Middle school students in class.
Teaching Careers and Professional Development Updated March 1, 2020

Middle School Teacher: Degree Requirements, Salary and Career Info

By Robbie Bruens

Middle school teachers educate young people at a crucial stage of their development. Kids’ minds develop rapidly during their preteen and early teenage years, but they still need lots of guidance from wise, caring teachers to confront new and challenging ideas, make healthy decisions and learn from mistakes.

If you’re interested in enabling the academic, social and personal development of adolescents in positive learning environments, you should start thinking about what it takes to become a middle school teacher. This guide will bring you up to speed on the prerequisite education, likely income, and advantages and disadvantages of the career. Browse through the article or use the following links to skip forward to what you’re looking for:

At-a-glance
> Middle school teacher job description
> Who makes a good middle school teacher?

Types of middle school teachers
> Middle school language arts/social studies teachers
> Middle school science/math teachers
> Middle school art/music teachers

Professional development

Related careers
> Other jobs

Best of the web
> Sites and Twitter handles to follow

At-a-glance: middle school teachers

Middle school language arts/social studies teachers Middle school science/math teachers Middle school art/music teachers
Minimum education Bachelor’s degree; master’s preferred Bachelor’s degree; master’s preferred Bachelor’s degree; master’s preferred
Estimated annual income $55,860 (BLS)
$49,128 (Glassdoor.com)
$45,392 (PayScale.com)
$55,860 (BLS)
$49,275 (Glassdoor.com)
$45,392 (PayScale.com)
$55,860 (BLS)
$47,938 (Glassdoor.com)
$41,603 (PayScale.com)
$55,000 (Indeed)

Middle school teacher job description

As a middle school teacher, your classroom is your workplace. Day-to-day tasks include:

  • Teaching a curriculum provided by the school
  • Assigning and grading homework
  • Writing and grading tests and essays
  • Engaging your class with lectures, classroom discussions, relevant activities and demonstrations.

You’ll also be challenged to connect classroom material to current events and everyday life to help your students better understand the importance of what they’re learning.

Middle school teachers can expect to work school days (mornings and afternoons five days a week, nine to 10 months of the year). You will teach more than one class of students each day. Between classes and after school, you may have to prepare lessons, grade homework and tests, and attend meetings. You may enjoy winter, spring and summer vacations. Some teachers work on pursuing a second career when school is not in session.

Who makes a good middle school teacher?

Someone who is:

  • Analytical and curious
  • A lover of reading
  • Interested in understanding larger systems and patterns
  • Comfortable with complex subject matter
  • Sociable and easy to talk to
  • Patient and resourceful
  • Good at motivating and inspiring students
  • Organized and careful about time management
  • Devoted to learning
  • Service-oriented
  • Able to express ideas precisely in writing
  • Highly knowledgeable about the social sciences
  • Qualified with an advanced degree in an education-related field, or a field related to middle school

Interested in becoming a middle school teacher?

Check out this video to get a better sense of what you’ll encounter in a career as a middle school teacher.

Different types of middle school teachers

As you think about becoming a middle school teacher, you’ll need to choose the subject you want to teach. Let’s take a look at the different types of middle school teachers in more detail.

Middle school language arts/social studies teachers

Middle school language arts and social studies teachers teach humanities subjects to students from the sixth to eighth grades.

Continue reading to learn more about middle school language arts and social studies teachers

What middle school language arts/social studies teachers do

In middle school, language arts and social studies teachers guide their preteen students through subjects like history, geography and English language literature. They usually instruct two to four classes a day that last 45 to 90 minutes. In between classes, they often have prep periods to plan lessons, grade assignments or meet with other teachers and staff.

Some teach both language arts and social studies in an integrated classroom. Others work in teams that teach language arts and social studies to the same group of students.

Typical duties of a language arts and social studies middle school teacher include:

  • Teaching students through classroom discussions and activities
  • Frequently checking in on student progress and ability
  • Preparing, administering and grading tests to evaluate students’ progress
  • Communicating with parents about their child’s progress
  • Tutoring students and preparing and implementing remedial programs
  • Developing and enforcing classroom rules
  • Mentoring students and teaching them how to reason, argue and persuade effectively
  • Supervising students outside of the classroom — for example, at lunchtime or during detention

In addition to classroom teaching, they may also instruct students one-on-one or in smaller groups outside of class. Sometimes they must set aside time outside of the school day to develop lesson content and to grade student work and tests.

Middle school language arts and social studies curriculum

The academic curriculum gets more subject-specific as children move up to middle school. In grades six to eight, middle school social studies teachers instruct their students on subjects such as U.S. history, world history, geography and civics.

  • U.S. history covers topics like the American Revolution, Manifest Destiny and the Civil War.
  • World history topics may include the ancient world, the medieval age and the world wars.
  • Geography covers the physical features of the earth and the political boundaries and formations of human society.
  • Civics studies the U.S. Constitution, the American political system and self-government.

