Job description
The majority of teachers are primary and secondary school teachers. They generally choose a specific grade level or area of specialty in which to teach. Teachers are responsible for planning and then evaluating student performance. They are then responsible for promoting growth through providing additional assistance and meeting with parents and school staff to discuss student development and ways to improve current teaching methods to better suit students.

It is a teacher’s daunting task to add life to their student’s school day by generating interest in all subject areas, even those that can be tedious for most students. They work to create lesson plans tailored to their students’ level of cognitive ability and interests. Nowadays, teachers are working to move away from traditional methods of teaching and using more creative and abstract ways of presenting topics to their classes.

It is important that they have a good sense of humor and the ability to think like their students. They must also be comfortable dealing with a wide variety of personality types and ability levels, while still treating all their students equally.

A day in the life?
It is most rewarding for teachers when they really make a difference in a child’s life, when they are able to ignite curiosity and growth in their students. But as much as teaching can be rewarding, it can also be frustrating and stressful when dealing with unmotivated students, large classes, and heavy workloads. Most significantly, teachers will sometimes have to deal with unruly behavior and violence from students. In addition, schools in inner cities and poor communities are often run down and lack much needed resources.

Despite the seemingly short workday teachers put in, they tend to work longer than the average 40 hours a week clocked for most occupations. This is due to the preparation, paperwork, and grading that must occur outside of normal school hours. Many teachers work part-time, especially teachers for preschool and kindergarten. While most teachers work a 10-month school year with two months vacation in the summer, some work summer programs or at other jobs. Preschool teachers working in day care settings will often work year round. Most states have tenure laws regarding the termination of teacher jobs. This means that teachers are provided some job security in that they cannot be fired without just cause and due process. Teachers that have successfully completed a probationary period of about three years are qualified for tenure.

Education and training
All 50 states and the District of Columbia require public school teachers to be licensed, whereas licensure is not required for private school teachers. Teaching licenses are given by the State board of education or an advisory committee. Requirements vary depending on the state, but all states require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree and to have completed an approved training program. It normally takes about 5 years to receive your bachelor’s degree in elementary or secondary education. Approximately one third of all states require that teachers complete training in technology as part of their certification process. In addition, some states have strict minimum grade point averages for teaching licensure, and others even require teachers to have a master’s degree in education, which takes at least one year longer to obtain than the bachelor’s degree. The majority of states require candidates be tested for basic skills such as reading, writing, teaching, and subject matter of choice.

States have requirements for teachers concerning continuing education and renewal of licensure. In addition, many states offer alternative teacher licensure programs for people who have bachelor’s degrees in the subject they wish to teach, but do not have the coursework required for a teaching license. The programs are meant to attract recent grads and career changing individuals into the profession of teaching.

Pay
Following are national median salaries for teachers at various primary and secondary school levels, based on 15 years of experience.

Grade Level
Median Salary
    Teacher’s Aide
$16,576
    Preschool
$21,760
    Kindergarten
$43,612
    Elementary School
$43,536
    High School
$43,395
Source: Salary.com, September 2003
For this month’s salaries: Salary Wizard

According to TeacherLinkUSA, New Jersey currently pays its public schoolteachers the highest average salary in the nation, $53,280, with South Dakota coming in last at $30,260.
Job outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects for the teaching profession are expected to be above average and excellent due mainly to the large amount of teachers retiring in the coming years. There will be increased competition for teachers with impressive backgrounds, with some states attempting to lure teachers from other locations with bonuses and higher pay. States seeing the highest enrollment increases in teacher programs are the south and west, while the northeast and midwest may experience declines. Enrollments will rise in grades nine through twelve and remain steady for all other grades through the year 2010. School location of course plays a role as well, with the lowest enrollments existing in inner cities and rural areas, and a shortage of jobs existing in suburban areas.

Related occupations
With additional education or training, teachers often move into such positions as librarians, reading and curriculum specialists, and guidance counselors. In some school systems, teachers can become senior or mentor teachers that hold additional responsibilities in guiding other teachers, and enjoy higher pay. Other related occupations, requiring similar skills and aptitudes, include school administrators, adult educators and trainers, college and university faculty, childcare workers, social workers, and coaches.