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Middle School Teacher Career Guide

Special education teacher

What Is a Middle School Teacher?

In addition to being skilled educators, middle school teachers guide students through some of the most formative years of their lives and prepare them for the knowledge and skills they’ll need in high school and beyond. They also help develop a student’s unique talents and foster their passion for learning. In other words, it takes a special kind of person to be a teacher at a middle school.

If you’re wondering whether you’re cut out to teach middle school, this guide will bring you up to speed on the job description, skills, educational requirements, income, and job outlook of a middle school teacher. 

What Does a Middle School Teacher Do?

Teachers at the middle school level instruct students, typically in sixth through eighth grade. However, in some school districts, they may teach students as early as fourth grade or as late as ninth grade.

Because they specialize in different curriculum (like math, science, or history), these teachers have a unique opportunity to share their academic passions with students. These teachers also help kids build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more challenging classes they’ll face in high school. 

As part of your job description you’ll be expected to work mornings and afternoons, Monday through Friday. Before and after school you may have to grade papers, create lesson plans, and prepare for the upcoming school day. The days can be long; however, most teachers enjoy a 10-month-long work year, with a two-month break during the summer, as well as a one- to two-week break in the winter. Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work nine weeks in a row and then have a three-week break before starting a new school session.

The job description of a middle school teacher can look vastly different depending on the district or subject matter they teach. But here are some things you can expect to do in this role: 

  • Create lesson plans and teach those lessons, utilizing state curriculum
  • Instruct students utilizing their elementary school knowledge and preparing them for their future
  • Prepare students for standardized tests required by the state curriculum
  • Assess students to evaluate their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Grade students' assignments and exams
  • Communicate with parents about their child's progress
  • Work with students individually to help them overcome specific learning challenges
  • Create and enforce classroom rules
  • Supervise students outside of the classroom—for example, during lunchtime or detention
“After graduating from WGU, and through all the rigor and quality of instruction that I received in the educational field, I was awarded Hawaii District Teacher of the Year in 2012.” Amoreena Nestman
M.A. Teaching – Elementary Education

Specialties for Middle School Teachers

Teachers at the middle school level specialize in specific subject areas, and within these subjects they often teach multiple courses. Part of their job description is to teach lessons based on their specialization. For example, if you specialize in math, you might teach courses like geometry or algebra. 

As you think about becoming a middle school teacher, you’ll need to choose the subject you want to teach. Here’s a look at some of the different specialties you can explore as a middle school teacher:

What Education Does a Kindergarten Teacher Need?

Edited Book Stack

The educational path to becoming a middle school teacher can be broken into four steps:

Step One: Earn your bachelor’s degree.

To teach middle school, your bachelor’s degree will typically include a major in the subject you wish to teach. 

Step Two: Complete a student teaching internship.

A student teaching program allows you to gain real-world experience in a middle school classroom. Under the supervision of a mentor teacher, you’ll learn to prepare and present information to students and learn how to work with children of varying abilities and backgrounds.

Step Three: Pass your state’s required tests and apply for your teaching certificate.

When it comes to specific certification requirements for middle school teachers, those can vary state to state. However, most states require candidates to pass a general teaching certification test, as well as a test that demonstrates your knowledge of the subject you’ll teach. Private schools may not require educators to hold a teaching certification.

Step Four: Explore professional development or continuing education opportunities.

Some states might require you to earn a master’s degree after receiving your teaching certificate. And most states and schools also require teaching professionals to earn a minimum number of continuing education (CE) units or credits. Many higher education institutions offer CE through flexible online degree programs designed for both working and aspiring educators. These courses allow anyone looking to build their career the ability to do so without having to complete an entire degree program, helping them improve their classroom skills and stay up to date on the latest teaching trends and techniques.

Degrees For Middle School Teachers

Mathematics Education (Middle Grades) – B.S.

An online teacher certification program for aspiring middle...

An online teacher certification program for...

An online teacher certification program for aspiring middle school math teachers. Leads to teaching license in states that have a middle-grades math teaching license.

Specific grade levels will vary depending on teaching licensure in your state.

  • Time: 61% of grads earned this degree within 30 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,520 per 6-month term.

Candidates for this science teaching degree program often include:

  • Aspiring junior high math teachers who currently lack a teaching license
  • Substitute teachers
  • Career-changers with a passion for math
  • School paraprofessionals
  • Others who feel the call to teach

This science teaching degree program includes online courses in the following areas: general education, foundations of teaching, science, mathematics, pedagogy, science education, field experience, and a teacher performance assessment. It requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time demonstration teaching. This science teaching degree prepares you to be eligible for a teaching license in any of the 50 states.

Science Education (Middle Grades) – B.S.

An online teaching degree and teacher certification program for...

An online teaching degree and teacher...

An online teaching degree and teacher certification program for aspiring middle school science teachers. Leads to teaching license in all states that have a middle-grades general science teaching license.

Specific grade levels you are qualified to teach will vary depending on teaching certification in your state.

  • Time: 69% of grads earned this science teaching degree within 36 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,520 per 6-month term, plus a one-time fee of $350 to cover the cost of an at-home science lab.

Candidates for this online science teaching degree often include:

  • Aspiring junior high or middle school science teachers who currently lack a teaching license
  • Substitute teachers
  • Career-changers with a passion for science
  • School paraprofessionals
  • Others who feel the call to teach

This science teaching degree program includes coursework in the following areas: general education, foundations of teaching, science, mathematics, pedagogy, science education, field experience, and a teacher performance assessment. It requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time demonstration teaching.

Teaching, Mathematics Education (Middle Grades) – M.A.

An online teaching master's degree and teacher certification...

An online teaching master's degree and teacher...

An online teaching master's degree and teacher certification program for aspiring middle school math teachers who already have a bachelor's degree in a non-teaching field.

Leads to teacher licensure. Specific grade levels will vary depending on licensure in your state.

  • Time: 70% of graduates finish this middle school math teaching degree within 18 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,685 per 6-month term.

Candidates for this master's in math education degree often include:

  • Aspiring junior high math teachers who currently hold a bachelor's degree but lack a teaching license
  • Substitute teachers
  • Career-changers with a passion for math
  • School paraprofessionals
  • Others who feel the call to teach

This M.A. Teaching program in middle grades math education includes courses in the foundations of teaching, mathematics education, instructional planning and presentation, and pedagogy. It requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time demonstration teaching.

It differs from the M.A. Teaching, Mathematics Education (Secondary) program in that it does not require courses in upper levels of calculus, including advanced calculus and mathematical modeling. The curriculum of this online math degree is designed to prepare middle school math teachers for success.

Science Education (Middle Grades) – M.A.

An online master's degree for current teachers who want to...

An online master's degree for current teachers...

An online master's degree for current teachers who want to specialize in teaching science to middle school students.

Available in all states that offer a middle-grades general science endorsement.

  • Time: 76% of grads earned this degree within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,385 per 6-month term, plus a one-time fee of $350 to cover the cost of an at-home science lab.

Areas of study in this program include:

  • General science
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Ecology
  • Science education
  • Teacher performance assessment

Propel your career as a middle school or junior high science teacher with this M.A. degree.


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How Do I Become a Licensed Middle School Teacher?

Each state will have unique requirements on the path to becoming a licensed teacher, so it's important to research and work with your state Board of Education in order to understand the requirements. For most states, you will need at least a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in the education field of your specialty. You will need in-classroom experience, to pass a background check, and to pass licensing exams in order to be certified.

MAT degree teacher in classroom with students

Requirements for Middle School Teachers

All states require public middle school teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree, and some might require you to have a major in elementary education. Many states also require middle school teachers to major in a content area, such as math or science. Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools typically look for middle school teachers who have a bachelor's degree and a major in elementary education or a content area.

On top of the education needed to become a middle school teacher, there are also a handful of qualities that will help you succeed in this career path. After all, working with kids can be challenging, so having patience, strong communication skills, and a passion for teaching will serve you well. Aspiring middle school teachers should also be able to form solid relationships with students, parents, and other teaching staff and be comfortable establishing and enforcing discipline.

If you can relate to many of the qualities listed above, you may be a natural fit to teach middle school.

How Much Does a Middle School Teacher Make?

$59,000

Depending on your location and experience, most middle school teachers can expect to earn around $59,000 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Middle school teachers who work in private schools could earn up to $10,000 less per year. Although the pay may be less at a private school, teachers at these schools typically have smaller class sizes and more flexibility when it comes to their curricula. With more experience and more education, middle school teachers in both public and private schools can earn a higher salary. 

What Is the Job Outlook for Middle School Teachers?

4%

The number of students in public middle schools is expected to increase over the next 10 years, and with that, the number of classes needed to accommodate those students will, too. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job openings for middle school teachers is projected to grow 4% by 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Do I Need a License to Teach Middle School?

Yes

In order to teach in public schools you will need at least a bachelor's degree and a teacher's license. Middle school teachers typically have unique licenses in their specialty and for their grade level to qualify them for a career as an educator. Even if you do not have a bachelor's degree in education, in every state you will have to have a teaching license in order to teach in a classroom.

Interested in Becoming a Middle School Teacher?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.

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