Becoming a Teacher: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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What are some pros and cons of becoming a teacher? Read below to find out information about job duties, salary and job prospects to see whether this is the right job for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Teacher

Teachers plan and implement lessons with a variety of means, including classroom presentation, active learning, student group work and technological resources. Find out some of the pros and cons of being a teacher to see if it is a good job for you.

Pros of Becoming a Teacher
Average job growth between 2012-2022 (12% for kindergarten and elementary teachers)*
Opportunities for added job security after teachers reach tenured status in most states*
May teach in a variety of school settings, from rural to urban communities*
The ability to be a positive influence to students*
Two month break during summers in most settings*

Cons of Becoming a Teacher
Jobs for high school teachers will grow slower than average (6%)
The lowest 10% of teachers earned $36,000-$37,000
Most teachers in public schools must comply with state curriculum*
Stress from unruly students or demanding workload can negatively impact teachers*
Job competition*
Many teachers work over 40 hours per week during the school year*

Source: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Salary and Job Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary of elementary and middle school teachers was $54,120 and $54,940, respectively in 2014. High school teachers earned slightly more, with a median annual salary of $56,310. Job prospects are good for most teachers, but those who can teach subjects such as math, science or English should have more job options than vocational teachers. Also, teachers should experience a rise in positions in the Western and Southern regions of the United States. Jobs for elementary teachers are expected to grow 12% between 2012 and 2022; however, jobs for high school teachers will grow only 6%.

Duties and Responsibilities

Teachers may provide instruction in one subject, such as math, reading, science or social studies, or they may teach a variety of subjects. They're responsible for creating lesson plans, lecturing, assigning work and assessing students' knowledge and work. It's a teacher's duty to maintain a sense of discipline and an environment conducive to learning. Teachers also prepare report cards and set up meetings with parents to discuss students' progress. The main difference between elementary school and high school teachers is that the elementary teachers usually teach a number of subjects, while high school teachers often specialize in one subject area.

Job Requirements

Education and Licensing Requirements

Teachers in public schools need to have a bachelor's degree and a state teaching license. Private schools usually do not require their teachers to be licensed, but private school teachers still need a bachelor's degree. While licensing requirements vary by each state, most states require public school teachers to complete a state-approved teacher education program, which includes supervised teaching experiences that typically meet state licensing requirements. Most states also require that public teacher candidates pass national or state licensing exams.

What Employers Look For

You should have excellent communication skills, organizational abilities and creative capabilities. As a teacher, you need to make impactful lesson plans and help students retain information from lectures and assignments. You should also have good follow-up skills, because teachers need to check for learning progress and develop alternative solutions in situations where students do not grasp the material. Additionally, a teacher should be an ethical and trustworthy resource for students. The following March 2012 job postings from Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com illustrate skills employers are looking for in teacher candidates:

  • A charter school in Chicago requires a high school math teacher who can create lesson plans, lead professional development programs perform student assessments. Applicants need a bachelor's degree and teacher certification in math.
  • A private elementary school in Tallahassee seeks a 5th grade teacher who can develop lessons for students with special needs. A bachelor's degree, a teaching certificate and 3 years of experience was required.
  • An independent middle school in California is looking for social studies teachers with previous experience working in independent schools. This teaching position is for advanced teachers who have at least 5 years of experience. A master's degree is preferred.

How to Stand Out in the Field

If you know you want to be a teacher, you might consider teaching math, science or language, because teachers of these subjects should have an easier time finding a job. You may also want to become a certified teacher. Obtaining professional certification has multiple potential benefits, including a higher salary and educational reimbursement. In addition, teachers who have earned a master's degree in education are often rewarded with higher pay.

Other Related Career Options

If a teacher's responsibilities and duties are too demanding or if the education and licensing requirements are too high, you might consider becoming a teacher assistant. As a teacher assistant, you can still work in the classroom and help students learn, but you will not likely be responsible for lesson planning and curriculum development. Teacher assistants have a wide range of duties, including supporting student learning, demonstrating or illustrating lessons, grading assignments, supervising or filling in where a classroom teacher requires assistance. A high school degree is usually necessary for these positions, but some schools and positions require a 2-year teacher assistant degree. In 2011, teacher assistants made a median salary of $24,000. Teacher assistant positions are expected to grow at about as fast as average between 2010 and 2020.

If you prefer to advance beyond a teacher's position, you could become a school administrator. These professionals usually begin their careers as teachers and then advance to positions such as assistant principal or principal. These positions also require state licensure and at least a master's degree, typically in educational administration or educational leadership. School administrators work with students and teachers in the educational system, but they are also responsible for the overall operation of the school. School administrators visit classrooms, monitor teacher growth and effectiveness, create and oversee policy and make other operational decisions. Elementary and secondary school administrators earned a median salary of $87,000 in 2011. Jobs in this field are expected to grow 10% between 2010 and 2020.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - General Education
      • EdD - Learning Analytics in Higher Education
    Master's
      • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • MEd - General Education
      • MEd - PK-12 Principal Leadership
      • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Certificate in Science, Technology, and International Security Studies
      • Certificate in Science Writing
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Secondary Education with OATCERT Certificate
      • MS - Special Education with Wilson Reading Certificate
    Certificate
      • Certificate - Online Accelerated Teacher (OATCERT)
      • Certificate - Special Education
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Concordia University Nebraska

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.Ed. In Curriculum and Instruction with Instructional Technology Leadership Emphasis
      • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with Curriculum Supervisor Certification
      • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with ESL/ELL Emphasis
      • M.Ed. in Literacy with Reading Specialist Emphasis
      • M.Ed. in Literacy with Reading Specialist and ESL Emphasis
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Literacy
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
  • Online Programs Available
    7. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Master of Education - Elementary Education
      • Master of Education - Secondary Education
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Higher Education Administration
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - Dyslexia Studies & LBLD
      • MEd in Curriculum & Instruction
      • MEd in Curriculum & Instruction - Reading Specialist
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices

Featured Schools

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
  • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Certificate in Science, Technology, and International Security Studies
  • Certificate in Science Writing

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Secondary Education with OATCERT Certificate
  • MS - Special Education with Wilson Reading Certificate
  • Certificate - Online Accelerated Teacher (OATCERT)
  • Certificate - Special Education

What is your highest level of education completed?

Concordia University Nebraska

  • M.Ed. In Curriculum and Instruction with Instructional Technology Leadership Emphasis
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with Curriculum Supervisor Certification

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint John's University

  • Ph.D. in Literacy
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
  • Master of Education - Elementary Education
  • Master of Education - Secondary Education

Are you a US citizen?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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