Do You Have What It Takes for a Career in Teaching? Part 4

Spotlight: High School Teachers

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.

Instructional skills. 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.

Patience. Working with high school students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. High school teachers must be patient when students struggle with material.7

Leadership skills. High school teachers are responsible for the classroom learning environment. This means they will need to be able to set and enforce rules, manage disruptive behavior, and discipline appropriately.

Typical 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 as an entire class or in small groups
  • Grade student assignments to monitor progress
  • Communicate with parents about student 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
  • 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 teach one or two of the subjects or classes a high school student has throughout the day. For example, they may teach government and history .8

Education Required 

All states require public high school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. This bachelor’s degree can be earned through online colleges and universities or through on-campus institutions. Most states require high school teachers to major in a content area, such as chemistry , history, or math. While majoring in a content area, future teachers typically enroll in an on-campus or online teacher preparation program.

Some states require high school teachers to earn a master’s degree after earning their teaching certification. It is common for individuals currently working as a teacher to earn their Master’s in Education by taking online classes. Online classes allow a working adult the flexibility to earn college credits anytime, anywhere.

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 major in a content area.9

Teacher Certification

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed (certified).10

High school teachers earn a secondary or high school certification. This allows them to teach the 7th through the 12th grades.

Requirements for certification vary by state. However, all states require at least a bachelor’s degree and completion of a teacher preparation program. Some states require a minimum grade point average.

States 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.

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.11

Your Teacher’s Education Checklist

As you contemplate whether or not a teaching career is right for you, review this checklist:

  1. Are you patient?
  2. Do you have good communication skills?
  3. Are you a natural teacher?
  4. Can you engage young people?
  5. Do you have good people skills?
  6. Are you organized?
  7. Are you a good listener?
  8. Are you adaptable?
  9. Would you make a good role model?
  10. Do you enjoy interacting with the public?

If you answer yes to most of these questions, there’s a good chance that a career in education would be a great fit – and that you do indeed have what it takes to become a teacher.

7 Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a High School Teacher, 2012, p.1

8 Bureau of Labor Statistics, What High School Teachers Do, 2012, p.1

9 Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a High School Teacher, 2012, p.1



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