What is Secondary Education?

Secondary education refers to grades seven through 12. Those interested in careers in secondary education must have excellent communication skills, an ability to connect with children and a strong interest in teaching.

Education Requirements

Entry-level secondary education teachers are required to have no less than a bachelor degree. They must also complete a teacher-preparation program with supervised teaching experience, usually gained via student teaching. Some states also require a minimum GPA and all public school teachers are required to obtain a state-issued license or certification.

Certification requirements vary from state to state. Many states also require candidates to take a test to demonstrate their knowledge in the subject they plan to teach.

High school teachers are usually awarded a high school certification that allows them to teach any grade from seven to 12.

Some states require that their:

  • Middle school teachers major in elementary education.
  • Secondary education schoolteachers earn a master degree once they receive their teaching certification.
  • Secondary school teachers major in a specific content area, such as science, English or math.
  • Teachers complete professional development classes annually to maintain their certification.

Most states also require their teachers to pass a background check.

Many students who decide to major in a specific content area will enroll in the teacher-preparation program at their university and take classes in child psychology and education. These education programs teach students how to work with children who have varying backgrounds and abilities. Students also learn how to present information to a class. Most of these programs also include student teaching experiences.

Secondary education teachers who work within the private school system are not obligated to meet state requirements. Private schools generally seek those who have a bachelor’s degree with a major in a content area or elementary education.

Each state offers an alternative route for those who have a bachelor degree but lack the education courses necessary to become certified. Some of the alternative certification programs give candidates the opportunity to begin teaching directly after graduation as long as they are supervised by an experienced teacher. Child development and teaching methods are covered in these programs. Once the program is complete, the candidate can receive a certification.

Topics studied by secondary education majors vary by institution. Common topics include:

  • Child Development
  • Biology
  • Education of the exceptional child
  • Curriculum development
  • Methods of teaching
  • Educational computing and technology
  • Philosophy of education
  • Reading in the content area
  • Psychology of learning
  • Teaching handicapped children
  • Teaching art

What you can do with a Secondary Education Degree

You can teach middle school or high school with a degree in secondary education.

Those who teach middle school concentrate on helping students prepare for their high school years by building on the fundamentals that students learned in elementary school.

High school teachers assist in preparing students for their upcoming college careers and entering the job market.

Experienced teachers can advance to become lead teachers or mentors who help less-experienced teachers develop their teaching skills.

Teachers hoping to advance their careers can obtain additional certification or education to become:

  • Librarians
  • Counselors
  • Instructional coordinators
  • Principals
  • Assistant principals

Job Outlook: What You Should Consider with a Career as a Secondary School Teacher

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the job-growth outlook for middle school teachers is average at 17 percent from 2010 to 2020. The job-growth outlook for high school teachers is below average at 7 percent.

In 2010, the median pay for a middle school teacher with a bachelor’s degree was approximately $52,000 per year; a high school teacher with a bachelor’s degree earned about $53,000 annually.

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