Middle School Teachers

Summary

middle school teachers image
Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary schools to prepare them for the more difficult subjects and lessons in high school.
Quick Facts: Middle School Teachers
2012 Median Pay $53,430 per year
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Internship/residency
Number of Jobs, 2012 614,400
Job Outlook, 2012-22 12% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 76,000

What Middle School Teachers Do

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.

Work Environment

Middle school teachers work in public and private schools. They generally work school hours when students are present, and use nights and weekends to prepare lessons and grade papers. Most do not work during the summer.

How to Become a Middle School Teacher

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

Pay

The median annual wage for middle school teachers was $53,430 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of middle school teachers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth is projected due to expected increases in enrollment combined with declines in student–teacher ratios. However, employment growth will vary by region.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of middle school teachers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about middle school teachers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Middle School Teachers Do About this section

Middle school teachers
Some middle school teachers specialize in teaching a particular subject, such as science or math.

Middle school teachers educate students typically in sixth through eighth grade. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals taught in elementary school and prepare students for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.

Duties

Middle school teachers typically do the following:

  • Plan lessons that teach students a subject, such as biology and history
  • Assess students to evaluate their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Teach lessons they have planned to an entire class or to smaller groups
  • Grade students’ assignments to monitor their progress
  • Communicate with parents about their child’s progress
  • Work with students individually to help them overcome specific learning challenges
  • 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

Middle school teachers generally teach students from sixth to eighth grades. However, in some school districts, they may teach students as early as fourth grade or as late as ninth grade.

In many schools, middle school teachers are responsible for only some of the subjects their students learn throughout the day. For example, one teacher may be responsible for teaching English and social studies while another is responsible for teaching math and science. Some middle school instructors teach specialized classes, such as art, music, or physical education. 

Often, students change classrooms several times a day to attend lessons in different subjects. As a result, middle school teachers in these schools see several different classes of students throughout the day. In some schools, middle school teachers teach all the subjects for one class of students the entire day. In either type of school, teachers use time during the day when they do not have classes to plan lessons, grade assignments, or meet with other teachers and staff.

Some middle school teachers work in teams that teach the same group of students. These teachers meet to discuss students’ progress and to plan future lessons.

In some schools, teachers of English as a second language (ESL) or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) work exclusively with students who are learning English. These students are often referred to as English language learners (ELLs). ESL and ESOL teachers work with students individually or in groups to help them improve their English skills and to help the students with assignments for their other classes.

Middle school teachers also work with special education teachers to adapt lessons taught in traditional classes to the needs of students with learning disabilities and emotional or behavioral disorders. Middle school teachers also monitor the progress of these students. In some cases, middle school teachers may co-teach lessons with special education teachers.

Some teachers maintain websites to communicate with parents about students’ assignments, upcoming events, and grades. For their students, teachers may create websites or discussion boards to present information or to expand a lesson taught in class.

Some middle school teachers coach sports teams and advise student clubs and groups, whose practices and meetings frequently take place before or after school.

Work Environment About this section

Middle school teachers
Middle school teachers may advise clubs or meet with students and parents before or after school.

Middle school teachers held about 614,400 jobs in 2012. The majority of middle school teachers work in public and private schools.

Most states have tenure laws, which mean that after a certain number of years of teaching satisfactorily, teachers have some job security.

Seeing students develop new skills and gain an appreciation for knowledge and learning can be very rewarding. However, teaching may be stressful. Some schools have large classes and lack important teaching tools, such as computers and current textbooks. Most teachers are held accountable for their students’ performance on standardized tests, which can be frustrating. Occasionally, teachers must cope with unmotivated or disrespectful students.

Work Schedules

Middle school teachers generally work school hours when students are present. They may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. Teachers who coach sports or advise clubs generally do so before or after school. Teachers often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. 

Many work the traditional 10-month school year, with a 2-month break during the summer. Some teachers teach summer programs. Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row, are on break for 1 week before starting a new school session, and have a 5-week midwinter break.

How to Become a Middle School Teacher About this section

Middle school teachers
Middle school teachers need good communications skills in order to discuss students’ needs with parents and administrators.

Middle 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 middle school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Many states require middle school teachers to major in a content area, such as math or science. Other states require middle school teachers to major in elementary education. Those who major in a content area typically enroll in their university’s teacher preparation program and take classes in education and child psychology in addition to the classes required by their major.

Teacher education programs teach prospective middle school teachers 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 middle school teachers to earn a master’s degree after receiving their teaching certification.

Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools typically seek middle school teachers who have a bachelor’s degree and a major in elementary education or a content area.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed or certified. Those who teach in private schools are not usually required to be licensed.

Certification of middle school teachers varies considerably from state to state. In some states, they are certified to teach elementary school grades, which are typically first through sixth grades or first through eighth grades. In other states, they are certified to teach middle school grades, which include sixth through eighth grades. Still other states provide middle school teachers with a secondary school or high school certification, which often includes seventh through twelfth grades.

Requirements for certification also vary by state. However, all states require teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. They also require completing a teacher preparation program and supervised experience in teaching, which is typically gained through student teaching. 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 of the subject they will teach. For information on certification requirements in your state, visit Teach.org.

