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How to Become a High School Teacher

Drexel University School of Education

Being a teacher isn’t just a job, it’s a profession that carries significant social impact. In particular, becoming a high school teacher allows you to have a considerable impact on the success of your students, and even on broader society. But what requirements must be completed for prospective high school teachers to become practiced educators?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a High School Teacher?

The educational background needed to become a high school teacher is somewhat specialized because secondary school educators are focused on a particular subject area. Prospective teachers are best prepared with a degree program that incorporates expertise within the field that they wish to teach.

Drexel’s undergraduate Secondary Education Degree Program works to balance pedagogical expertise with subject area proficiency. For example, if you want to become a chemistry teacher, the Bachelor of Science in Teacher Education – Chemistry program is a unique opportunity to learn to become a particularly effective educator within your specific area of expertise.

Additionally, the Drexel School of Education offers a variety of Graduate Education Programs. For example:

Earning an MS in Education can help distinguish teachers as more competitive job candidates, open new career possibilities, and may help fulfill state certification requirements.

Student Teaching Through the School of Education

In addition to having a Bachelor’s degree, the complete list of high school teacher qualifications also includes student teaching experience. Student teaching is a hands-on learning process where prospective teachers have the chance to apply the theories they’ve learned within the classroom. Under the supervision and guidance of an experienced educator, student teaching programs usually take one or two semesters during a student’s senior year.

However, the Undergraduate Co-Op program at Drexel for Secondary Education makes it possible to combine theory and practice long before your senior year. Students alternate between taking courses and full time employment in a five-year, four-year, or three-year program. However, the Co-Op is only a small part of the student teaching process, which involves four stages for graduates to complete the various requirements for secondary school teacher.

  • Stage I – A 20-hour minimum of observation and field experience. Candidates work with individual students, assist and coordinate classroom activities, and record personal observations and reflections.
  • Stage II - A 20-hour minimum of participating and assisting in the classroom. The student teacher begins working with both individuals and small groups, incrementally increasing their participation and responsibilities.
  • Stage III - Pre-student Teaching Co-Op: These 20-40 hour per week experiences involve teaching small groups and complete classrooms alike, helping candidates to acquire a wider range of skills.
  • Stage IV – Depending on the program, this stage can last between 13-weeks and a full year. Incorporating extensive fieldwork and undertaking the full responsibilities of a practicing teacher, stage IV can be done either part-time or as a full-time undergraduate.

Required Certifications for High School Teachers

What do you need to become a high school teacher? It depends on the type of teacher you want to become. In addition to general skills tests, most states require prospective teachers to pass subject area tests. The specific requirements vary on a state-by-state basis, but also tend to be similar in most places.

For example, getting certified to become a high school teacher for the state of Pennsylvania requires completing the Pennsylvania Educator Certification Tests (PECT). There are basic skills requirements that can be completed by another common exam, the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA.)

Depending on your location and circumstances, there are also a variety of rules and regulations related to background checks, GPA requirements, and other forms of prior experience required to complete all the various Undergraduate Teacher Certification Requirements.

Postgraduate Education Certifications at the Drexel School of Education

For prospective teachers who are looking to further develop their abilities as an educator, the Drexel School of Education offers a variety of postgraduate Education Certifications. The program includes several selections that can be distinctly valuable to a prospective high school teacher, including the:

  • Reading Specialist Certification
  • Certification in Special Education
  • Certificate in Special Education Leadership
  • Teaching English as a Second Language Certification

Certifications like these are granted by the state to demonstrate the recipient has been cleared to teach in a particular area, and can be necessary to obtain specific types of teaching positions.

Graduate Education Certificate Programs

Apart from achieving various state certifications to become a licensed teacher, high school teachers may want to consider additional certificates to develop specialized expertise.

For example, some of the Graduate Education Certificate Programs include:

  • Certificate in STEM Education
  • Certificate in Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Wellness
  • Certificate in Mathematics Learning and Teaching
  • Certificate in Advanced Teaching and Curriculum
  • Certificate in Student Development and Affairs

While certifications permit educators to practice in specific kinds of teaching positions within the states where they are licensed, an education certificate is very different. Certificates are essentially an endorsement from the university that says the recipient has completed a particular collection of related courses and can exercise expertise within those areas.

How Much do High School Teachers Make?

High school teacher salaries vary based on several factors including years of experience, education credentials, type of school (public, private, parochial, etc.) and location. According to the Career Explorer, the average base salary in the United States for a high school teacher is $59,043.

Should I Become a High School Teacher?

Becoming a teacher can be personally and professionally rewarding. At the same time, teaching careers aren’t for everyone. But what does it take to be a high school teacher, and who should consider starting this kind of teaching career?

  • People with a love of learning often enjoy the chance to teach high school students, and the opportunity it offers to become a lifelong learner.
  • Introverted and extroverted people can both be effective teachers, but teaching does require developing strong communication skills to interact with students, staff, and parents alike.
  • Teachers, regardless of their areas of expertise, need a willingness to try new things, adapt to new technologies, and the flexibility to accommodate the individual nature of each student.
  • While it’s difficult to learn or teach, patience is one of the most important traits any teacher can possess.

If you’re interested in starting the process of becoming a high school teacher and you’d like to learn more about achieving your goal, take a moment to request information about the unique advantages that students can reach through the School of Education.