How to Become a High School Teacher
If your goal is to become a teacher, you probably have a specific age group of students in mind. Some people envision themselves working with very young children who are just starting to learn, while others like the idea of working with high school students, whose minds and personalities are really coming into their own. Whichever is your preference, you'd be wise to focus on it from the beginning of your pursuit of an education degree. Both the degree requirements themselves, and the nature of the jobs, differ between elementary and secondary school education.
For those interested in a path toward secondary school education, the following is an overview of the characteristics of high school teachers and secondary education degree requirements.
Special Characteristics of High School Teachers
If you want to become a high school teacher, you probably have a general idea of some of the basic requirements of teaching, such as:
- Good communication skills
- High energy level
- Ability to command respect
- Solid knowledge of a particular subject
- Diligence for evaluating tests and papers
In addition though, there are some special needs required of high school teachers, because of the nature of students at that stage of life:
- The ability to assess and guide students toward possible career interests. Being able to help students find a path that matches their interests and aptitudes helps make some high school teachers special.
- The persistence to encourage students who are struggling. High school teachers have to strike a balance between pushing students to achieve and not losing them as dropouts.
- An awareness of potential threats to student safety. Given the emotional changes that adolescents go through, some can become a danger to themselves and others. A perceptive teacher can make all the difference in defusing a potentially harmful situation.
Secondary Education Degree Requirements
To become a high school teacher, you will need a bachelor's degree from an accredited secondary education school program. This is likely to have the following elements:
- A major in the area you intend make your primary subject matter for teaching. High school teachers normally specialize, so you may need some advanced knowledge in your chosen field.
- An accompanying program in teaching preparation. This may or may not be a second major, but in any case is likely to include a significant class load of education-related topics and techniques.
- Student-teaching experience. Many secondary education schools expect their students to get out into the classroom as interns before the completion of their studies.
In addition to this educational component, each state requires public school teachers to be licensed. The exact requirements vary from state to state. Private school teachers are often not required to be licensed, but obtaining licensure increases your job flexibility and can add to your earning potential.
Speaking of earning potential, secondary school teachers earn a good, though not spectacular, income, solidly above the national median. Employment in the field is expected to grow, albeit at a modest rate. Because dropout rates increase as the educational level progresses, job growth for elementary teachers is expected to exceed that for secondary school teachers.
As you contemplate your career direction, becoming a high school teacher is an option which would allow you to have an influence on future generations as they face similar decisions in the years ahead.
National Compensation Survey(pdf)
Teachers: Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, and Secondary
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