Teacher Job Description and Career Profile

Career Information

Teacher Reading a Picture Book to Students
A teacher reads a book to her class. Cavan Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Job Description

A teacher works with students and helps them learn concepts in subjects such as science, mathematics, language arts, social studies, art and music. They then help them apply these concepts. Teachers work in elementary schools, middle schools, secondary schools and preschools. Teachers work in either private schools or public schools. Some teach special education, but information on those who do is not included in this profile.

Employment Facts

Teachers, other than special education teachers, held about 3.5 million jobs in 2008. Most worked in public schools.

Educational Requirements

To become a teacher you usually need a bachelor's degree. All public schools require that and many private schools do as well. Generally, one has to complete an approved teacher training program that includes earning a specified number of subject and education credits and doing practical training, i.e. student teaching. Many school districts around the US now accept bachelor's degrees in other majors. Some states also require teachers to earn a master's degree within a certain amount of time. Requirements for preschool teachers vary by state. Some require a bachelor's degree in early childhood education while others require an associate degree.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements

All states and the District of Columbia require public school teachers to be licensed.

State boards or departments of education generally issue these licenses. In order to become licensed, one must generally pass an exam that demonstrates competency in basic skills and proficiency in his or her subject area.


With experience, some teachers become school administrators. Others get additional training and become guidance counselors, school librarians and reading specialists.

Why Do You Need to Know About Advancement?

Job Outlook

Employment of kindergarten through secondary school teachers will grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2018. Job opportunities will vary from good to excellent. This will depend on location, grade level and subject specialty. For example, there will be a greater demand for mathematics, science and bi-lingual education teachers and for those who want to teach in less desirable school districts.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?


Teachers' salaries vary depending on whether they teach elementary, middle or secondary school. This was the median annual salary for each in 2009:

Elemantary School Teachers: $50,510
Middle School Teachers: $50,770
Secondary School Teachers: $52,200

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much teachers currently earn in your city.

What Do Teachers Do?:


  • use props or manipulatives to help children understand abstract concepts, solve problems, and develop critical thought processes;
  • introduce children to mathematics, language, science, and social studies;
  • encourage collaboration in solving problems by having students work in groups to discuss and solve problems together;

    Elementary School Teachers:

    • instruct one class of children in several subjects or work as a team with another teacher;
    • sometimes teach one special subject, such as music or art;

    Middle school teachers and secondary school teachers:

    • help students delve more deeply into subjects introduced in elementary school and expose them to more information about the world;
    • specialize in a specific subject;
    • may teach subjects that are career oriented;

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Teachers: Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, and Secondary, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm (visited July 7, 2008).
    Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/25-2021.00, Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Vocational Education, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/25-2022.00, Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Vocational Education, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/25-2031.00 (visited December 7, 2010).

    Find Your Next Job

    Job Search by