Pros and Cons of Becoming a High School Teacher
High school teachers instruct students in the 9th-12th grades, making lesson plans, developing and administering tests, and grading papers. Consider the pros and cons of this career to decide if becoming a high school teacher is right for you.
|Pros of Becoming a High School Teacher|
|Can be personally rewarding*|
|Long vacation in summer and regular breaks throughout year**|
|Job available anywhere*|
|Variety in daily activities**|
|Cons of Becoming a High School Teacher|
|Below average job growth (just 6% from 2012-2022)*|
|Can be stressful*|
|May have to earn master's degree*|
|Must be licensed*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **National Education Association.
Essential Career Information
Most high school teachers work in public or private schools. In addition to teaching classes, they also communicate with parents about their teen's progress, attend faculty meetings, and work at home grading papers and planning lessons. Teachers may also spend some of their after-school hours and weekends advising extracurricular clubs, coaching athletic and academic teams, or supervising students at lunch, at assemblies, and on field trips.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment for high school teachers would increase by 6% from 2012-2022, slower than average for all occupations. The BLS also reported that job prospects would be best in the South and West, which have high population growth, and worst in the Northeast, where enrollments are declining. Employment opportunities will be strong in urban and rural areas and more competitive in the suburbs.
The subject you teach will affect your marketability. The BLS shows that many schools report trouble finding qualified math and science teachers, especially those who can teach chemistry and physics. Special education teachers and teachers of English as a second language are also in demand, according to the BLS.
According to the BLS, in May 2014 the median annual salary for high school teachers was $56,310, with the middle half earning $45,010-$71,580 and the 90th percentile making $88,910.
What Are the Requirements?
All states mandate that high school teachers have at least a bachelor's degree. While prospective teachers usually major in the subject they wish to teach, opportunities are also available to major in secondary education and their subject matter as a double major or minor. In either case, they take classes in their content area as well as education courses. Most programs require student teaching in a real classroom.
Public high school teachers must earn a secondary school teaching certificate or license. They must meet the state's education and training requirements, as well as pass a teaching exam and a test in the subject they will teach. Teachers must maintain their teaching certificates by completing continuing education classes. Private school teachers do not need a license; however, it is strongly preferred.
What Employers Look for
Judging by the number of job postings, math and science teachers are in great demand. Postings also show that employers are looking for teachers who can adapt to new technologies and methods of teaching. Here are real job postings from April 2012:
- A high school in Iowa needed a licensed language arts/social studies teacher who had excellent communications skills and could help create a positive work environment. The posting emphasized that this job would go to a teacher who was willing to work hard for the entire scheduled day.
- A health sciences charter high school in Illinois was looking for a math teacher with a passion for helping students perform at grade level. The teacher needed a bachelor's degree and a Type 9 certification with math and applied math endorsements.
- In Massachusetts, a high school was seeking a science teacher with a license to teach biology. The teacher needed at least three years of experience with at-risk special needs students.
- A virtual school based in Wyoming was looking for a health and physical education teacher to monitor student progress and advance learning. The teacher must be willing to sponsor one virtual club and have enough technological knowledge to help students with basic computer troubleshooting.
How to Make Your Skills Stand out
Become a Lead Teacher
Sometimes experienced teachers act as mentors to new teachers in their schools. High school teachers can earn certification as lead teachers in a particular subject, such as math or science. As a lead teacher, you can also help close the achievement gap in urban schools.
Earn National Board Certification
Earning National Board Certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) demonstrates that teachers meet national standards for teaching excellence. Students benefit when taught by a board certified teacher, the NBPTS notes, and some states and school districts provide supplemental pay to these teachers. The NBPTS offers 16 subject areas in which you can obtain certification. You will need to submit three classroom based portfolio entries and one based on your work outside the school.
Join an Association
You'll find many opportunities to improve your skills by joining a professional association for teachers of your subject. These associations give you access to professional development opportunities at national conventions, through online learning and professional learning communities. You can network with other association members. Some associations offer professional certifications to members who meet education and experience requirements.
Other Career Alternatives
Elementary School Teacher
If you like teaching, but aren't sure about working with teens, perhaps you should consider becoming an elementary school teacher. Like high school teachers, elementary school teachers must hold a bachelor's degree and a state license. The job outlook is a bit better for elementary teachers, with the BLS predicting 17% job growth from 2010-2020. In May 2011, the median annual salary for an elementary or kindergarten teacher was about $53,000, the BLS reported.
Librarians work in public or private educational institutions. As a librarian, you help people research information, maintain the library's resources and do other tasks necessary to keep the library running. You'll need a master's degree in library science to obtain this position. To work in a school library, you may need a teaching certificate. The BLS forecasted only 7% job growth from 2010-2020, and the median annual salary for librarians was about $55,000 in May 2011.