Middle school language arts curriculum focuses on:

  • Critical thinking and analysis: Challenging students to analyze and comprehend literary and informational texts (books, articles, digital sources)
  • Research, writing and technology: Letting students use technology to complete research projects
  • Developing language skills: Teaching students to understand and use literary devices such as personification, allusions and verbal irony

Education and certification requirements

A bachelor’s degree and a state-certified teaching credential qualifies you to teach language arts or social studies in most U.S. middle schools. A bachelor’s degree in English, geography, sociology, anthropology, history, comparative literature or another relevant subject may give you an extra advantage in hiring since many schools prefer a teacher with advanced knowledge of the subject matter they are teaching.

Private schools may not require middle school teachers to have a state teaching certificate. However, most private schools will still seek teachers with a bachelor’s degree at minimum.

If you want a higher salary and better job opportunities, pursue a master’s degree in a humanities- or education-related subject.

Income projections

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the average annual salary for all middle school teachers, and career-related websites offer average salaries for middle school language arts and social studies teachers:

  • BLS: $55,860
  • Glassdoor.com: $49,275
  • PayScale.com: $45,392

Pros and cons of being a middle school language arts/social studies teacher

As you consider this career, make sure to think about the upsides and downsides of becoming a middle school teacher.

Pros

  • Inspire the curiosity of young students on important subjects
  • Many full-time jobs come with good benefits
  • Potential to earn job security via tenure
  • You may need only a bachelor’s degree
  • Focus exclusively on teaching and students

Cons

  • Frustrating when dealing with unmotivated or disruptive students
  • Can be difficult to find a great full-time job at a good school
  • Not as prestigious as a professorship in history or a social science

Middle school science/math teachers

In middle school, science and math teachers generally teach students from sixth to eighth grade.

Continue reading to learn more about middle school science/math teachers

What middle school science/math teachers do

Middle school science and math teachers typically see several classes of students throughout the day. When they don’t have classes, they plan lessons, grade assignments and meet with other teachers and staff.

Typical duties include:

  • Instructing students through lectures, discussions and demonstrations.
  • Assessing students to evaluate their abilities, strengths and weaknesses.
  • Preparing, administering and grading tests to evaluate students’ progress.
  • Communicating with parents about their child’s progress.
  • Developing and enforcing classroom rules.
  • Supervising students outside of the classroom — for example, at lunchtime or during detention.

In middle school, science and math are usually taught separately by different teachers. In addition to the duties listed above, math teachers are also responsible for assisting students who need extra help, such as by tutoring and preparing and implementing remedial programs.

Science teachers usually have double-period classes to allow time for lab work. Many students fall behind in math during middle school, so math teachers at this level must be vigilant for students having trouble keeping up.

Middle school science teachers have a few additional duties particular to their subject:

  • Staying current on the latest technology and scientific discoveries.
  • Coordinating school science fairs.
  • Mentoring students and preparing them for science competitions.

Some middle school science and math teachers work in teams that teach the same group of students. These teachers meet to discuss students’ progress and to plan lessons.

Middle school science and math curriculum

The academic curriculum in middle school is more targeted to specific subject areas than in elementary school. Teachers are more likely to be experts in their field, and curriculum often reflects the content of state tests students must take to graduate. During grades six through eight, the science curriculum focuses on three primary divisions of scientific inquiry:

  • Earth science covers geologic processes, oceans and the water cycle, Earth’s atmosphere, weather and climate, and an introduction to astronomy.
  • Life science focuses on the characteristics of living things, including plant and animal cell structures, genetics, human anatomy and the structure and function of plants.
  • Physical science encompasses chemistry and physics, including atoms and elements, the periodic table, states of matter, motion, gravity, density and buoyancy, energy, heat and the properties of waves and light.

The math curriculum is often divided by grade:

  • Sixth grade: Ratios and proportional relationships; early expressions and equations
  • Seventh grade: Advanced ratios and proportional relationships; arithmetic of rational numbers
  • Eighth grade: Linear algebra and linear functions

Educational and certification requirements

All states require public school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and many states require middle school teachers to major in a subject area relevant to what they’ll be teaching. So if you’re seeking to become a middle school science or math teacher, you should major in math or a scientific discipline like chemistry or biology. Some training in adolescent psychology is also recommended. Some schools require public school teachers to earn a master’s degree after earning their teaching certification.

Most teachers-to-be intern in a classroom as a student teacher. Working alongside a veteran teacher, the student teacher plans lessons, delivers instruction, grades assignments and communicates with parents.

Although not required by law, private schools typically seek middle school math/science teachers who have a bachelor’s degree in math or an area of science.

Income projections

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculates the average annual salary for all middle school teachers, and career-related websites offer average salaries for middle school science and math teachers:

  • BLS: $55,860
  • Glassdoor.com: $49,275
  • Salary.com: $45,392

The employment outlook for middle school science and math teachers looks favorable. According to the BLS, job openings are expected to grow by 12 percent through 2022.

Pros and cons of being a middle school science/math teacher

It will help to think through the positive and negative aspects of becoming a middle school science/math teacher.

