What you need to know
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects, such as math and reading. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school. High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.
School teachers work in public and private schools. They generally work school hours when students are present and use nights and weekends to prepare lessons and grade papers.
Some of the things a school teacher might do:
- Create lesson plans to teach students subjects, such as reading, science, social studies, and math
- Teach students how to study and communicate with others
- Observe students to evaluate their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses
- Teach lessons they have planned to an entire class of students or to smaller groups
- Grade students’ assignments and exams
- Communicate with parents about their child’s progress
- Work with students individually to challenge them, to improve their abilities, and to work on their weaknesses
- Prepare students for standardized tests required by the state
- Develop and enforce classroom rules
- Supervise students outside of the classroom—for example, during lunchtime or recess
- Communication skills: Teachers need to discuss students’ needs with parents and administrators. They also need to be able to communicate the subject content to students in a manner in which they will understand.
- Patience: Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. Teachers must respond with patience when students struggle with material.
- Physical stamina: Working with students can be tiring. Teachers need to be able to physically, mentally, and emotionally keep up with the students.
- Resourcefulness: Teachers need to be able to explain difficult concepts in terms that students can understand. In addition, they must be able to get students engaged in learning and adapt their lessons to meet students’ needs.
The average pay for K-12 school teachers in the United States ranges from $40,030 to $100,480 as of May 2020.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Overall employment of school teachers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Rising student enrollment should increase demand for teachers, but employment growth will vary by region and school setting.
There will be better opportunities in urban and rural school districts than in suburban school districts. Flexibility in job location may increase prospects.
All states require K-12 public school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Private schools typically have the same requirement. Some states also require public school teachers to major in a content area, such as math or science. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.
Some states require teachers to earn a master’s degree after receiving their teaching certification and obtaining a job.
Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Education.