Selecting a career can be a daunting challenge, and it’s likely that when you were making this decision, you had helpful guidance from parents and teachers. High school teachers especially serve as role models and mentors in important times of transition for students. Many kind, patient souls yearn for this purposeful, meaningful work. But before pursuing teaching as a career, you may want to consider: what are the pros and cons of being a high school teacher?
Some of the pros include your ability to connect with others and engage in meaningful work. A teaching schedule can also align nicely with children’s school schedules, making it an attractive choice for those with children. Yet, lower incomes and limited promotion opportunities can be deterrents from pursuing teaching as a career. High school teachers also may deal with some challenging students and parents, and another unfortunate current reality is that teachers are under high levels of scrutiny and feel pressures to have students perform at high levels.
Here we’ll explore more pros and cons of teaching high school to help you decide if it’s a good fit for you.
What Are the Pros of Being a High School Teacher?
You get to engage in purposeful work that serves an important role in society.
As a teacher, you get to help mold and shape our future. You get to inspire young people and give them the necessary tools to pursue their passions and succeed as adults. It’s fulfilling work, and the appreciation students have of the teachers that got them where they are is certainly a benefit to this work.
Related: 12 Teachers Who Changed the World
You’ll get the ability to share your talents and passions with others.
Do you love basketball? Art? Fixing cars? Debate? High schools have unique, targeted classes as well as extracurricular offerings that allow educators the unique opportunity to incorporate some personal passions into their work. In addition to teaching classes, high school teachers are encouraged to also coach sports and advise activities, creating another channel for inspiring and connecting with young people.
Related: Why is Teaching Rewarding?
Teaching provides good job security.
There will always be a need for high school teachers. Community sizes dictate how many teachers are needed, and although this number may grow and shrink over time, the opportunities will always be there. Teachers are also needed all over the world, so you’d have flexibility to live anywhere you’d like as all communities need good teachers.
A teaching schedule can align nicely with that of your own children.
Teachers that are also parents are able to be home when their children are home. Teachers also have long breaks (like holiday breaks, spring break, and summer) that align with breaks in their children’s schools, so they are able to spend that time with their children rather than have to find alternative care during those times.
Teaching allows a lot of autonomy in your day-to-day plans.
You get to plan your lessons. You get to decide when items are due which dictates when you will have work to grade. Much of your schedule is yours to plan, and in districts with supportive administration, teachers often get a lot of freedom and flexibility in how and what they’d like to teach as long as they meet some educational standards.
Teachers enjoy good benefit packages.
A typical teaching benefit package includes a retirement savings program, extensive healthcare plans with low premiums and low deductibles, life insurance, summers away from work, and other competitive benefits. And as with other governmental jobs, there are often many discount programs available to teachers.
What Are the Cons of Being a High School Teacher?
Teacher salaries are lower than in other professions.
CNN says teachers make about 20% less than other professions in the U.S. And with limited promotion opportunities, raises are usually pretty small, so increasing your income can be a slow and tedious process.
Much of the workload needs to be completed outside of the work day.
High school teachers have a lot of commitments during the school day from working with students, attending meetings, communicating with parents, and planning lessons. Therefore, the grading workload can often bleed into hours outside of school. Grading writing can be very time consuming, so many high school teachers need to spend nights and weekends catching up on work.
A teaching schedule is not a very flexible work schedule.
While teachers may enjoy earlier and shorter reporting hours than some professions, a teaching schedule is pretty rigid in terms of report times. Flexibility to work at home, take off for appointments, and create unique work schedules may be more challenging in a high school teaching environment due to the need to supervise students during school hours.
Related: Do Teachers Get Vacation Days?
Reaching students can be challenging work.
Depending on where you teach, you may struggle to reach students or even struggle to receive resources necessary to help students. As with any teaching job, you’re working with students across the socioeconomic spectrum, so it is likely that some students need more help than you are able to give. You also may have students that choose not to apply themselves or don’t make the academic progress you’d hope, and those can be very frustrating challenges to navigate.
Teaching can be mentally and emotionally demanding.
If you’re invested in your students, it can be hard to leave work at work. You may find yourself worrying about students or thinking about issues with parents in your time off. You may also be receiving a lot of email communication from parents on the weekends and evenings when they are off, so it can be difficult to unplug while you are at home.
How Is Teaching High School Different Than Teaching Other Grades?
Teaching is a challenging, yet rewarding position regardless of the level you teach. But, there are a few distinctions based on the level you choose to teach at:
In high school, you’ll teach more classes.
In lower grades, teachers teach one group of students in many different subjects, whereas in high school, you’ll teach many groups of students one subject in more specialized forms. Therefore at the high school level, you also need to have a deeper content knowledge of those subjects.
Older students come with different behavioral challenges.
Because high school students are older, you’ll likely need to deal with behavioral challenges that are more serious in nature. Rather than correcting minor behaviors, you may have to involve other professionals as you deal with concerns like bullying and mental health concerns.
Related: 6 Different Types of Bullying
High school teachers often have more evening time commitments.
Because of all of the added requirements for a high school student like taking the ACTs, preparing for college, selecting and scheduling their courses, and participating in extracurriculars, high school teachers often have more evening commitments as they guide students through these experiences. Whether it’s coaching, attending a parent information night, or assisting with special events, high school teachers should be prepared to commit hours outside of the work day to supporting their students.
Is It Better to Teach in Public School or Private School?
Many of these pros and cons apply to both public and private high school, but it’s important to consider how some of these pros and cons may differ depending on the environment you choose to teach in. Here are some of the key differences between teaching in public and private high schools:
- Public schools often offer higher salaries and more benefits than private schools do
- Public schools often have more professional development and continuing education requirements than private schools do
- You’ll often find more diverse groups of students at public schools. Private schools are often comprised of populations of students with higher socioeconomic status.
- Public schools often have larger class sizes than private schools do
Should I Become a High School Teacher?
This is really a personal decision, but here are some questions you may want to consider before deciding whether you want to become a high school teacher:
- Do you like working with children? The majority of the time you spend in teaching will be with young people, so if you do not enjoy working with children, teaching is not for you.
- Is there a content area you’re really passionate about? You will spend a lot of time talking about this topic with students and designing lessons that get students excited about this topic. If you are not excited about it, they will not be either. So it’s important that you are very passionate about the subject area you’re looking to teach.
- Are you someone that likes change, or could you be happy doing something similar for a long period of time? Because promotion opportunities are limited in teaching, it is likely you will be in the same role for a long time unless you choose to work at another school. If you’re someone that gets bored easily and likes to switch things up, teaching might not be a good fit for you.
- Can your financial goals be achieved with teaching? While it is a fulfilling career choice, teaching will likely not make you rich. So, if your personal financial goals will not be supported by a teaching salary, you may want to consider another profession. Or, research the types of teaching jobs that pay the most and take steps to pursuing those types of jobs!
Ultimately, you should take the time to weigh the pros and cons of being a high school teacher to determine whether it’s a career you’d like to pursue. Like with any career, you may not like everything about being a teacher, but if the pros outweigh the cons for you, then it could be a great fit.