Is a Secondary Education degree right for you?

Secondary Education teachers work with either middle school or high school students. In some states, this encompasses fourth to 12th grade. Students who earn their degree in Secondary Education will play a critical role as a teacher in the education and lives of their pre-teen, teenage, or young-adult students.

Teaching Middle School

Students in middle school are young adolescents in the process of grasping more complex ideas in reading, writing, science and math. They are also experiencing physical and social developmental changes that can have an affect on their learning, and which can make teaching middle school very challenging. Students in middle school bring personal issues into the classroom more often than in other grades, and teachers have to know how to respond. Therefore, teachers must not only have strong substantive knowledge, but also a firm understanding of the needs of young adolescents, how to teach them, and how to manage the classroom effectively. The overall goal of middle school is to effectively bridge the gap and ease the transition for students between elementary and high school - between childhood and adolescence.

Middle school educators generally teach sixth, seventh, or eight grade (in some school districts, however, middle school encompasses as early as fourth grade or as late as ninth), combining elements from elementary school and high school. Teachers often work together with the same group of students teaching different academic subjects. Academic subjects in middle school are beginning to evolve into separate classes. Many states require middle school teachers to major in a content subject area.

Teaching High School

High school educators generally choose a specialization and teach the ninth through 12th grades. Teachers will often work with students in several different grades because many high schools divide students into classes based on their abilities, and will work with several different classes of students throughout the day. High school teachers teach deeper, more complex subjects, and help prepare their students for life after high school.

High school teachers specialize in one core academic subject, and teach that subject to multiple classes throughout the day. Students study a wider array of subjects, begin to study a foreign language, and have more flexibility with electives such as art.

Getting your degree in Secondary Education

A Secondary Education degree provides educators with the pedagogical knowledge to effectively teach grades 6-12. Classes will teach you how to present information to students and how to work with students of varying abilities and backgrounds. They also typically include a fieldwork aspect, such as student teaching.

Middle schools often report having the most difficulty retaining teachers, with administrators finding that many middle school teacher-candidates aren't qualified or prepared to handle teaching adolescents of this age group. The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform suggests that it helps for middle school teachers to have a background in adolescent psychology. Middle Level Education degrees often combine studies in education and adolescent psychology.

All public middle schools and high schools require teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree. Some states require secondary education teachers to earn a master’s degree after receiving their teaching certification.

Where do secondary education teachers work?

Secondary education teachers teach in public schools, including magnet and charter schools, as well as private schools. Middle school teachers may work at elementary schools as well, as some elementary schools incorporate grades 6-8.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, middle school teachers make on average $54,960 a year and high school teachers make on average $56,230 a year.

Advancement in Secondary Education

Experienced teachers can advance to become mentors or lead teachers who work with and help less experienced educators improve their teaching skills.