High school teacher salary & career outlook

For many, teaching is much more than just a job. It has the potential to be one of the most rewarding career paths available, particularly if you can rise to the challenges inherent to the profession. If you're looking to make a difference in the lives of young people, a career as a high school teacher can provide that opportunity year after year.

High school teachers must be able to communicate clearly, prepare lesson plans, give specific and relevant feedback, grade papers and exams in a timely manner and meet with administrators and parents to discuss student progress. Most teachers work more than 40 hours per week and occasionally perform job tasks on nights and weekends, but they also enjoy school holidays and summers away from the classroom.

In general, the starting point for high school teachers is a degree in education, but in many cases, such as for public school teachers, there are state requirements for teaching credentials or licenses that must be met as well.

High school teacher salary information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual high school teacher salary in the U.S. was $58,260 as of May 2013. The highest-paid teachers, those in the upper 10 percent of the wage scale, earned $86,720 or more that year, and the bottom 10 percent of earners took home up to $37,230

High school teacher salaries can vary widely from state to state, with teachers in some places earning quite a bit more on average than the national average. Here are the five highest-paying states for high school teachers in 2013, based on average annual salaries as reported by the BLS:

  1. New York: $75,250
  2. Alaska: $71,040
  3. New Jersey: $70,870
  4. Rhode Island: $69,990
  5. Massachusetts: $69,340

However, many of the highest-paying areas for high school teachers also rank low on the affordability scale, according to the September 2014 Cost of Living Index (COLI) produced by the Center for Community and Economic Research. Here are a few metropolitan areas where everyday expenses are reportedly affordable but where high school teacher salary averages reported to the BLS were nonetheless better than average:

  • Detroit, Michigan: $64,720 mean annual salary; state ranked 5th in affordability
  • Akron, Ohio: $63,260 mean annual salary; state ranked 17th in affordability
  • Blacksburg, Virginia: $66,060 mean annual salary; state ranked 21st in affordability

Job outlook for high school teachers

The BLS reports an expectation of 6 percent employment growth nationwide for high school teachers between 2012 and 2022, which should lead to around 53,000 new positions. Candidates capable of teaching bilingual education classes or proficient in high-demand subjects such as mathematics or physics are likely to have the best employment prospects over the next several years. In addition, teachers who are willing to go to rural or underserved areas may find more opportunities, and in some cases, even assistance with paying back student loans, if they commit to working in the area for a certain time.

Certain states are projected to have job growth that is significantly better than the national average, and aspiring teachers who live in these states might potentially find more opportunities than those who live elsewhere. The states with the highest job growth for high school teachers between 2012 and 2022, according to Projections Central, include:

  • Georgia: 24.8% growth (5,360 new jobs)
  • Utah: 21.8% growth (1,510 new jobs)
  • Texas: 20.5% growth (20,210 new jobs)
  • New Mexico: 19.8% growth (1,120 new jobs)
  • Arizona: 14.8% growth (2,070 new jobs)

High school teacher licensing and certification

Education is a tightly regulated industry, and applicants who want to work in public schools must have both a bachelor's degree and a teaching license in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. High school teacher training online may be available, allowing potential career changers to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to make a career transition to classroom teaching.

While requirements vary by state, they almost always include a certain number of hours of supervised teaching experience and continuing education credit. Voluntary certification is also available in more than 25 subject areas by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Candidates can start the process online and take applicable exams at testing centers across the nation.

If you have a passion for teaching, want to play a role in educating the next generation and would like to earn a solid and stable salary, then a career as a high school teacher might be the right choice for you.

1. Cost of Living Data Series: Third Quarter 2014, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Missouri Department of Economic Development, http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm
2. Long Term Occupational Projections for Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education, Projections Central, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
3. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252031.htm
4. High School Teachers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm