Learn About Being a Teacher

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

What does a teacher do?

A teacher is a professional educator who prepares students to continue their studies to enter the job market by providing knowledge. Teachers can also educate their students in soft skills, such as listening and time management, and hard skills, such as technical knowledge. A teaching position can involve the following duties:

  • Researching, planning, creating and delivering classroom lessons via writing, lecture, discussion or video

  • Creating, assigning, collecting and grading assessments, such as quizzes, tests, essays and other projects

  • Communicating with students, parents, counselors and administrators about each student’s progress and needs

  • Providing support to students during all stages of the learning process, including explaining coursework, assisting with school assignments and providing emotional support

  • Advising, monitoring or directing extracurricular activities, such as school clubs, honor societies, athletics or after-school programs

Average salary

Teacher salaries can vary depending on specialty, level of education, years of experience, location and the type of school. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $14.60 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $38.25 per hour.

Teacher requirements

Obtaining a position as a teacher involves certain education, training, certifications and skills requirements:

Education

Teachers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree. High school teachers usually specialize their education in the subject they wish to teach, such as mathematics, science, social studies or English. Many add a focus to a general education major, majoring in the particular subject or double majoring in education and another subject. Education programs often include classes on adolescent development and teaching strategies and best practices. Many teachers also earn a master’s degree in education or the particular subject they want to teach. Teachers must also have continuing education throughout their careers, though requirements vary by state and institution.

Training

Many college education programs include teacher training as a requirement for graduation. Student teachers complete several clinical hours through classroom work such as lesson planning and grading. They also observe teachers to gain classroom experience. Newly-hired teachers can be paired with senior teachers to share duties or learn through mentoring.

Certifications

Although some private or independent schools do not require a teaching license, all 50 states in the U.S. require public school teachers to obtain a teaching license. Requirements for certification vary by state, but they usually include passing one or more exams to be certified in a certain subject or grade level after earning a bachelor’s degree. The exams cover basic skills and subject competency. A certain number of continuing education credits are also usually required to maintain certification. Teacher certifications can include the following:

The Praxis test

This test measures a teacher’s academic skills as well as subject-specific knowledge necessary for teaching. Provided by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), many states make use of the Praxis tests. There are three types of Praxis tests: the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (Core), which assesses general skills in reading, writing and mathematics; the Praxis Subject Assessments, which evaluate specific content knowledge in different subjects as well as teaching skills; and the Praxis Content Knowledge for Teaching Assessments (CKT), which focus on specialized and subject-specific content knowledge used in elementary schools.

The National Board Certification of Teachers (NBC)

The NBC offers teachers the opportunity to earn an advanced teaching credential that goes beyond state licensing. This voluntary certification allows experienced teachers to prove their advanced skills. Earning this certification involves a rigorous process that requires teachers to demonstrate a deep understanding of their students, content knowledge, use of data and assessments, teaching practice and participation in learning communities through standards-based evidence. Teachers can earn an NBC by completing and submitting three portfolios of their work and a computer-based assessment. To be eligible, they must have at least three years of teaching experience, a state teaching license and a bachelor’s degree.

Skills

Teaching requires many different skills to effectively present lessons, assess student learning and manage a classroom environment. Some of the most necessary teaching skills include:

Communication

This skill is essential for a teacher to effectively convey lesson materials both orally and through writing and to provide feedback assessment for students. In addition to providing lessons and feedback, teachers are expected to meet with students, parents and administrators to discuss students’ progress, as well as submit reports on student learning, discipline records and classroom needs.

Organization

Developed organization skills will help a teacher track and maintain student records, lessons, learning progress and numerous student assessments. Teachers often manage changing schedules, multiple documents for lesson plans and assessments, and a high number of students per day.

Technology

A solid understanding of educational technology can help a teacher integrate new programs into their curricula. A teacher might also use technology to present lessons, track student grades and attendance and communicate with students, parents, faculty coworkers, counselors and school administrators.

Leadership

This skill will help a teacher gain the respect and attention of students, manage classroom environments, present lessons and assign coursework. Leadership abilities are also helpful in monitoring, advising or directing extracurricular activities and communicating with the parents of students. 

Teacher work environment

Teachers generally work in face-to-face environments in schools, although there are also virtual teaching positions where teachers communicate with students via online platforms. During a typical workday, teachers may spend extensive time standing in the classroom as well as sitting at a desk. They generally use computers, laptops and copy machines to organize and plan their coursework.

Most teachers work typical school hours from the morning to afternoon on weekdays, but also spend nights and weekends creating lesson plans, grading assignments and communicating with parents and students. Though teachers do not technically work during summer or holiday breaks, they frequently spend this time planning lessons. Certain times during the school year may require more hours for testing and grading assessments.

Teaching positions are available in the public and private sectors. 

How to become a teacher

Consider these steps if you plan to become a teacher:

1. Choose what and where you want to teach.

A teacher’s career path determines the grade level, subject and location of where they teach as well as the type of school. You can consider your interests and talents and research state requirements to help you make these decisions.

2. Earn a college degree. 

Teachers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree to obtain a teaching position. You can major in the subject you wish to teach, in education studies or both. If you already have a college degree in a different field, most states offer alternative licensing options.

3. Obtain a teaching license.

Research your state teaching certification requirements to begin the process of obtaining a teaching license. You may need to apply to the state’s Department of Education, take exams or perform additional coursework to receive your state license.

4. Prepare a resume, cover letter and statement of teaching philosophy.

Many teaching position applications require the submission of a teaching philosophy statement along with a professional resume and cover letter. This is usually a one-page essay on your personal teaching methods and views of education. You should read job descriptions and research school mission statements to help you prepare application materials tailored to specific schools and positions.

Teacher job description example

Washington High School is looking for a full-time state-certified history teacher in the social sciences department. This position includes three sections of freshman world history and two sections of sophomore American history. The teacher is expected to plan a curriculum that aligns with Washington High School’s mission statement of caring for the mind and body of each student and developing them into future leaders as well as Common Core State Standards. They must create and deliver engaging lessons to a diverse group of students and participate in parent and faculty meetings. 

Additional duties may include overseeing extracurricular activities, offering to tutor, assisting with standardized testing and helping to fundraise. The successful candidate will have an understanding and appreciation of the needs and struggles of high school students as well as a bachelor’s degree in history. The ideal candidate will also have teaching experience and experience in athletics and be willing to coach or assistant coach one or more of our school’s sports teams. Please submit a statement of your teaching philosophy along with a resume and cover letter.

Related careers

  • Teacher assistant

  • School counselor

  • Principal

  • Librarian

Explore more articles