Teaching is one of the most satisfying things that someone can do. The feeling of seeing a student finally grasp a difficult concept is almost indescribable. Most of us are familiar with this feeling through our time with young family members or with friends. Teachers, however, are able to experience this feeling on a daily basis. Teaching at a high school level can be especially satisfying, since you’re directly overseeing the development of a student at one of the most vital stages of their lives. I’m sure you’ve heard at least one story in your life about someone who decides to join a certain profession because they had a really good teacher in a certain subject. Tech revolutionary Steve Jobs credits one of his middle school teachers for allowing him to obtain his full potential.
On paper, being a high school teacher seems really great. You get to teach others about a subject that you’re passionate about, and the age of your students means that you typically don’t have to worry about behavior like you would if you were teaching elementary aged kids. However, a lot of people say that teachers are paid poorly. You can just turn on the news and see that there’s a nationwide sentiment that teachers at every level should be paid more than they actually are. Is there any truth to that thought? Are high school teachers paid well? In this article, I intend to answer that question among a few others. I’ll go over the average salary for high school teachers, and how that figure can vary based upon things like experience and location. I’ll also talk about what someone needs to do if they want to become a teacher.
High School Teachers Average Salary in 2018 – $57,200
According to national data, the median salary for a high school teacher sits at $57,200. Although that isn’t pocket change or anything like that, it still seems like a low figure for someone who works as hard as your average teacher. Is that number affected at all by a factor like location? Since nearly every single teenager in the country attends a high school, no matter where you live, there is probably a high school nearby. This isn’t like the tech business, where you have to worry about where startups or factories are located. Everyone needs to go to high school, and so every city or town needs high school teachers. However, it’s worth noting that areas with denser populations will obviously need more teachers, in order to meet the needs of the larger number of kids. You’ll find that major cities like Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, and Houston have a larger need for high school teachers than other cities.
As far as experience goes, just about every occupation values experience. Teaching isn’t really about adapting to new knowledge. While a software engineer may need to adapt with changing technologies, all that a high school teacher needs to really do is adapt to changing curriculum. When a high school pays a teacher more due to experience, they’re ultimately paying for intangibles. A more experienced teacher is typically more comfortable leading a classroom. They’re more flexible when it comes to curriculum. They’re better with kids. If you’ve ever had a much younger teacher, I think that you know what I mean when I say that the general feeling in the classroom is just different. A high school teacher’s salary can increase with experience. Someone with over 20 years of experience in teaching can make up to $20,000 more than someone with entry level experience.
Although there are typically base requirements for someone to be brought on as a teacher, there’s nothing stopping you from going above and beyond. If you’re interested in strengthening your resume by attending graduate school, then you may find that your pay increases. Someone who is more highly qualified obviously has an easier time getting a job. Studies have shown that a high school teacher with a master’s degree can a lot more than a high school teacher with just a bachelor’s degree. While the income of an undergraduate-level educated high school teacher typically caps out at around $60,000, the income of a graduate-level educated high school teacher can go as high as $85,000. Going to graduate school may seem like a chore, but it can potentially make you a lot of money in the long run.
How to become a high school teacher – Do you need to go to school?
If you like what you read above about the pay of a high school teacher, then you may be interested in seriously pursuing a career in teaching. If that’s the case, then there are a few things that you need to do first. The first thing that you need to do is decide what you want to teach. This is obviously a serious decision, so you need to take it very seriously. Don’t just go with what you like the most, or what you think could make you the most money. You could potentially spend the rest of your life teaching this material, so it’s important that you choose something good. From there, you need to study. Traditionally, someone looking to be a teacher will major in their desired subject and then minor in education. So, if you want to be a biology teacher then you major in biology and minor in education.
However, some schools have programs that are catered specifically toward people who want to be teachers. In these programs, you’ll major in education and minor in the subject that you want to teach. Using the previous example, an aspiring biology teacher would major in education and minor in biology. It’s worth noting that you’re not just studying education in general, however. Colleges typically break education up until categories, by age groups. A degree in primary education will allow you to teach people in elementary school, between kindergarten and fifth grade. A degree in secondary education allows you to teach older people, in middle school and high school. These groups are split up since, obviously, a first grader learns in a very different way compared to a senior in high school. It’s important to a high school that you’re fully equipped to teach kids who are in a very specific stage of their educational development.
Once you have those degrees under your belt, you’re ready to acquire some experience. Usually, schools won’t let you just walk in and teach with nothing but a degree. You need hands-on experience in the classroom in order for someone to know that you’re qualified to work there. Some colleges will arrange things so that you obtain this experience as a form of experiential education. (You may be specifically assigned to a school in order to assist the teacher there, and you may even be graded for it.) If not, then you will need to independently pursue internships in your area. Find teachers who are looking for helpers in some capacity. If you can’t do that, then you may want to consider tutoring. Tutoring is basically just teaching, but it’s on a much smaller scale. This may be one of the most difficult times in your career as a high school teacher, but it will eventually pass.
One of the last things that you may need to do in order to become a high school teacher is acquire your credentials. Teaching is a field where you can’t just have a degree. You may have to pass certain tests or obtain certain certifications in order to be completely cleared to teach. The exact requirements vary by state, but you can expect to have to take a couple of exams, pass a few background checks, and completion of a teacher prep program. In order to obtain permanent teaching credentials, you’ll be expected to pass a few other exams and have additional experience as a teacher. I know that it may seem like you have to jump through a lot of hoops, but you end up making an honest living. Most importantly, you end up with the ability to change the lives of teenagers across the country. That, in my opinion, is worth the hoops.