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Middle School Teacher

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(6.4 out of 10)

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Unemployment Rate

3.0 percent

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The transition from primary school to middle school can seem abrupt for students. Math problems requiring simple addition and subtraction suddenly become geometric theorems and algebraic equations. And the sufficient readying of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade minds for the rigors of high school academics emerges as a major point of emphasis. This is just one reason a middle school teacher’s job is so crucial. Effective middle school teachers spend significant time planning for the upcoming school day, says Nancy Poliseno, a middle-level educator of 25 years and the president of the Association for Middle Level Education. “They put in long hours preparing quality instruction and activities that engage their students in learning. And in addition to that, they spend long hours grading and assessing,” she says. “Middle school educators put in a lot of time before kids arrive in the mornings, and their time after school and on the weekends is extended as well.” Middle school teachers work in both private and public secondary schools, and most follow a 10-month schedule with two months off for summer break.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 12.4 percent employment growth for the profession by 2022, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This increase should translate to 76,000 new middle school teacher jobs. The positive job outlook is fueled by higher student enrollment, but growth depends on the region, since the amount state and local governments budget for new positions varies significantly.


In 2012, the median salary for middle school teachers was $53,430. The highest earners took home $82,190, while the lowest-paid brought in about $36,740. The highest-paid teachers reside in the metropolitan areas of Nassau, N.Y., Chico, Calif., and Napa, Calif.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $66,850
Median $53,430
25th Percentile $43,400


Those interested in becoming a middle school teacher must earn at least a bachelor’s degree in early education or a content area like math, science or English. Content-area majors almost always enroll in a teacher-preparation program (taking courses in education and child psychology) at an accredited university. Certain states require prospective middle school educators to go a step further and earn a master’s degree upon receiving their certification. All states require public-school middle educators to obtain a license or certification before they begin teaching. Private school teachers, however, are exempt from not only this rule but also other state requirements.

Prospective middle school teachers best gain experience through teacher-preparation programs because they provide an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of various teaching methods and child development. “A lot of your colleges and universities require teachers or people in their teacher program a lot of hours interning in classroom situations,” Poliseno says. “But a lot of people can also do that through coaching experiences, after-school programs or tutoring programs.”

Most states require teachers to pass a background check. While every state requires middle school teachers to earn a license or certification before they begin teaching, each state has its own set of rules for how that task is accomplished. Aspiring teachers might also be required to pass a general teaching certification test in their chosen content area. All states also offer alternate routes to certification for middle school teaching applicants who hold a bachelor’s but lack the training necessary to excel in the field. Information about alternative certification programs can be found through the National Center for Alternative Certification.

Reviews & Advice

Aside from communication and instructional skills, patience and endurance are essential for anyone interested in pursing a career in middle-level education. And a little self-criticism goes a long way, Poliseno says. “Teaching is such a series of failures and successes, and being able to stay positive within those and highlight your successes and learn from your failures year after year, and sometimes day after day, is important.” Strong content knowledge and a solid understanding of how students learn are other indispensable skills.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility fair Average
Stress Level fair Average
Flexibility poor Below Average
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Last updated by Casey Quinlan.

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