Middle school teachers educate students typically in sixth through eighth grade. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals taught in elementary school and prepare students for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.


Middle school teachers typically do the following:

  • Plan lessons that teach students a subject, such as biology and history
  • Assess students to evaluate their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Teach lessons they have planned to an entire class or to smaller groups
  • Grade students’ assignments to monitor their progress
  • Communicate with parents about their child’s progress
  • Work with students individually to help them overcome specific learning challenges
  • Prepare students for standardized tests required by the state
  • Develop and enforce classroom rules
  • Supervise students outside of the classroom—for example, at lunchtime or during detention

Middle school teachers generally teach students from sixth to eighth grades. However, in some school districts, they may teach students as early as fourth grade or as late as ninth grade.

In many schools, middle school teachers are responsible for only some of the subjects their students learn throughout the day. For example, one teacher may be responsible for teaching English and social studies while another is responsible for teaching math and science. Some middle school instructors teach specialized classes, such as art, music, or physical education. 

Often, students change classrooms several times a day to attend lessons in different subjects. As a result, middle school teachers in these schools see several different classes of students throughout the day. In some schools, middle school teachers teach all the subjects for one class of students the entire day. In either type of school, teachers use time during the day when they do not have classes to plan lessons, grade assignments, or meet with other teachers and staff.

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

In some schools, teachers of English as a second language (ESL) or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) work exclusively with students who are learning English. These students are often referred to as English language learners (ELLs). ESL and ESOL teachers work with students individually or in groups to help them improve their English skills and to help the students with assignments for their other classes.

Middle school teachers also work with special education teachers to adapt lessons taught in traditional classes to the needs of students with learning disabilities and emotional or behavioral disorders. Middle school teachers also monitor the progress of these students. In some cases, middle school teachers may co-teach lessons with special education teachers.

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

Some middle school teachers coach sports teams and advise student clubs and groups, whose practices and meetings frequently take place before or after school.

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Work Environment

Middle school teachers held about 614,400 jobs in 2012. The majority of middle school teachers work in public and private schools.

Most states have tenure laws, which mean that after a certain number of years of teaching satisfactorily, teachers have some job security.

Seeing students develop new skills and gain an appreciation for knowledge and learning can be very rewarding. However, teaching may be stressful. Some schools have large classes and lack important teaching tools, such as computers and current textbooks. Most teachers are held accountable for their students’ performance on standardized tests, which can be frustrating. Occasionally, teachers must cope with unmotivated or disrespectful students.

Work Schedules

Middle school teachers generally work school hours when students are present. They may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. Teachers who coach sports or advise clubs generally do so before or after school. Teachers often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. 

Many work the traditional 10-month school year, with a 2-month break during the summer. Some teachers teach summer programs. Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row, are on break for 1 week before starting a new school session, and have a 5-week midwinter break.

Education and Training

Middle school teachers must have a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.


All states require public middle school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Many states require middle school teachers to major in a content area, such as math or science. Other states require middle school teachers to major in elementary education. Those who major in a content area typically enroll in their university’s teacher preparation program and take classes in education and child psychology in addition to the classes required by their major.

Teacher education programs teach prospective middle school teachers 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. For information about teacher preparation programs in your state, visit Teach.org.

Some states require middle school teachers to earn a master’s degree after receiving their teaching certification.

Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools typically seek middle school teachers who have a bachelor’s degree and a major in elementary education or a content area.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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

Certification of middle school teachers varies considerably from state to state. In some states, they are certified to teach elementary school grades, which are typically first through sixth grades or first through eighth grades. In other states, they are certified to teach middle school grades, which include sixth through eighth grades. Still other states provide middle school teachers with a secondary school or high school certification, which often includes seventh through twelfth grades.

Requirements for certification also vary by state. However, all states require teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. They also require completing a teacher preparation program and supervised experience in teaching, which is 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 of the subject they will teach. For information on certification requirements in your state, visit Teach.org.

Teachers are often 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 after graduation, 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 of these programs. For more information about alternative certification programs, visit Teach-Now.


In order to receive certification, teachers need to perform fieldwork, commonly referred to as student teaching. During student teaching, they work with a mentor teacher and get experience teaching students in a classroom setting. The amount of time required varies by state.


Experienced teachers can advance to serve as mentors to newer teachers or to become lead teachers. In these positions, they help less experienced teachers to 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, both of which generally require additional education in education administration or leadership. For more information, see the profiles on school and career counselors, librarians, instructional coordinators, and elementary, middle, and high school principals.

Personality and Interests

Middle school teachers typically have an interest in the Creating and Helping interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Creating or Helping interest which might fit with a career as a middle school teacher, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Middle school teachers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Teachers must collaborate with other teachers and special education teachers. In addition, they need to discuss students’ needs with parents and administrators.

Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. Middle school teachers must be patient when students struggle with material.

Resourcefulness. Middle school teachers need to be able to explain difficult concepts in terms that students can understand. In addition, they need to be able to get students engaged in learning and adapt lessons to each student’s needs.


The median annual wage for middle school teachers was $53,430 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,740, and the top 10 percent earned more than $82,190.

Middle school teachers generally work school hours when students are present. They may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. Teachers who coach sports or advise clubs generally do so before or after school. Teachers often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons.

Many work the traditional 10-month school year, with a 2-month break during the summer. Some teachers teach summer programs. Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row, are on break for 1 week before starting a new school session, and have a 5-week midwinter break.                            

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, middle school teachers had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of middle school teachers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth is projected due to expected increases in enrollment combined with declines in student–teacher ratios. However, employment growth will vary by region.

From 2012 to 2022, the student–teacher ratio across schools is expected to decline slightly. This ratio is the number of students for each teacher in the school. A decline in the ratio means that each teacher is responsible for fewer students, and, consequently, more teachers are needed to teach the same number of students.

In addition, the number of students in middle schools is expected to increase over the coming decade, and the number of classes needed to accommodate these students is projected to rise also. As a result, more teachers will be required to teach the additional classes of middle school students.

Although overall student enrollment is expected to grow, there will be some variation by region. Enrollment is expected to grow fastest in the South and West. In the Midwest, enrollment is projected to hold steady; the Northeast is projected to have declines. As a result, employment growth for middle school teachers is expected to be greater in the South and West than in the Midwest and Northeast.

Despite expected increases in enrollment, employment growth for middle school teachers will depend on state and local government budgets. When state and local governments experience budget deficits, they may lay off employees, including teachers. As a result, employment growth of middle school teachers may be somewhat reduced by state and local government budget difficulties.

Job Prospects

From 2012 to 2022, a significant number of older teachers are expected to reach retirement age. Their retirement will create job openings for new teachers. The short supply of teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) and special education teachers will further result in job opportunities.

Middle school teachers with education or certifications to teach these specialties should have better job opportunities.

However, there is wide variation of job opportunities by region. Some regions of the country, such as the Northwest, are experiencing a surplus of teachers. Other regions, such as the Southeast, are experiencing a shortage. Furthermore, opportunities may be better in urban and rural school districts than in suburban school districts.

For More Information

For more information about teaching and becoming a teacher, visit


American Federation of Teachers

National Education Association

For more information about teacher preparation programs, visit

Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

For more information about alternative certification programs, visit



Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at help@truity.com.

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There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).