What Do Teachers Do? (And How To Become One)

Updated December 5, 2023

The education sector involves many positions that can positively influence young people. As a teacher, you have the opportunity to share knowledge and encourage students to develop skills. If you're interested in a career in education, you might want to learn more about teaching.

In this article, we discuss the role of a teacher and the different educational requirements and skills necessary to become a teacher.

Related jobs on Indeed
School Principal jobs
View more jobs on Indeed

What does a teacher do?

A photo of a teacher laughing, sitting in the library with a student making big hand gestures.

Teachers create engaging lesson plans that will educate students and nurture an interest in education. They can instruct in various subjects and across different learning levels. Responsibilities of teachers include assigning and grading homework, documenting progress and planning instructional activities.

Specifically, teachers perform the following tasks:

  • Create educational material, such as assignments, course curriculum, notes and tests.

  • Coordinate and gather necessary material for presentations.

  • Manage classes to ensure an optimal learning experience for all students.

  • Plan educational events and activities.

  • Keep the classroom organized and clean. Teachers put away trash or supplies at the end of the day.

  • Accommodate the needs of their students by adapting their teaching material. They provide personalized instruction when necessary.

  • Organize and attend parent-teacher meetings. Teachers communicate with parents about student progress and answer questions when necessary.

  • Encourage students, as well as promote enthusiasm and interactive learning with positive reinforcement.

  • Evaluate and document student progress and grade assignments, homework and tests.

  • Distribute progress cards periodically.

Related: 50 Teacher Interview Questions and Example Answers

Average salary for a teacher

A teacher's salary varies depending on regional factors and whether they teach in a private or public school. The teachers' education and certifications also influence their wages. The average salary in the U.S. is $27,478 per year although this figure is frequently updated.

Requirements to become a teacher

An aspiring teacher will have to meet several requirements that may involve the following:


Teachers need a bachelor's degree in teaching or a relevant field in addition to a teaching credential to teach K-12 in public schools. The specifics required for the credential will vary by region, subjects and the ages of the students for whom the teaching credential is earned. Private learning facilities may or may not have similar expectations as determined by the institution.

University and community college professors will need at the very least a master's degree in a related subject, though in some instances a Ph.D. in their teaching area can be required or preferred.

Vocational school teachers mostly need to have experience in order to teach.


It is necessary to obtain certification to teach in K-12 public schools. During the education programs, candidates learn the necessary courses, teaching experience and test preparation to apply for a state teaching certification or license. They can also receive guidance from universities or colleges through certification programs.

Depending on your state requirements and the level or subject you plan to teach, you might have to take one or more tests. Most states require candidate teachers to pass at least one teaching certification exam, such as PRAXIS or NES. It might be necessary to take a core exam on teaching pedagogy, policies and ethics. In some cases, a more advanced teaching exam or subject-specific exams are required to get your license.


What does a teacher do for a student? In truth, a teacher has the ability to help a student in so many ways. Here are some skills required for a role as a teacher:

  • Excellent communication skills. Verbal and written communication skills are essential for a teacher because their job involves communicating information. They need to explain things in terms that students understand. As they work with children at different learning stages, they need to create an environment where children can learn, discover and express themselves. It helps them grow.

  • Patience. Teachers sometimes need to explain the same thing several times to students until they understand. They may also encounter students who demonstrate challenging behaviors in the classroom and need to keep their calm. Some situations with parents or administrators might require patience too.

  • Creativity. Teachers find exciting and enjoyable ways to teach their lessons and keep students engaged and attentive.

  • Critical thinking. Teachers must answer questions from students or parents, resolve conflicts and plan their work. All these situations require the ability to find the adapted resource to solve the problem quickly.

  • Presentation skills and confidence. Teaching involves a lot of public speaking. They need to stand in front of a class and communicate confidently.

  • Organization. Teachers must create and plan lessons, and grade assignments in a limited number of hours. They must also manage paperwork filing and documenting.

  • Content knowledge. Teachers need to understand the material they teach. They must master teaching techniques and their specific subject. Depending on the level they teach, they might also need to have some technical or computer knowledge.

Related: How To Improve Communication Skills

Work environment for teachers

Teachers usually work during school hours with students. They sometimes need to attend meetings with other teachers, parents or students before and after school. They regularly work in the evenings or on weekends to grade assignments and prepare lessons.

Some teachers work part-time and others full-time. They generally work nine months during the year and have the summer off unless they teach summer classes.

Teachers mostly work indoors, although elementary teachers sometimes supervise playgrounds outdoors. Teaching small children might involve exposure to high levels of noise.

Career paths for teachers

Teachers can evolve in their careers when they gain experience and take additional education. They can become school principals or school administrators. To do so, they need to be certified teachers, have three years of experience and get a master's degree in school administration. Once they are certified as school administrators or principals, they can interview and obtain positions in the school board administration.

Elementary school teachers can become high school or middle school teachers if they specialize in chemistry or math, for instance, with an advanced degree in those areas.

Related: Changing Careers from Teaching (Steps and Tips)

Do you need help with your resume?

How to become a teacher

If you are seriously considering the prospect of becoming a teacher, to prepare yourself you can follow these five steps below:

1. Get a bachelor's degree

Earn a bachelor's degree in education or teaching from an accredited school. You might need to get a considerable number of college credits in your subject area if you plan to teach higher education levels. For your admission to an education program, schools may require minimum GPA and SAT scores or basic competency exams. For example, you might need to take the PRAXIS Core before proceeding with your degree in education.

2. Obtain practical training

You may participate in supervised teaching during your studies and after you get your degree. You will learn to manage the classroom, identify student levels, and identify cultural and societal influences on the learning process. You will also regularly produce reports on your training to your university. Make sure that your university approves the school in which you do your supervised teaching. There are training programs for career changers who can then get a teacher certification.

3. Pass required exams

You need to fulfill testing requirements according to the school and subject you choose. If you're going to teach a specific topic or in advanced grades, you need to pass exams in that subject. Education-competency exams, such as PRAXIS II or state regents' exams, may also be required.

In some states, you might have to take an edTPA, which stands for Teacher Performance Assessment. This assessment consists of having future teachers self-assess their classroom performance.

4. Get a state teaching license

Teaching licensure requirements vary depending on the state you live in. Inform yourself about those conditions before you start your degree program.

A clean criminal background check and meeting the GPA requirement are often prerequisites for getting a state license.

5. Get a master's degree

After becoming a certified teacher, you may want to continue your education and pursue graduate studies. For particular fields, like special education, you need to obtain a master's degree before getting certified in some states.

Is this article helpful?
Explore your next job opportunity on IndeedFind jobs

Related Articles

32 Questions To Ask Your Interviewer in a Teacher Interview

Explore more articles

  • 20 Roles in Digital Marketing (Plus Definitions and Salary)
  • What Is a Nurse Lawyer? Duties, Salary and How To Become One
  • Understanding The Types of Project Manager Jobs and Methodologies
  • 17 Manual Labor Jobs
  • 30 Exciting Careers in Writing (With Salaries)
  • 10 Types of Advertising Agencies (Including Definitions)
  • 16 Pharmacy-Related Career Options To Consider (With Salary)
  • 10 Wildlife Jobs That Don't Require a Degree
  • How To Become a Substitute Teacher in Oregon in 6 Steps
  • What Does a Hospital Social Worker Do? (With Specialties)
  • How To Become a Sports Medicine Doctor
  • How To Become a Quantitative Trader in 4 Steps (With Skills)