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How Do I Become a Secondary School Teacher?

By Gabriele Sturmer
Updated May 17, 2024
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A secondary school teacher usually teaches one or more specific subjects in a middle school or high school. In addition to grading papers, planning lessons, teaching and meeting with parents, he or she also sometimes assists with extracurricular activities and works with other educational professionals in the school. To become a secondary school teacher, you will need to earn a bachelor's degree in the subject you want to teach, complete a successful student teaching experience and pass the required certification exams.

To become a secondary school teacher, you will need to obtain a bachelor's degree to begin your career. A bachelor's degree in the subject you want to teach is usually required, but some programs that focus on education and have a specialization for a subject also are acceptable. Either degree will require a specific number of hours in the subject you plan to teach, and you will need to check your local requirements for the types and number of classes you need if you are to earn certification. If you want to teach more than one subject, you may be able to take additional classes to be eligible to teach both topics.

During your bachelor's degree studies, you will likely obtain field experience in secondary school classrooms, where you will work directly with students. Before you can become a secondary school teacher, you also will need to complete a period of student teaching in which you work with a qualified teacher in a school. This experience includes observing the teacher doing his or her duties, assisting him or her with tasks and eventually teaching lessons yourself.

You usually need to gain certification to become a secondary school teacher in a public school, although private schools may have different criteria. Certification consists of general education exams and exams in the subjects you plan to teach. Depending on your program, you will likely take a general exam during your college studies and take the subject exams at the end of the program. Your location and the subjects in which you specialized will determine which certifications you need to earn to become a secondary school teacher.

A master's degree may be needed to renew your certification, receive salary increases or obtain a promotion in the field. A master's degree in education is a common choice for an advanced degree and can be general or include a concentration in a specific subject. A doctorate in education may be needed if you want to become an administrator, superintendent or principal.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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