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High School Teacher

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Overall Score
(6.6 out of 10)

Number of Jobs


Median Salary


Unemployment Rate

3.6 percent

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You’ll need a talent for dealing with teens and a keen interest in teaching at least one specialized subject if you’re going to be a high school teacher (also known as a secondary school teacher). Teachers at this level specialize in subjects such as English, math, chemistry and art. Typically in a large suburban high school, where the student body circulates among five or six classes, you could teach more than 100 different students every day. Beyond the curriculum, you’ll also have a counseling role, helping students with adult issues they are experiencing, or soon will, and advising them on college and career plans. Additional responsibilities can include study hall duty, organizing field trips and leading extracurricular activities.

Between 2012 and 20122, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 5.5 percent employment growth for high school teachers, which is slower than the average for all occupations. Overall, 52,900 new jobs will be created, but growth is expected to vary by region. The demand for high school teachers mirrors projected increases in student enrollment in the next decade. Slight declines in student-to-teacher ratios are also expected.


The BLS reports the median annual salary for high school teachers was $55,050 in 2012. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made approximately $85,690, while the bottom 10 percent made $36,930. Compensation is typically based on years of experience and educational level. Additionally, salaries and benefit packages can differ at public and private institutions. The highest-paid in the profession work in the metropolitan areas of Nassau, N.Y., Santa Ana, Calif., and New York City.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $69,310
Median $55,050
25th Percentile $44,220


The employment requirements for high school teachers vary between public and private institutions. In addition to receiving their bachelor’s degree, educators at public schools must obtain a state-issued license. These licenses are frequently acquired through a teacher-education program. Prospective teachers at four-year colleges usually enroll in this program concurrently to save time and money, and they often complete student teaching as part of their training. Future educators should attend a nationally accredited program. Each state and the District of Columbia has its own licensing requirements, although some states recognize the licenses of others and extend reciprocity to individuals holding sufficient credentials. Educators at private schools have noticeably less red tape because most private institutions lack the licensing requirements of public schools, but they typically still require all teachers to possess a bachelor’s degree.

Reviews & Advice

Schools want dynamic, knowledgeable educators who are attuned to the needs of individual students. “Schools do not just want someone who is an excellent lecturer or has great ‘platform’ skills,” wrote National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel in an email. “Secondary students don’t want someone to stand there and lecture.” While shaping and presenting yourself as the ideal candidate is important, how you convey that information to prospective schools is equally crucial. “On securing a secondary school position, I would never advise anyone only to go through HR,” Van Roekel writes. “Prospective secondary teachers should target the principals and department chairs of the schools where they would like to teach and let them know why they would like to teach there.” Further, Van Roekel advises prospective candidates to seek out opportunities to become part of the community before setting their sights on employment within the school of their choice.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility poor Below Average
Stress Level fair Average
Flexibility good Above Average
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Last updated by Harriet Edleson.

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