One of the most rewarding careers that you can pursue is to become a teacher. In the United States and throughout much of the world, there are some choices that you can make in life that make it easier to teach high school if that is your priority. You will be instructing students in grades 9-12 in either public or private institutions with this job.
High school teachers will typically plan and teach a classroom of students using a specific curriculum. There can be moments of individual mentoring and small group discussions as well. You will get to specialize in your subject materials, with options ranging from foreign languages to core subjects like math, literature, or science. You will then evaluate the performance of each student, grade their papers and tests, and prepare them for any standardized or placement testing that they might need to complete.
There are generally 5 specific steps that you must follow in the United States to become a high school teacher.
- You must earn your bachelor’s degree in the subject that you wish to teach while completing a teacher preparation program.
- Then you must be successful in a student teaching internship.
- If licensure is required in your state for the position, then you must take the subject-area tests.
- Then apply for the license based on your test scores.
- Once you receive your teaching license, you can begin to apply for the open positions in your state that are in your subject areas.
List of the Pros of Being a High School Teacher
1. You get to become a confidante for your students.
One of the best experiences that you can have as a high school teacher is when one of your students decides to open up to you about what is going on in their life. Many kids come from difficult family situations. Having someone that they can trust to discuss what their options can be will give them an opportunity to explore who they want to become in life. There is no greater feeling than the moment that a kid chooses you to become the one person that they trust to have their guard down.
2. It is still a fun and friendly workplace experience.
Although there are times when it can feel like you are on an island when working as a high school teacher, you will also find that some of your closest friendships can happen with the people you meet while teaching. Not only are you sharing your ideas or concerns about the issues you have with the curriculum or certain students, but you are also becoming part of each other’s lives as well. You get to form a team that works hard to improve the opportunities for the students in your community.
3. You will create a bond with your students that never goes away.
Even if you only see your students once per day for an hour, the impression that you leave on them is something that might never go away. You could be spending 180 days each year talking to them about a subject of which you are passionate. Your love of what you’ve learned makes the information easier for them to understand. It is not unusual for students from 10, 20, or even 30 years before to stop by, look you up on social media, shoot off an email, or invite you to their wedding or graduation because of the impact that you had on that person’s life.
4. There are moments of epiphany possible every day as a high school teacher.
When you see that flicker of recognition in the eyes of a student, there is perhaps no greater moment available in this world. The expression on their face of “I finally know” means that you created that positive impact in their life. Your approach has created a door in their mind that might have always remained closed if you hadn’t formed a teacher-student relationship. Because this moment is possible every day, there is always motivation to be in the classroom when you work as a high school teacher.
5. The love of learning gets to be part of your career.
When you work as a teacher at any level, then you get to enjoy your love of learning every day. Being a high school teacher can force you out of your comfort zone because there will be teens that challenge you. There will be tough questions that students will ask that will force you to re-examine your thoughts, opinions, or priorities. You’ll discover that your fellow teachers are incredible resources of knowledge and wisdom too, pointing you in a direction on your quest for learning that you may have never considered in the past.
6. You get to have more days off each year than the average employee.
There is no other profession that you can pursue right now that will give you the amount of time off that a high school teacher receives. Not only do you get most of the summer off to explore opportunities outside of the classroom, but there are also the weekends, holidays, and vacations during the year that you get to enjoy as well. You’re going to earn that time with the long hours you put in during each school day, but it usually tends to balance itself out well. Just remember to budget for the summer when your district might not be issuing you a paycheck.
7. When you are a high school teacher, then you get to be a hero.
There are times when you are the only person that a student can rely upon. You will discover moments where the positive examples that you leave behind are picked up by the teens who come to school every day. You are a role model, but you are also more than that. Many kids see their teachers as heroes, especially when your class discusses a subject matter that is important to them.
You get to be a source of strength and inspiration for hundreds, and sometimes thousands of kids over the course of your career. You might hit those numbers in a single year in some districts!
8. You can teach a specialized subject instead of generalities.
One of the best benefits of being a high school teacher is that you get to teach in a specialized subject more often than not. There will be an expectation from your administration to have more expertise in your designated subject matter. You don’t want an expert in history teaching science, after all. There are also more time-consuming assignments and grading needs to figure out once you get out of the junior high grade levels, but it is worth it. You’re teaching multiple periods each day, seeing lots of students, and conveying information that you are passionate about all of the time.
9. No two days are alike when you become a high school teacher.
There is always something different that happens during the school day when you work as a teacher. Although you are teaching the same curriculum to multiple periods throughout the day, you will discover that no two classes are exactly the same. Each group of students will develop a unique personality that you associate with that time. You’ll find yourself looking forward to the discussions and assignments that happen in this space each day.
No two students are alike either, which can create some unique challenges at the high school level. It also means that you’re always on your toes, ready to come up with a brilliant solution to a problem that someone might have. There can be boring elements to teaching, but you’re not doing it right if you feel bored by your career.
