High school teachers work with a variety of students in grades 9-12. Learn why working with teens in a classroom setting might be the right line of work for you. 

High school teachers typically instruct students in grades 9 through 12. They often specialize in a specific subject while doing the following:

  • Planning lessons and adapting them to meet the needs of their class.
  • Working with students one-on-one or in small groups when additional instruction is needed.
  • Grading homework and exams.
  • Maintaining an orderly classroom and learning environment.

If you're interested in a high school teaching career, you'll have to select a specific subject to teach, such as math, science or English. You can also specialize in one of the following ways:

  • Foreign language teachers are bilingual and teach students how to speak, write and read other languages. Learn more about becoming an ESL teacher.
  • Driver education teachers have a special license or certification from the state that allows them to teach teens how to operate motor vehicles and follow traffic laws.
  • Home economics and career and technical teachers provide instruction in skilled work such as sewing, baking, welding, mechanics and similar fields

How to become a high school teacher

Becoming a high school teacher requires following a very specific career path. The process can vary by state, but you should expect to follow the same general steps regardless of where you live:

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree. When it comes to high school teacher degree requirements, all states say educators must have at least a bachelor's degree. In addition to studying education, your high school teacher degree program will likely have you choose an academic subject such as math or science as a major. Many schools offer education degrees through distance learning, and you may be able to complete many of your program requirements by taking online courses.
  2. Complete a student-teaching experience. This is one part of an education degree that can't be completed with online courses. Student-teaching pairs students with experienced teachers so they can gain hands-on experience in the classroom.
  3. Become licensed or certified. Depending on your state, you'll need to either be licensed or certified to work as a teacher. The requirements can vary but most states will require you to graduate from an approved bachelor's degree program that includes a student-teaching component, pass a background test and pass a certification exam. If you already have a bachelor's degree in a field other than education, your state may allow you to follow an alternate path to certification.
  4. Meet continuing education requirements: High school teaching careers require ongoing education. States may stipulate educators complete a certain number of professional development or continuing education courses to renew their teaching license.

Skills and abilities needed for a high school teacher career

A high school teacher degree alone doesn't guarantee a successful career. You also need to cultivate the following skillset:


  • Active Listening: Good teachers don't zone out when listening to others. They pay attention and ask questions to make sure they understand what students or parents are saying.
  • Learning Strategies: High school teachers may have students of various ages and abilities. They need to be able to select the best teaching method for a class in order to be effective.
  • Instructing: It may seem obvious, but a high school teacher needs to be able to share information in a way that students can understand.


  • Deductive Reasoning: Whether they are overseeing a lab experiment or mediating a dispute between classmates, teachers are problem-solvers. They must be able to use deductive reasoning to review an issue and determine the solution that makes sense.
  • Oral Expression: Classroom lessons are often delivered as lectures, and teachers must be able to make themselves understood while speaking.
  • Problem Sensitivity: A teacher's job may be easier when they can anticipate in advance what might go wrong. This ability is known as problem sensitivity.

Job outlook and salary for high school teachers

Most teaching jobs range in pay and job outlook based on factors like experience, education level completed, and location. In general, you might expect the following numbers in the coming years:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education1,035,850$65,930
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Professional organizations for high school teachers

School Counselor
Interested in helping others and have a passion for working in an academic environment? A career as a guidance counselor can be rewarding as you help student address academic, social, and career concerns and goals. Learn what you need to know on your journey to become a school counselor.
ESL Teacher

Communicating well in English is an important part of living in the U.S., and ESL teachers can be a great help to anyone trying to learn. Find out more about becoming an ESL teacher and the types of degree program that can lead to an ESL teaching career.

Middle School Teacher

Working with adolescents in a classroom setting can be challenging yet rewarding. Learn more about a career as a middle school teacher, below. 

Article Sources
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers, Accessed March 2019,
  • Secondary School Teachers, O*Net OnLine, Accessed March 2019,