How to Become a High School Teacher

High School Teacher Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $54,870
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 7.5%

When you become a high school teacher, your role is to educate students aged 14 to graduation.

You’ll be responsible for helping them to improve their literacy and numeracy, along with their knowledge and skills across a wide range of topics.

Working as a high school teacher can be a challenging role, but ultimately one which can be very rewarding.

A high school teacher works to determine the educational needs of their students, and then develop a learning plan to help them achieve great results.

As a teacher, you’re also responsible for the social and emotional development of your students.

To become a high school teacher, you’ll need to have a thorough understanding of the field you teach.

Also, you’ll need to be a strong communicator, as you will be working closely with your students.

It can often be difficult to remain approachable as a teacher, and also have your students respect you.

If you have a genuine passion for a particular subject, and want the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people, then a career as a high school teacher could be the right one for you.

Education Requirements to Become a High School Teacher

To become a high school teacher you will need a college education.

The minimum requirement is a four year bachelors teaching degree.

You should complete a major in the area that you want to teach in.

For instance, English or history.

At your sophomore year you will be able to take a teaching specialization.

This coursework will be made up of teaching methodology, as well as the opportunity to complete a teaching internship.

In every state, you are required to be licensed to work as a high school teacher in a public school.

However, in a private school this is not always the case.

Licensure requires that you have graduated from an accredited four year degree, have completed a specified amount of supervised teaching practice, and also pass an exam which will measure your basic literacy and numeracy.

Teachers are also required to take part in continuing education throughout their career.

A few states require that you eventually complete a master’s degree in teaching.

High School Teacher Job Description

A high school teacher spends a lot of their time working with students in the classroom.

When you become a high school teacher you will also need to dedicate time to preparing lesson plans, grading papers, and completing administrative work.

Here are some of the typical tasks of a high school teacher:

  • Lesson planning
  • Teaching classes
  • Working one-on-one with students
  • Marking student’s work
  • Discipline
  • Writing reports
  • Attending faculty meetings
  • Communicating with parents
  • Communicating with other teaching and administrative staff

High School Teacher Salary and Career Path

The median salary for a high school teacher with a few years of experience is between $47,000 and $51,000 a year.

A teacher starting out in a public school could expect to earn $35,000 in their first year.

Experienced teachers with extra responsibilities and duties can earn upwards of $75,000 a year.

This would include figures such as a principal or head of school.

Teaching in a private school usually pays less money, however may offer other benefits such as low cost housing.

Many teachers move on to specialized roles as they progress through their career.

They may work with special needs students, coordinate team sports, or become a principal or other supervisory figure.

There is plenty of room for career advancement within the education field.

Some similar roles to that of high school teacher include:

When you become a high school teacher, you can look forward to a career that will offer variety, as well as plenty of challenges along the way.

A teaching degree is one that will ensure job security for the rest of your working life, and also the chance to work in almost any location around the country, and indeed around the world.

If you love working with children and seeing them succeed, then you should become a high school teacher.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$74,510
New Hampshire$62,900
New Jersey$74,390
New Mexico$59,750
New York$94,690
North Carolina$50,630
North Dakota$59,750
Rhode Island$73,210
South Carolina$56,350
South Dakota$48,230
West Virginia$50,190
Puerto Rico$32,640
Virgin Islands$44,380

The top earning state in the field is New York, where the average salary is $94,690.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New York - $94,690
California - $92,350
Massachusetts - $85,740
Washington - $83,460
Connecticut - $82,790
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Middle School Teachers, OCC Code 25-2022, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a high school teacher do?

A high school teacher is a professional who teaches at private and public secondary schools (in most cases, from grades 9-12).

The main aim of a high school teacher is to prepare and teach technical, vocational, academic, and specialized subjects to students (those can be mathematics, language, science, music, drama, English, art, history, etc.).

To keep the students engaged in the learning process, a high school teacher would typically use visual aids, textbooks, informative lesson plans, and projects.

A teacher would have to, at one point, evaluate the knowledge of the students with the help of coursework and examinations.

A high school teacher might sometimes play the role of a counselor if there are any issues that the student wants to talk about; moreover, the teacher can advise on college and career plans.

How much do high school teachers make?

On average, a high school teacher can make a little more than $60.000 per year in the United States.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the school you work for, the location and so on.

Teachers in New York, California, and Massachusetts, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level high school teacher can earn around $19 per hour, while a top-level specialist with plenty of experience can make $44 and more per hour.

How much does it cost to become a high school teacher?

You would certainly need a bachelor’s degree in secondary teacher education with an area of concentration in a specific field (English, math, etc.) in order to become a high school teacher.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

To improve job perspectives, you can go for a master’s degree (over $30.000).

You must be certified to be able to teach in schools; the cost of teacher certification can vary from state to state, so be prepared to pay anywhere between $40 and $200.

What is the demand for high school teachers?

Between 2016 and 2026, the high school teacher job market is expected to grow by 7.5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is pretty much the same as the national average for all occupations in the United States.

The professionals that possess plenty of experience and certificates will have the best job prospects.

The industry is mainly concentrated in Texas, New York, and California.

How long does it take to become a high school teacher?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree and 1-2 years to earn a master’s degree.

To become a certified teacher, you would need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, complete an approved teacher education program, pass a background check and knowledge and skills tests.

The initial certificate is valid for 5 years; you would have to complete a certain number of professional development hours every five years to maintain the certification.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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