It is the duty of a secondary school teacher to prepare their students for post-graduation life, whether the students choose to attend college or go directly into the workforce. Secondary school teachers typically instruct students from grades nine to twelve, and must be able to present the materials of their chosen field at these different levels of education and to varying learning styles.

Typical Requirements to Become a Secondary School Teacher

Minimum Education Level Bachelor’s degree (master’s degree in some states)
Recommended Major Field(s) Major in a subject area (e.g. history, English, math) and enroll in teacher preparation program
Licensure/Certification Secondary/High School Certification (varies by state; some private schools may not require certification)
Minimum Work Experience A state-defined period of student teaching

Featured Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University
  2. University of Phoenix
  3. Liberty University

Key Skills and Strengths

  • Approachable: Students in high school are typically experiencing the growing pains of coming into young adulthood. They should feel comfortable approaching you as their teacher and mentor. They should know that any time they have a personal issue or academic concern, you will be there to provide a safe environment to help them resolve those issues.
  • Encouraging: You are preparing your students for college or the workforce, both of which are major life changes. Encourage them to make goals and achieve them. But in addition, teachers must let students know that it’s okay to get things wrong as long as they keep trying.
  • Fair and Unbiased: This one is obvious, but it’s important to remain as unbiased towards your students as possible. Remember that each student is coming from a different background, and that their race, beliefs, or orientation should not directly influence how you grade their work or discipline/reward their behavior.

Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education

To become a secondary school teacher, most states require potential candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree – some may require a master’s. Part of their degree must focus on a particular field, such as English, History, or a branch of the sciences. The options in a given degree program will likely differ from other programs; you can minor or major in secondary education and take certification courses, or you can already hold a bachelor’s degree and enroll in the preparation program. A bachelor’s program usually takes four to five years to complete, and secondary education students dedicate at least one semester to gaining practical knowledge and hands-on experience as a student teacher.

Sample Courses

Besides the focused subject requirements mentioned above, students pursuing a secondary education degree can expect to take courses in classroom management, teaching methods, and adolescent or developmental psychology. You will learn how to create lesson plans for different learning styles and levels, as well as how to effectively and efficiently assess students’ work. A few of the more common courses, found in most secondary education programs, are listed below:

  • Introduction to Secondary School Teaching: Many schools have an Introduction to Education course that discusses teaching methods and pedagogies. This course delves into the theories and practices of secondary school teachers.
  • Classroom Management at the Secondary Level: Managing the classroom at the secondary level requires different assessment and organization strategies than lower level classes. This kind of course prepares future high school teachers for the classroom environment by giving them the tools to maintain order and focus.
  • Student Teaching/Field Experience: A requirement across all teaching degree types, the student teaching portion of the degree gives students an opportunity to learn while doing. They spend at least one semester teaching under the supervision of an experienced instructor for credit.

Work Experience Requirements

The type and duration of experience required for employment as a secondary school teacher depends on the position that needs filled. The majority of those listed on,, and listed a bachelor’s degree and certification and residency in the state of the job posting as requirements for applicants. For most high school teachers, the experience gained through student teaching is adequate experience for future employment.

Certification/Licensure Requirements

The certification and licensing requirements for secondary school teachers differ from state to state, though all public school instructors are required to obtain one or the other before starting a job. The types of certification vary as much as the requirements to earn them. However, there are general requirements candidates should be aware of when applying or testing for certification and licensing. The majority require the following to qualify:

  • At least a bachelor’s degree
  • A passed background or policing check
  • Fingerprinting
  • Experience teaching students

Below is a list of licenses and certificates that can be obtained by high school teachers. This list contains general information about each because the requirements for obtaining them differ from state to state. Check your state’s department of education for specific requirements, forms, and renewal information.

  • Professional License
    • Requires:
      • Bachelor’s Degree
      • Degree in Subject Area
      • Student Teaching
      • Class in pedagogy
  • Initial Certificate
    • Requires:
      • Bachelor’s Degree
      • Degree in Subject Area
      • Student Teaching
      • Class in pedagogy
      • Background Check
  • 30 Year Life License
    • Requires:
      • Bachelor’s Degree
      • Degree in Subject Area
      • Student Teaching
      • Class in Pedagogy

Looking for a Teaching Job

The projected employment growth for high school teachers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2012 and 2022 is at 6%, which is slower than the average for all occupations in the nation. This does not mean, however, that employment in this field is impossible. They also predict that more jobs will be added in this projection time due to a decrease in class size, making it necessary for schools to hire more teachers.

To find employment opportunities, talk to your advisor or career services department for more ideas of what you can do with your degree once you are certified. In the interim between graduation and finding your first job, look for substitute teaching opportunities. This will help you build relationships and connections with established professionals who can point you towards more permanent employment as a secondary school teacher. Below are additional resources to help you in the pursuit of your future career.


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