How to Become a High School Teacher
High school teachers need to explain difficult concepts in terms students can understand.
High school teachers typically must have at least a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.
All states require public high school teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree, which may be in education. Many states require high school teachers to have majored in a content area, such as mathematics or science.
Teacher education programs typically provide instruction on presenting information to students of different abilities and backgrounds. Programs typically include a student-teaching program, in which prospective teachers work with a mentor teacher and get experience instructing students in a classroom. 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 and obtaining a job.
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 in the specific grade level they will teach. Those who teach in private schools typically are not required to be licensed.
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 or licensure vary by state but generally involve the following:
- A bachelor’s degree with a minimum grade point average
- Completion of a student-teaching program
- Passing a background check
- Passing a general teaching certification test, as well as a test that demonstrates their knowledge in the subject they will teach.
For information on certification requirements in your state, visit Teach.org.
Teachers often are required to complete professional development classes to keep their license or certification. Some states require teachers to complete a master’s degree after receiving their certification and obtaining a job.
All states offer an alternative route to certification or licensure 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 with supervision by an experienced teacher. These programs cover teaching methods and other topics, such as resource management. After they complete the program, candidates are awarded full certification. Other programs require students to take classes in education before they can teach.
Communication skills. Teachers must share ideas with their students, other teachers, and school administrators and staff. In addition, they need to discuss students’ progress with parents.
Patience. High school teachers must stay calm in difficult situations, such as when students struggle with material.
Resourcefulness. High school teachers need to engage students in learning and adapt lessons to each student’s needs.
Experienced teachers may advance to serve as mentors to new teachers; they may also become a lead teacher. In these positions, they help less experienced teachers 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.