Pros

  • Helping students solve problems and think critically
  • Seeing the lights go on when students discover answers on their own
  • The ability to be creative in planning lessons and activities
  • Most middle school teachers have two months off in summer
  • Many full-time jobs come with good benefits
  • Potential to earn job security via tenure
  • Serving as a positive role model for youth

Cons

  • Teaching middle school students science and math isn’t easy, and teachers need to be able to deal with disruptive or disrespectful students
  • Math and science teachers often spend significant time planning and preparing engaging activities before the students arrive in the morning, after school and on weekends
  • Turnover for first-year middle school teachers is high. For example, in Philadelphia, 34 percent of new middle school teachers quit after their first year, compared with 21 percent of elementary school teachers and 26 percent of high school teachers

Middle school art/music teachers

Middle school art and music teachers lead elective classes for students interested in artistic and musical expression.

Continue reading to learn more about middle school art/music teachers

What middle school art/music teachers do

Art and music classes give middle school students a special outlet to explore their imaginations and express themselves creatively.

As an art or music teacher, you will guide your students through practice of the artistic process and instill in them a lifelong love of art, music and culture. Arts education often includes a theoretical as well as practical approach to art and music. Therefore, you may teach your students color theory, design, musical notation, art history and other academic aspects of art.

Educational and certification requirements

Public school districts usually require middle school art and music teachers to have a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued teaching certification. Having a bachelor of fine art (BFA) degree is acceptable or even advantageous for prospective middle school art and music teachers.

Private schools typically seek middle school teachers with a BFA or a strong fine-arts background. They do not usually require a state-issued teaching certificate.

It can be useful to learn about adolescent psychology and pedagogy before becoming a middle school art teacher. You should also consider an internship in arts/music education and other student teaching opportunities.

Finally, if you want to boost your job prospects and income potential, consider pursuing a master’s degree. For a middle school art or music teacher, you should consider a master of fine art (MFA) degree in your field or an advanced degree in an education-related field.

Income projections

The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the average annual salary for all middle school teachers, and career-related websites offer average salaries for art and music teachers:

  • BLS: $55,860
  • Glassdoor.com: $47,938
  • PayScale.com: $41,603
  • Indeed.com: $55,000

Pros and cons of being a middle school art/music teacher

It will help to think through the positive and negative aspects of becoming a middle school art/music teacher.

Pros

  • Many full-time jobs come with good benefits
  • Potential to earn job security via tenure
  • School year provides flexibility with lots of time off
  • Serve as a positive role model for youth
  • Art and music courses are electives so students have chosen to commit their time to the subject
  • More job opportunity and security than many other arts- and music-related jobs

Cons

  • Frustrating when dealing with disruptive or delinquent students
  • Lower pay than other jobs requiring college education
  • Can be demanding to keep students engaged and focused
  • Most states don’t mandate music and art education in public schools, so there will be less demand for your services
  • Low job growth projected over next decade

Professional development for middle school teachers

If you are serious about becoming a middle school teacher, start thinking about how to improve your career prospects, develop your skills and improve your connections. Completing a student teaching internship in a middle school will give you a good start to a career in this field.

Most middle school teachers also continue to take courses throughout their careers to improve their classroom skills and keep their teaching credentials current. Teachers typically attend workshops, although development can also include peer observation, coaching or research.

Benefits of continuing education

Middle school teachers with a master’s degree have a greater chance for promotions and an increase in salary. The difference in salary between a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree for a novice teacher is $3,000 annually, and after 10 years the bump increases to $4,500.

Jobs for middle school teachers beyond teaching

With additional education or certification, middle school teachers may become librarians, instructional coordinators, assistant principals, principals or an educational administrator at a college or university.

Librarian: A master’s degree in library science (MLS) is generally required for employment. Some states also require librarians to pass a standardized test.

Instructional coordinator: Instructional coordinators generally need to complete a master’s degree related to a subject like curriculum and instruction, and they may be required to have a teaching or education administrator license.

Academic advisor: With a master’s degree in an education-related field, you can transition into being an academic advisor at either the K-12 or college/university level.

Education consultant: Middle school teachers can become education consultants if they want to tackle challenges in a variety of schools and education systems. You’ll probably need an advanced degree in an education-related subject.

Education policy analyst: With an advanced degree in an education-related subject, middle school teachers can become policy analysts and examine big-picture issues affecting education nationwide.

School principal: Middle school teachers wishing to become a school principal should seriously consider earning a master’s degree in an education-related field. Most states also require public school principals to be licensed as school administrators.

Educational administrator: Depending upon the position, either a bachelor’s or master’s degree may be required. For a higher-level position such as dean or president, a master’s degree or doctorate in educational leadership may be required.

Best of the web: our favorite middle school teacher blogs, websites and Twitter handles

The web makes it easy for us to stay connected to prominent middle school educators. Here is a list of our favorite websites and Twitter handles, in no particular order.

Favorite middle school websites and blogs

Favorite middle school Twitter handles

Learn More: Click to view related resources.

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