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Page updated 3/1/2016

High school music teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach music lessons and various music related skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.



High school music teachers typically do the following:

  • Plan lessons in the subjects they teach such as music lessons, theory, or band / orchestra
  • Assess students to evaluate their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Teach students as an entire class or in small groups
  • Grade students’ assignments to monitor progress
  • Communicate with parents about students’ progress
  • Work with individual students to challenge them, to improve their abilities, and to work on their weaknesses
  • Develop and enforce classroom rules
  • Supervise students outside of the classroom—for example, at lunchtime or during detention

High school music teachers generally teach students from the 9th through 12th grades. They may teach several different classes within that subject area.

High school teachers may teach many grade levels throughout the day. For example, in one class they may have students from the 9th grade and then in the next class they may have students in 12th. In many schools, students are divided into classes based on their abilities, so teachers need to change their courses based on their students’ capabilities.

High school teachers see several different classes of students throughout the day. They may teach the same material—for example, world history—to more than one class if the school has many students taking that subject.
Some high school teachers instruct special classes, such as art, music, and physical education.

When they do not have classes, teachers plan lessons, grade assignments, and meet with other teachers and staff.
In some schools, there are teachers of English as a second language (ESL) or teachers of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) who work exclusively with students who are learning English. These students are often referred to as English language learners (ELLs). These teachers work with students individually or in groups to help them improve their English skills and help them with assignments for other classes.

Students with learning disabilities and emotional or behavioral disorders often are taught in traditional classes. Therefore, high school teachers may work with special education teachers to adapt lessons to these students’ needs and to monitor the students’ progress.

Some teachers maintain websites to communicate with parents about students’ assignments, upcoming events, and grades. For students, teachers may create websites or discussion boards to present information and to expand a lesson taught in class.

Some high school teachers coach sports and advise student clubs and other groups, activities which frequently happen before or after school.

Typical job duties could include teaching music, chorus, or band for schools, colleges, universities, or musical institutes.  Music Teaching could also include musical instrument instruction, guitar instruction, piano instruction, and more.


The median annual wage for high school teachers was $55,050 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,930, and the top 10 percent earned over $85,690.

High school teachers generally work school hours, which vary from school to school. However, they often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. In addition, they may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. Plus, teachers who coach sports or advise clubs generally do so before or after school.

Many work the traditional 10-month school year, with a 2-month break during the summer. Although most do not teach during the summer, some teach in summer programs. Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row, are on break for 1 week, and have a 5-week midwinter break.



All states require public high school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Most states require high school teachers to have majored in a subject area, such as chemistry or history. While majoring in a subject area, future teachers typically enroll in their higher education’s teacher prep program and take classes in education and child psychology as well.

In teacher education programs, prospective high school teachers learn how to present information to students and how to work with students of varying abilities and backgrounds. Programs typically include fieldwork, such as student teaching.

Some states require high school teachers to earn a master’s degree after earning their teaching certification.
Teachers in private schools don't need to meet state requirements. However, private schools typically seek high school teachers who have a bachelor’s degree and a major in a subject area.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed / certified. Those who teach in private schools are generally not required to be licensed.

High school teachers typically are awarded a secondary or high school certification.

Requirements for certification vary by state. However, all states require that teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree. States also require completing a teacher preparation program and supervised experience in teaching, typically gained through student teaching. Some states require a minimum grade point average. States typically require candidates to pass a general teaching certification test, as well as a test that demonstrates their knowledge in the subject they will teach. For information on certification requirements in your state, visit

Often, teachers are required to complete annual professional development classes to keep their license. Most states require teachers to pass a background check, and some states require teachers to complete a master’s degree after receiving their certification.

All states offer an alternative route to certification for people who already have a bachelor’s degree but lack the education courses required for certification. Some alternative certification programs allow candidates to begin teaching immediately under the supervision of an experienced teacher. These programs cover teaching methods and child development. After they complete the program, candidates are awarded full certification.

Other programs require students to take classes in education before they can teach. Students may be awarded a master’s degree after completing either type of program.


In order to receive certification, teachers need to undergo a period of fieldwork, commonly referred to as student teaching. During student teaching, they work with a mentor teacher and gain experience teaching students in a classroom setting.

Important Qualities

  • Communication skills. Teachers must collaborate with other teachers and special education teachers. In addition, teachers need to discuss students’ needs with parents and administrators.
  • Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. High school teachers must be patient when students struggle with material.
  • Resourcefulness. High school teachers need to explain difficult concepts in terms students can understand. In addition, they must be able to engage students in learning and adapt lessons to each student’s needs.

Experienced teachers can advance to be mentors or lead teachers. In these positions, they often work with less-experienced teachers to help them improve their teaching skills.

With additional education or certification, teachers may become school counselors, school librarians, or instructional coordinators. Some become assistant principals or principals. Becoming a principal usually requires additional instruction in education administration or leadership.

  • Citation - Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, High School Teachers, on the Internet at 


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