High school, or secondary, teachers are responsible for the education of students between ninth and twelfth grade. During these four years, students take the courses they will need to prepare them for college and life outside of school. Teaching high school is different from teaching in the lower grades, as teachers have more specialization in what they are teaching. For example, a science teacher in fifth grade teaches all kinds of science, while a high school teacher may just focus on biology or physics. Because of these differences, becoming a high school teacher is a different process from the one followed by future elementary school teachers.
The first step in becoming a high school teacher is to attend college and earn a Bachelor's degree. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in education, but you will have to take education classes at some point. Most states have a minimum requirement of education credit hours that need to be completed before certification. Students may also have to take classes outside of college to prepare them for recognizing the signs of child abuse and neglect and substance abuse.
During the last few semesters of an education degree program, most universities have a student teaching program that students need to complete. This program places education students at local schools, working in classrooms similar to the one they will be teaching in themselves. Secondary education teaching students will be placed in a high school classroom, working with a teacher who teaches what the student plans on teaching. Most students must complete two student teaching sessions.
After student teaching and graduating from a Bachelor's degree program, students have two options. They can either go right into teaching or they can continue on to get their teaching credential. The first option is a popular choice, as it allows the student to get the teaching experience that will be required for the completion of their teaching credential while taking graduate classes at night.
Before beginning their career, students need to become certified through the state they will be teaching in. There are several requirements for this, and it varies from state to state. One of these requirements is to pass the teaching competency exams. These exams will test the applicant in their knowledge of both teaching practices and their subject matter. For example, a history teacher would have to take a history test. Some states require that these tests be passed before the student can begin student teaching.
After all of these requirements have been met, a student can become a high school teacher in the state that he or she has been certified in. Because requirements to become a high school teacher are different in each state, students who want to teach in other states may have to meet more requirements. Many states, however, have a reciprocal licensing agreement, and honor teaching licenses in other states, making it easier for teachers to relocate to other areas without needing to go through the expense and hassle of being relicensed.