test your teaching abilities and subject knowledge are commonly required. You can check with your state's Board of Education for any additional requirements.
If you have a bachelor's degree in a subject you would like to teach, but lack the necessary teacher-education training, you can contact the National Center for Alternative Certification to see what kind of alternative certification programs are offered in your state. Some states have options that allow you to work under the supervision of a licensed teacher while completing the program. Additionally, some alternative certification programs may award master's degrees.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Employers typically look for candidates who can teach a variety of math disciplines to any high school grade level. Experience working with diverse student bodies is also an advantage. To give you an idea of what employers are looking for, read the following high school math teacher job postings from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' (NCTM) November 2012 job board:
- A charter school in Illinois is hiring for a high school math teacher with a bachelor's degree and teacher certification who can communicate concepts effectively to a diverse study body.
- An independent high school in Vermont wants a creative math teacher who can serve the needs of children with academic and emotional issues. The school promotes experiential-learning processes, and a bachelor's degree is preferred.
- A public high school in North Carolina seeks a math teacher with a bachelor's degree and state certification who can teach all levels of high school math to a diverse student body.
Standing Out In the Field
Diversify Your Knowledge
Specializing can often be advantageous for many professionals, but as a high school math teacher, you'll find more doors open if you diversify. As an example, no job postings were found that sought a teacher who only taught one math discipline. While you're earning your bachelor's degree, try to place an equal emphasis on as many disciplines of math as possible.
It's also important that you continue your education in order to stay current with the latest developments in both mathematics and teaching methods. Organizations, such as the NCTM, offer a wide array of continuing education options. You can also become a member of professional organizations like NCTM. Membership benefits may include access to scholarly journals, classroom and teaching resources and networking opportunities.
Other Career Options to Consider
If you're looking for a career with a higher growth potential, but want to stay in the education field, you may be interested in a career as an instructional coordinator. These professionals develop curricula, evaluate teaching standards and work on ways to improve education. Depending on the school district, you could specialize in a specific grade-level and/or subject, making it possible for you to still focus on high school math. When considering this option, it's important to know that a master's degree and teaching or school administration experience may be required. Additionally, licensure is commonly required for instructional coordinators working in public schools. According to the BLS' 2010-2020 employment growth estimates, a faster-than-average rate of 20% was expected for instructional coordinators. As of May 2011, these professionals earned average salaries of almost $62,000, reported the BLS.
If you love math, but you're looking for a career with a higher earning potential than the education field may be able to offer, consider becoming a statistician. In this occupation, you will use various mathematical concepts to evaluate and translate information for different fields, such as economics, social policy, military and government. You can obtain an entry-level job with a bachelor's degree in math, statistics or a related field, but your job prospects may increase with a master's degree. An average 14% job growth from 2010-2020 was anticipated for statisticians, and May 2011 data showed them earning average annual incomes of more than $77,000, according to the BLS.