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Teacher Salaries and Job Descriptions

By Bisk
Teacher Salary and Job Description

Below we give insight on elementary and high school teacher salaries, and their respective job descriptions.

High School Teacher Salary and Job Description

High-school students are at a critical point in their lives as they learn lessons and make decisions that can affect their future. Each individual, from intimidated freshman to college-hunting senior, faces unique challenges that require guidance and support. Effective high school teachers do more than teach academic lessons. They impart knowledge that will prepare pupils to enter higher education and, eventually, the job market.

Most high school teachers specialize in one subject area and teach several classes within that subject to multiple grade levels each day. A math teacher, for example, may teach algebra, geometry and calculus. High schools generally separate students according to their abilities, so teachers may need to alter their courses based on their pupils’ understanding of the subject.

During the day, high school teachers are responsible for teaching their classes as well as assessing students’ abilities, strengths and weaknesses; working with students and challenging them to develop strengths while addressing areas in which the students need greater understanding; preparing students for state-mandated standardized tests; developing and enforcing class rules; and supervising groups in outside-the-classroom activities such as detention or recess.

Most teachers’ responsibilities keep them busy long after the school day ends. They also plan lessons, grade tests and other assignments, meet with colleagues, and communicate with parents about their children’s progress. Some teachers also take on extra classes outside their area of expertise, such as art or music.

Job Outlook and Salary Range for High School Teachers

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall expectations for job growth are positive with employment predicted to increase by 6% from 2012 through 2022. The slight growth is primarily due to lower student-to-teacher ratios and increases in student enrollment. The bureau notes that job growth will vary according to region.

As the student-to-teacher ratio goes down, each teacher will have fewer students. This will prompt a greater demand for teachers in order to keep class sizes the same. The number of high school students is expected to increase over the same time period, and that growth will further generate demand for teachers to instruct additional classes.

The bureau reports a median annual wage of $55,050 for high school teachers in May 2012. The lowest 10% of instructors earned less than $36,930; the upper 10% earned at least $85,690. Many work 10 months of the year with a two-month summer break. School day hours vary according to institution.

Salaries vary by region and are affected by other factors such as educational level. Job seekers are encouraged to do their own research in order to determine individual salary expectations.

Education and Training for High School Teachers

All states require high school teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree. Some states also require a master’s degree. Public school teachers must also have a state-issued license or certification. The certification process varies from state to state. Some common components include completing supervised teaching hours, maintaining a minimum GPA, and passing a general teaching certification test, in addition to a test that confirms expertise in a chosen subject area. Visit to learn more about individual state requirements.

Many instructors major in a specific subject area, an increasingly popular requirement across many states, while also participating in a higher education teacher preparation program and completing courses in child psychology and education.

Private school teachers don’t have to meet state requirements and do not have to be licensed. However, most private institutions also employ teachers who have attained a bachelor’s degree in a specific subject. 

Elementary Teacher Salary and Job Description

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers are responsible for giving their young students a strong foundation for future schooling by educating them in basic subjects such as reading and math.

Elementary School Teacher Job Description and Typical Duties

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers help students learn and apply important concepts that they will use throughout middle school, high school and college. This involves planning lessons for core subjects such as reading, science and math, as well as for key skills such as studying and communicating with others. Teachers may convey these lessons to an entire class of students or work with them in smaller groups.

Elementary school teachers must keep current on their students’ progress by assessing their abilities, strengths and weaknesses through grading tests and paying attention to their participation in class. Once they know which students are struggling, teachers can work with them one-on-one to address challenges, and communicate with their parents about their progress.

Other responsibilities include supervising children outside the classroom during lunch or recess, and preparing them for state-mandated standardized tests. Some might also teach art, music or gym.

Instructors in kindergarten and elementary school generally teach students through fourth or fifth grade. Some may teach grades six through eight, depending on the school. Elementary school students usually spend most of their days in one classroom. During the day, their teachers might bring them to assemblies or classes such as music, art or gym. While their students are engaged in other activities, teachers can use this time to grade assignments, plan lessons or meet with staff.

Elementary Teacher Job Outlook and Salary Range

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of kindergarten and elementary school teachers is anticipated to grow 12% from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Projected growth will be the result of an expected rise in enrollment and a reduction in the student-teacher ratio throughout schools, meaning teachers will see a drop in the number of students assigned to their classrooms. It’s also expected that more students will enroll in kindergarten and elementary school, so more teachers will be needed to handle that increase.

The BLS does note that job growth will vary according to region. Enrollment is expected to grow faster in the South and West. The Midwest won’t see much change, and the Northeast will likely see declines. As a result, teachers will be in higher demand throughout the South and West than in other regions. Other factors affecting employment growth include government budgets and the number of older teachers retiring.

In May 2012, the BLS reported a median annual wage of $50,120 for kindergarten teachers with the lowest 10% earning less than $32,450 and the top 10% earning at least $78,230. That same year, elementary school teachers earned a median wage of $53,400 with the lowest 10% earning less than $35,630 and the top 10% earning more than $83,160.

Salary and job availability vary by region of the country. Job seekers should research this information in relation to the area in which they hope to find employment.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers usually work during regular school hours, saving meetings with parents, students and other teachers for before and after the school day. Evenings and weekends are typically spent grading papers and preparing lessons. Teachers usually work the regular 10-month school year with a two-month summer break, though some may teach summer programs. In areas that have a year-round school schedule, teachers usually work eight weeks straight with a one-week break before each new session, with a five week midwinter recess.

Elementary Teacher Education and Training

All states across the U.S. require public kindergarten and elementary school teachers to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Some states also may require them to major in a specific subject. Teachers preparing to work in these states typically complete their university’s teacher preparation program in addition to courses in education and child psychology, all while fulfilling the requirements for their major. Some states might also require a master’s degree in addition to a teaching certification.

Teacher education programs instruct degree candidates on how to present information to their pupils and work with students of different backgrounds and ability levels. These programs also may require future teachers to participate in student teaching. Visit to learn more about the details of these programs for specific states.

Public education teachers also are required to be licensed or certified. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers usually get certified to instruct grades in early childhood (preschool-third grade) or elementary school (first-sixth or first-eighth grade). Licensing requirements vary by state, but usually involve supervised teaching experience, passing a general teaching certification test, and passing a test that demonstrates knowledge of a certain subject.

Private school teachers generally are not required to obtain a license or meet state requirements. However, private institutions usually hire kindergarten and elementary school teachers who hold elementary education bachelor’s degrees.

Category: Careers