10. There are plenty of benefits that you’ll receive as a teacher.
Most high school teachers receive a generous compensation package that includes sick time and vacation pay that you can take during the school year. The health insurance benefits are usually superior to what you would receive in other industries, although there can be some variation between the public and private schools in this advantage. In the United States, being a high school teacher qualifies you to save more money into tax-advantaged retirement plans in some situations as well. That means you can take some time off if you need it without disrupting the relationships you form with your students.
11. Teaching in high school allows you to access a flexible job market.
There will always be teaching jobs in our society. An education is one of the most critical assets that children receive as they are growing up. Although you will find that there can be a lot of competition for individual positions, if you can remain flexible with what you want to do, it is fairly easy to find teaching jobs almost anywhere in the world today. That means you can embrace your love of traveling while also getting to pursue a career that you love.
List of the Cons of Being a High School Teacher
1. Schools are increasingly becoming a place of deadly violence.
In 2018, there were over 80 incidents of school violence involving a weapon in the United States, breaking a dubious record that no one ever wants to go through again. Many of these events occurred in high schools. It was over 20 more incidents than the previous record that was set in 2006. As a teacher, you are responsible for the students in your classroom and school. If the lockdown warnings ring, then you cannot afford to freeze. You must strategize how to exit a classroom safely, where to find barriers that allow you to shelter in place or know how to defend yourself is a student targets you for some reason.
As Julie Turkewitz wrote in 2018 for The New York Times, school shootings put teachers into a new role as being a human shield. She interviewed Robert Parish, an elementary school teacher who works just miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High where 17 people, including three staff members, were killed by a former student. “Last night, I told my wife I would take a bullet for the kids,” Parish said, noting that he thinks about it all of the time.
2. There is the issue of payment during the summer months.
Many school districts offer a paycheck schedule that provides your salary when school is in session. You’ll receive your first payday during the start of the year, and then the last one comes on the last day of school. Even when you budget throughout the year for this disadvantage, it is not unusual to have your funds begin to dry up the last couple of weeks before the next school year. If something comes up and you have an emergency expense in the summer, then you’re digging into your savings account for sure.
3. Your salary may not be very high in some geographic areas.
A high school teacher doesn’t earn a lot of money in the United States. The average salary for this profession is right around the national median for income each year. That means you’ll earn somewhere around $60,000 annually. Some charter schools and rural districts can pay significantly less that that too. It is not unusual for some first-year teachers to earn less than $35,000 in these circumstances. That can make it a challenge to get through each week, much less the summer, when you have that salary.
4. The school’s administrators may not give you the support that you need.
Every high school teacher experiences this disadvantage at some point in their life. You might not receive support when there was a need to discipline a student in the classroom because they were being disruptive. Some principals might decide to side with the parents even after they said that they would have your back when the incident took place. You might have a fantastic idea to help the curriculum, but then the administration vetoes the idea without even considering it. You will become frustrated with your circumstances at least once in your career. For some teachers, this issue happens at least once per day.
5. You are stuck going to the professional development days in your district.
There are times when the kids get to stay home from school, but you are asked to report for professional development. Instead of getting caught up on all of the homework that you need to grade, you’re going through a learning lesson that is not relevant to what you teach. There are districts that will hire speakers who will tell you why you’re a terrible teacher, and then give you zero practical solutions on how to fix the problem. This issue isn’t always a disadvantage because some of these training days are useful, but it is usually a drag on your time and resources.
6. There are some students who will never invest themselves in the learning process.
When you work as a high school teacher, then you will discover that there are three categories of students. You will have those who always excel and overachieve, the kids who fall into the middle spectrum where they are average (or a little above or below), and then there are the teens who really don’t care about what you have to say or teach. It doesn’t matter what you say or do with that latter group. Some kids with potential just don’t care, but your job is to find a way to motivate them anyway.
7. Your curriculum does not vary from period-to-period sometimes.
If you teach in a specific subject, then your 1-hour periods at school will involve the same lesson plan for each group of students. That means you’re covering the same information up to 7 times per day in some schools. If you like a lot of variety in your classroom, then this format is going to drive you up the wall. When you add in the different behavioral issues that can happen from class to class, such as relationship dramas and bullying problems, there will be times when you wonder if you are ever getting through to these students.
8. You are going to be working some long hours every day during the school year.
When you work as a high school teacher, there might be 1-2 periods each day where you do not have any teaching responsibilities. It is during those moments where there is a mad scramble to get all of the grading work finished. If you are teaching several hundred students during the day, then there is never enough time to get all of it finished. That means you will be grading items at home too, sometimes deep into the night. It is not unusual for high school teachers to put in 60+ hours during the average week during the school year.
You might get more time off during the summer than in other professions, but it is really mostly comp time since you had to work so long outside of the regular working hours.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.