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Secondary School Teacher Job Description, Career as a Secondary School Teacher, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training College plus training

Salary Median—$41,400 to $45,970 per year

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Secondary school teachers instruct students in junior and senior high schools. They conduct classes in academic subjects, such as English and mathematics, or skills, such as mechanical drawing and woodworking. They start with the basics and add complexity to spur students' imaginations and intellects and to prepare them for advanced education and jobs as adults.

Teachers also help their colleagues plan courses that use new methods and materials and organize extracurricular activities such as sports and social groups. They work as teams that include school administrators, school counselors, and school psychologists. Their work goes beyond the classroom to include parents, parent groups, and community and governmental agencies.

Junior high school teachers instruct students in the seventh to ninth grades, while high school teachers instruct the tenth to twelfth grades. In some school districts, junior high schools have been replaced by middle or intermediate schools, which start with the fifth grade.

On most days teachers have from four to seven classes in their fields of specialization. English, mathematics, science, and history are taught in all schools and are usually taken by all students. Some teachers specialize in foreign languages, computer sciences, music, and art, which many students take as electives. Physical education teachers concentrate on improving students' strength and motor skills. They may administer physical fitness and posture tests, set up special exercise programs, and coach softball, basketball, and other sports. Some secondary school teachers work with students who have physical or mental handicaps or students who need bilingual education. Others give lessons to homebound students who are unable to attend school regularly because of health problems.

Teachers may be assigned to homeroom classes, where they take attendance and handle other school business, and study halls, where they must maintain an orderly, quiet atmosphere for study.

Education and Training Requirements

Teachers who work in public secondary schools must be certified. Requirements vary from state to state and change frequently, but usually include examinations, bachelor's degrees, student-teaching experience, and course work in education. Many states now require teachers to have or be working toward master's degrees at the time of certification. In some states private and parochial school teachers also must be certified.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to principals of schools or superintendents of school districts. College placement offices and professional associations may help new graduates find positions. Private employment agencies, professional

Secondary school teachers generally conduct classes only in their field of interest. Academic subjects taught in secondary schools include science, English, mathematics, and history. (© Terry Wild Studio. Reproduced by permission.)

journals, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet may list openings. In some areas teachers are assigned to schools when they are certified.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Teachers may become heads of their departments. With experience and additional education, they may take on administrative duties as assistant principals, principals, and superintendents. Most of these positions require at least master's degrees; some require doctorates.

About 1.1 million secondary school teachers are employed in the United States. Employment is expected to grow as fast as the average for all jobs through 2014. Teachers in the natural and physical sciences, mathematics, special education, and computer science are likely to find more job opportunities than teachers in other fields.

Working Conditions

Working conditions vary by subject taught. While most teachers work with ten to thirty students per class, music teachers may work with one student at a time. Teaching is physically strenuous; most teachers stand most of the day and may suffer from voice strain. While preparation time is built into the school day, teachers often plan lessons and correct papers after school hours. Some attend school meetings or supervise extracurricular activities, such as drama productions or sports events, in the evening. Secondary school teachers usually do not work during the summer months; many use that time to get additional education or earn extra income. Most secondary school teachers belong to labor unions.

Earnings and Benefits

Teachers' salaries vary with education, length of service, and location of the school. In 2004 the median salary for secondary school teachers ranged from $41,400 to $45,970 per year. Teachers with master's degrees or doctorates earn much more than those who have only bachelor's degrees. In some schools, teachers receive extra pay for coaching sports or supervising other extracurricular activities. Private school teachers generally earn less than public school teachers. Teachers receive paid vacations and holidays, as well as health insurance and retirement plans.

Where to Go for More Information

American Federation of Teachers
555 New Jersey Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 879-4400

National Education Association
1201 Sixteenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 833-4000

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEducation & Training