Teachers are often required to complete annual professional development classes to keep their license. Most states require teachers to pass a background check, and 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 after graduation, 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 of these programs. For more information about alternative certification programs, visit Teach-Now.

Training

In order to receive certification, teachers need to perform fieldwork, commonly referred to as student teaching. During student teaching, they work with a mentor teacher and get 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, they need to discuss students’ needs with parents and administrators.

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

Resourcefulness. Middle school teachers need to be able to explain difficult concepts in terms that students can understand. In addition, they need to be able to get students engaged in learning and adapt lessons to each student’s needs.

Advancement                    

Experienced teachers can advance to serve as mentors to newer teachers or to become lead teachers. In these positions, they help less experienced teachers to 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, both of which generally require additional education 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.

Pay About this section

Middle School Teachers

Median annual wages, May 2012

Middle school teachers

$53,430

Education, training, and library occupations

$46,020

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for middle school teachers was $53,430 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,740, and the top 10 percent earned more than $82,190.

Middle school teachers generally work school hours when students are present. They may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. Teachers who coach sports or advise clubs generally do so before or after school. Teachers often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons.

Many work the traditional 10-month school year, with a 2-month break during the summer. Some teachers teach summer programs. Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row, are on break for 1 week before starting a new school session, and have a 5-week midwinter break.                            

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, middle school teachers had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012.

Job Outlook About this section

Middle School Teachers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Middle school teachers

12%

Education, training, and library occupations

11%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of middle school teachers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth is projected due to expected increases in enrollment combined with declines in student–teacher ratios. However, employment growth will vary by region.

From 2012 to 2022, the student–teacher ratio across schools is expected to decline slightly. This ratio is the number of students for each teacher in the school. A decline in the ratio means that each teacher is responsible for fewer students, and, consequently, more teachers are needed to teach the same number of students.

In addition, the number of students in middle schools is expected to increase over the coming decade, and the number of classes needed to accommodate these students is projected to rise also. As a result, more teachers will be required to teach the additional classes of middle school students.

Although overall student enrollment is expected to grow, there will be some variation by region. Enrollment is expected to grow fastest in the South and West. In the Midwest, enrollment is projected to hold steady; the Northeast is projected to have declines. As a result, employment growth for middle school teachers is expected to be greater in the South and West than in the Midwest and Northeast.

Despite expected increases in enrollment, employment growth for middle school teachers will depend on state and local government budgets. When state and local governments experience budget deficits, they may lay off employees, including teachers. As a result, employment growth of middle school teachers may be somewhat reduced by state and local government budget difficulties.

Job Prospects

From 2012 to 2022, a significant number of older teachers are expected to reach retirement age. Their retirement will create job openings for new teachers. The short supply of teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) and special education teachers will further result in job opportunities.

Middle school teachers with education or certifications to teach these specialties should have better job opportunities.

However, there is wide variation of job opportunities by region. Some regions of the country, such as the Northwest, are experiencing a surplus of teachers. Other regions, such as the Southeast, are experiencing a shortage. Furthermore, opportunities may be better in urban and rural school districts than in suburban school districts.

Employment projections data for middle school teachers, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Middle school teachers, except special and career/technical education

25-2022 614,400 690,400 12 76,000 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of middle school teachers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Career and technical education teachers

Career and Technical Education Teachers

Career and technical education teachers instruct students in various technical and vocational subjects, such as auto repair, healthcare, and culinary arts. They teach academic and technical content to provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to enter an occupation.

Bachelor’s degree $51,910
Child care workers

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers care for children when parents and other family members are unavailable. They care for children’s basic needs, such as bathing and feeding. In addition, some help children prepare for kindergarten or help older children with homework.

High school diploma or equivalent $19,510
Elementary, middle, and high school principals

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

Elementary, middle, and high school principals are responsible for managing all school operations. They manage daily school activities, coordinate curricula, and oversee teachers and other school staff to provide a safe and productive learning environment for students.

Master’s degree $87,760
High school teachers

High School Teachers

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.

Bachelor’s degree $55,050
Instructional coordinators

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators oversee school curriculums and teaching standards. They develop instructional material, coordinate its implementation with teachers and principals, and assess its effectiveness.

Master’s degree $60,050
Librarians

Librarians

Librarians help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use. Their job duties may change based on the type of library they work in, such as public, school, and medical libraries.

Master’s degree $55,370
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

See How to Become One $68,970
Preschool teachers

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers educate and care for children, usually ages 3 to 5, who have not yet entered kindergarten. They teach reading, writing, science, and other subjects in a way that young children can understand.

Associate’s degree $27,130
School and Career Counselors

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help students develop social skills and succeed in school. Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions, by helping them choose a career or educational program.

Master’s degree $53,610
Social workers

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers, clinical social workers, also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

See How to Become One $44,200
Special education teachers

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Bachelor’s degree $55,060
Teacher assistants

Teacher Assistants

Teacher assistants work under a teacher’s supervision to give students additional attention and instruction.

Some college, no degree $23,640
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Middle School Teachers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm (visited April 24, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014