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Secondary Teacher Careers

Secondary teachers are often some of the people to have the greatest impact on our lives. If you'd like to change young minds for the better, this could be a prime career choice.

Unlike primary teachers who typically teach one group of students the whole school year, secondary teachers are usually responsible for teaching several different groups a day.

Secondary teachers tend to specialize in one subject, making it a great teaching job if you're passionate about one particular area. Even if you're more of a generalist, you'll likely never be bored as you stay busy with lesson planning, grading, and your daily instruction.

The age groups you can teach as a secondary teacher differ from district to district, but in general, you can expect to educate grades 6-12.

The prerequisites you'll need to become a secondary teacher vary depending on your region. However, the least that is usually required is a bachelor's degree in secondary education or the subject that you wish to teach. Additional teaching certificates may also be required.

In addition to the reward of knowing they're educating the next generation of leaders, secondary teachers earn an average annual salary around $49,000.

What Does a Secondary Teacher 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 and to enter the job market.

Duties

High school teachers typically do the following:

  • Plan lessons in the subjects they teach, such as biology 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 to monitor progress
  • 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, at lunchtime or during 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.

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.

High school teachers see several different classes of students throughout the day. They may teach the same material—for example, world history—to more than one class if the school has many students taking that subject.

Some high school teachers instruct special classes, such as art, music, and physical education.

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

In some schools, teachers of English as a second language (ESL) and teachers of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) 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 often are 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.

Some teachers maintain 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.

How To Become a Secondary Teacher

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

Education

All states require public high school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Most states require 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 fieldwork, such as student teaching. 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.

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. Those who teach in private schools are generally not required to be licensed. Most states require teachers to pass a background check.

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 vary by state. In addition to requiring a bachelor’s degree, states require teachers to complete a teacher preparation program and supervised experience in teaching, typically gained through student teaching. States also typically require candidates to pass a general teaching certification test, as well as a test that demonstrates their knowledge in the subject they will teach. Some states require teachers to have a minimum grade point average as well. For information on certification requirements in your state, visit Teach.org.

Often, teachers are required to complete annual professional development classes to keep their license. Some states require teachers to complete a master’s degree after receiving their certification.

All states offer an alternative route to certification 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.

Training

In order to receive certification, teachers need to undergo a period of fieldwork, commonly referred to as student teaching. During student teaching, they work with a mentor teacher and gain experience teaching students in a classroom setting. The amount of time required varies by state.

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.

Advancement

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 counselors, librarians, instructional coordinators, and elementary, middle, and high school principals.

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Average Salary
$51,048
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
4%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
35,080
Job Openings

Secondary Teacher Career Paths

Top Careers Before Secondary Teacher

Teacher
32.6 %

Top Careers After Secondary Teacher

Teacher
30.7 %

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Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Secondary Teacher

Secondary Teachers in America make an average salary of $51,048 per year or $25 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $74,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $35,000 per year.
Average Salary
$51,048

Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
New York, NY
Salary Range59k - 98k$77k$76,574
Richmond, CA
Salary Range56k - 102k$76k$75,920
Baltimore, MD
Salary Range58k - 95k$75k$74,601
Burien, WA
Salary Range50k - 84k$65k$65,262
Washington, DC
Salary Range50k - 82k$64k$64,474
Chicago, IL
Salary Range46k - 75k$59k$59,219
$31k
$102k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Bilingual Secondary (Middle/High School) Teacher (Twbi (Multiple Roles Available)
Bilingual Secondary (Middle/High School) Teacher (Twbi (Multiple Roles Available)
San Jose Unified School District
San Jose Unified School District
01/23/2021
01/23/2021
$57,42601/23/2021
$57,426
Secondary Teachers
Secondary Teachers
Council Bluffs Community School District
Council Bluffs Community School District
12/08/2020
12/08/2020
$45,11512/08/2020
$45,115
Secondary Teacher
Secondary Teacher
Great Falls Public Schools
Great Falls Public Schools
11/21/2020
11/21/2020
$36,16911/21/2020
$36,169
Secondary Teacher, Special ED A1
Secondary Teacher, Special ED A1
Geo Group Inc.
Geo Group Inc.
10/21/2020
10/21/2020
$38,78210/21/2020
$38,782
Teacher-Mathematics-Secondary (Apply Directly To Stem School. DO NOT Apply Online With Dscd)
Teacher-Mathematics-Secondary (Apply Directly To Stem School. DO NOT Apply Online With Dscd)
Dcsdk12
Dcsdk12
10/10/2020
10/10/2020
$40,00010/10/2020
$40,000
See More Recent Salaries

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Secondary Teacher Demographics

Gender

female

59.7 %

male

36.3 %

unknown

4.0 %

Ethnicity

White

74.6 %

Hispanic or Latino

11.3 %

Black or African American

8.0 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

50.9 %

French

23.6 %

German

5.5 %
See More Demographics

Secondary Teacher Education

Degrees

Masters

45.9 %

Bachelors

37.2 %

Certificate

7.0 %

Top Colleges for Secondary Teachers

1. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$50,420
Enrollment
7,582

2. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

3. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

4. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

5. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

6. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA • Public

In-State Tuition
$14,184
Enrollment
30,845

7. New York University

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,828
Enrollment
26,339

8. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Public

In-State Tuition
$15,262
Enrollment
30,079

9. Stanford University

Stanford, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

10. University of California - Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA • Public

In-State Tuition
$13,226
Enrollment
31,568
See More Education Info
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Internship
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Top Skills For a Secondary Teacher

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 12.4% of secondary teachers listed classroom management on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and patience are important as well.

  • Classroom Management, 12.4%
  • Student Learning, 12.1%
  • Public Schools, 8.7%
  • Lesson Plans, 8.0%
  • Professional Development, 7.3%
  • Other Skills, 51.5%
  • See All Secondary Teacher Skills

Best States For a Secondary Teacher

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a secondary teacher. The best states for people in this position are Alaska, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Secondary teachers make the most in Alaska with an average salary of $85,228. Whereas in Vermont and Connecticut, they would average $80,144 and $78,932, respectively. While secondary teachers would only make an average of $78,336 in Rhode Island, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Vermont

Total Secondary Teacher Jobs:
102
Highest 10% Earn:
$127,000
Location Quotient:
1.36
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Connecticut

Total Secondary Teacher Jobs:
456
Highest 10% Earn:
$125,000
Location Quotient:
1.41
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Maryland

Total Secondary Teacher Jobs:
962
Highest 10% Earn:
$118,000
Location Quotient:
1.55
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Secondary Teacher Employers

1. Baltimore City Public Schools
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$89,543
Secondary Teachers Hired: 
201+
2. Saint Paul Public Schools
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$36,089
Secondary Teachers Hired: 
21+
3. Lycee Francais de New York
3.9
Avg. Salary: 
$76,014
Secondary Teachers Hired: 
21+
4. Los Angeles Unified School District
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$62,859
Secondary Teachers Hired: 
20+
5. Potomac High School
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$65,273
Secondary Teachers Hired: 
8+
6. Brownsville Independent School District
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$54,248
Secondary Teachers Hired: 
8+

Secondary Teacher Videos

Updated October 2, 2020