How to Become a Secondary Teacher (With Skills and Salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 October 2022 | Published 6 December 2021

Updated 24 October 2022

Published 6 December 2021

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.

Becoming a secondary school teacher allows you to help students learn in their final schooling years before they enter higher education. Secondary teachers often specialise in different subjects. Understanding how to become a secondary teacher could help you make more informed career choices. In this article, we provide a step guide on becoming a secondary school teacher, list the skills and qualifications required and explain what duties a secondary teacher has.

What is a secondary teacher?

A secondary teacher is a type of school teacher that specialises in teaching secondary school-age children, typically from the ages of 11 to 16. These professionals primarily focus on one subject like maths, English or biology and may teach their specialist subject from university. Specialising in one field allows them to lead specific lessons and increase students' chances of passing exams and progressing. Pupils are more likely to develop in-depth knowledge from targeted lessons. Secondary school teachers guide students from a young age and teach them exam techniques and valuable lessons for further education like senior secondary and university.

Secondary teachers handle multiple classes and year groups every day and teach a pre-approved curriculum designed for each year group. It's a secondary teacher's responsibility to ensure that they possess the relevant knowledge and theoretical understanding to teach a class. These professionals may complete a separate teaching course from their degree to ensure they understand how to teach, navigate classrooms and handle different behaviours.

How to become a secondary teacher

Learning how to become a secondary teacher involves a thorough knowledge of your specialism whilst developing your teaching techniques and child behaviour. As a secondary teacher, you may spend your education specialising in multiple areas to learn various teaching methods whilst catering to different learning styles and levels. Below is a guide to becoming a secondary teacher:

1. Complete a bachelor's degree

A bachelor's degree in your specialist subject provides you with the expert theoretical and practical knowledge necessary for teaching a class. A bachelor's degree focuses on providing you with the industry skills required, like critical thinking, written communication and analysis. You may choose to gain a bachelor's in education and integrate your subject as a major. Alternatively, you can spend three years focusing on your speciality, like English Literature and then gaining a master's in education after your graduation.

2. Gain a postgraduate degree

You might pursue a postgraduate qualification if you studied a specific subject at university rather than a teaching discipline. A master's degree or graduate certification in a relevant field equips you with theoretical knowledge on learning stages and how to teach varying competencies. Courses may offer placement hours to gain hands-on teaching experience with your chosen year group. You may require a certain number of training hours before qualifying.

Related: How to Become a Teacher (Including FAQs)

3. Pass a background check and gain accreditation

You may need to pass a Working with Children background check to work with minors legally. The check is an important step in registering as a qualified teacher, clearing you from any criminal conviction and ensuring that you're safe to work with children. To work as a teacher in Australia, passing an accredited course with one year minimum in education is mandatory. You can then register with The Teacher Registration Board to seek fully qualified status.

Related: Jobs That Involve Working With Children

4. Apply for roles

Once fully qualified, you may then apply for secondary teaching roles in your speciality. Consider maintaining contact with your own school or the schools you taught at during your placement. These connections may pass along job adverts, put you in contact with teachers from their professional network or refer you for jobs at their respective schools. Maintaining a good teaching network may simplify job searches.

5. Consider a specialisation

After teaching for a while, you may notice that you wish to narrow down your skill set even further and specialise in special education needs or another niche. Expanding your skills may prove valuable during job application processes, as further specialisation may give you a competitive advantage. Refining your expertise may give you an opportunity to influence teaching strategy and help future teachers during their studies.

Related: How to Become an EAL Teacher (With Salary and Duties)

Duties of a secondary teacher

Secondary school teachers conduct a variety of roles day-to-day. They may concern themselves with changing school policy surrounding uniform or safeguarding, whilst preparing lesson plans and advising on curriculum changes. Below is a list of secondary teacher duties:

  • marking homework

  • grading test papers

  • preparing lesson plans on a daily or weekly basis

  • reviewing curriculum changes

  • attending staff meetings

  • meeting with parents

  • providing tutoring

  • organising classrooms

  • teaching different year groups

  • liaising with examination boards

  • taking disciplinary action

  • researching new teaching methods or studying special educational needs

  • observing other lessons

  • organising school trips and extracurricular activities

Related: What Does a Special Educator Do? (A Comprehensive Guide)

Skills for becoming a secondary teacher

Secondary school teachers require a mixture of hard and soft skills to teach various children effectively. Soft skills refer to personal attributes that enable a teacher to communicate and interact with children. Hard skills are more specific and allow teachers to teach at the secondary level. Below are some examples of hard and soft skills that teachers require:

Soft skills

Here are some important soft skills for this career:

  • Good written and verbal communication: Teachers rely on communication to teach their students, explain topics and grade their work. Excellent communication skills are necessary for explaining any errors and guiding them on the right path.

  • Critical thinking: Teachers promote critical thinking in their students to help them tackle topics and challenges. These professionals may then have a good understanding of critical thinking skills to help their students develop their own.

  • Problem-solving: Teachers may use comprehensive problem-solving skills to resolve behavioural challenges in the classroom. This ensures that teachers resolve any issues promptly, with minimal effects on a child's education.

  • Positive thinking: Teaching requires long hours on your feet and may require you to cater to children with additional behavioural needs. Positive thinking may help you stay motivated and level-headed whilst at work.

  • Empathy: Schools require teachers to cater to children of different backgrounds and provide emotional support to struggling students. This requires empathy and active listening to absorb any concerns and offer advice.

  • Confidence: Confidence is necessary for delivering engaging and practical lessons. Confident teachers can hold themselves in a classroom despite any behavioural challenges and can clearly deliver key teachings without getting overwhelmed.

  • Interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills are useful for interacting with other staff or liaising with parents. Interpersonal skills also make you more approachable to students, potentially improving class-time behaviour.

  • Project management: Secondary teachers often work with specific children to tutor or provide extra attention during school. This requires the basics of project management to understand the key challenges and what kind of approach is the most successful.

  • Organisation: Teachers often teach multiple year groups every day, so strong organisational skills are essential. This means that teachers keep track of a class' progress, individual student targets, lesson plans and marking.

Hard skills

Here are some important hard or technical skills for this role:

  • Teaching methods: Teachers possess in-depth knowledge of successful teaching methods for different kinds of students. This helps teachers educate individual pupils, potentially improving the student experience.

  • Behavioural psychology: Teachers may identify any early signs of behavioural issues to advise the school or parents on the appropriate course of action. This can help teachers cater to those students more effectively whilst offering empathy and patience.

  • Safe-guarding: Safeguarding is a critical element of teaching as it looks after a student's physical and mental welfare in and out of school. Safeguarding skills enable a teacher to identify signs that may put a student at risk and ensure identity protection.

  • Subject-specific knowledge: Secondary teachers require in-depth knowledge of their subject, including any field changes that require research-led skills. They may also be familiar with specific teaching methods relevant to that speciality.

The average salary of a secondary teacher

The average national salary of a secondary school teacher is $97,161 per year. Teaching salaries may depend on the time you have been teaching and what type of school you wish to teach at. For example, a private school may pay differently to a state-run school, as these institutions typically determine salaries individually.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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