There have been reports of a shortage of high school teachers in the US for many years. Even after the Great Recession (2007-2009) when the US started hiring teachers, finding qualified teachers has always been a huge challenge.
In reality, because of the high migration rate, the number of students in public schools is growing and the availability of teachers is shrinking. And obviously, more high school students mean more the requirements of high school teachers.
Some schools are even believed to be combining classes as they don’t have resources. Needless to say, if a large group of students in a class is handled by one teacher it will affect the students’ learning adversely.
In fact, the educationalists call this massive teacher shortage in the United States a “crisis”. This shortage is largely in fields like maths, science, and bilingual education.
There has been a huge turnover rate of teachers in the United States over the years across the country. Teachers are either quitting their jobs or not interested in applying for teaching positions. Is it because it’s a low paying job? No, it’s a lot more than that.
Unbalanced Student-Faculty Ratio
So what’s the reason behind this disproportionate student-teacher ratio in the United States?
The school teacher requirements in the United States are much larger than we thought. In 2012, while the country encountered a shortage of 20,000 faculty members, by 2017 it rose up to 110,000. And as of 2019, the number peaked up to a whopping 300,000.
There are many reasons for it.
- Many educators are leaving the teaching field due to longer working hours compared to other countries. So, a lot of qualified teachers are either quitting or looking out for more opportunities outside the teaching field.
- It’s a very low paying profession in the United States. Some teachers who have a master’s degree and even a Ph.D. feel that they are not financially compensated for their work.
- Poor working conditions and lack of support are also said to be a major issue. Unlike the past, these days, teachers’ responsibilities in the US are much more. In the past, teachers used to prepare for the classes and teach. But now, teachers have to play multiple roles, as a school nurse, therapist, data-tracker, research presenter, and many more.
- The massive layoffs in the Great Recession period are also a reason for teachers to quit their jobs and looking out for alternative jobs. As a result, teachers lost interest in entering the teacher preparation programs. To fill the gap, schools had to hire a lot of unlicensed undergraduate teachers.
- The increase in the number of students due to the high migration rate has also highly affected the teacher-student ratio adversely.
- Teachers who are not properly trained often leave the job much quicker because teaching is a profession that needs a lot of skills and patience. Unless they have a passion for teaching and adequately trained, schools will become a miserable place for them.
- Another reason is in spite of being so highly qualified and underpaid professionals, teachers are getting blamed for the broken education system. This also makes them quite the job and choose other professions which pay much better.
- And one of the biggest reasons for the scarcity of teachers in the United States is a question that needs to be answered. Do people in the country really value teachers compared to other countries like Finland and India?” The answer is no. Despite doing such a reputable job, teachers don’t get the respect they deserve by American society. A lot of people in America think that teaching students from K-12 is a glorified form of parenthood. But it’s much more that. More than just lecturing, keeping the students engaged in the class is one of the major challenges that teachers face.
High School Teacher Requirements
A high school teacher in the United States teaches students from ninth to twelfth grade with the aim of preparing students for Universities. Apart from just being an instructor, their job is also to help children in other extracurricular activities. They also possess special skills to handle teenagers with calmness and patience.
Some common high school teacher requirements are as follows
- You should have a bachelor’s degree though some states ask for a master’s degree.
- Teachers should also go through something called the teacher preparation program and complete the exam to demonstrate your proficiency in the subject of your interest.
- You should also finish an internship in teaching; major areas like maths and science have high employment rates.
- Get the relevant license as per the state requirement.
By acquiring a licensed certification you can also prevent hiring untrained teachers which is a serious concern.
The Scarcity of Teachers is Much Deeper
Even though the economy revitalized after the Great Recession in 2008, there is still a skyrocketing number of teachers with just a bachelor’s degree. In the US there are still hundreds and thousands of licensed high school teacher requirements.
The Learning Policy Institute in 2016 estimated that the demand for teachers would rise as high as 300,000 by 2021. But the actual figure may go even higher because not all states in the US contribute to these statistics. However, there is still a staggering shortage.
They also point out a decline in the number of people who enrol in the teacher preparation programs which is again a major concern.
Because of the inadequate licensed teachers, schools are forced to hire unskilled and untrained teachers to fill the gap. As you know, poor quality teaching can have a negative impact on students’ performance and personality.
Despite the fact that high school teacher requirements are so high, teaching is one of the lowest paying professions in the United States.
According to USA Today
“The median annual salary of teachers is $57,949 which is about $3,000 below the salary of teachers with a bachelor’s degree. And it’s nearly $15,000 below the annual salary of teachers with a master’s degree. And approximately 56% of teachers in the United States hold a master’s degree.”
But the perks of the teachers vary from state to state. For example, Business Insider in their article says that in Oklahoma, teachers’ salary is as low as $39,306 annually. And over 20% of the teachers in America have an additional job to make both ends meet.
Moreover, what is discouraging people from joining this profession is that in spite of the low income, teachers have to spend $500 on average on classroom supplies from their pockets.
While even an uneducated person can earn as much as some teachers do, people can’t be blamed for thinking twice before choosing this profession. When other good options are available what’s the point in going through long teacher’s training programs, and applying for a teaching post?
7 States With High School Teacher Requirements
Although there is a nationwide shortage of high school teachers in America except in states like Alaska, in some states the situation is crucial.
According to the US Department of Education, several states faced the issue of massive teacher shortages for the year 2019-2020. It’s difficult to say which states have a high number of high school teacher requirements because the teacher shortages are so high across America.
Apart from lack of support and the overload of work what’s the actual scenario of some states? Why are these states lacking a staggering number of faculty members? Let’s take a look.
Nevada is a state which struggles the most with teacher scarcity as of 2019-2020. Some subjects with high school teacher requirements are listed out by the US Department of Education and some of them are as follows:
- Special education.
- World languages (Chinese and Spanish).
- Art and music education.
- Computer science.
- Computer programming.
- Career and technical education.
The teacher crisis in Nevada is undoubtedly a direct impact of the pay scale. The average salary for a public school teacher is said to be approximately $60,000. But it can go up to $68,00 depending upon which state teachers are in. The salary also depends on many other factors like your teaching experience, education, and also your certifications.
To survive with the salary, some are commuting from far away places. And many are forced to take up a second job which makes them mentally and physically tired.
2. Washington D.C
The District of Columbia in Washington D.C is struggling with a lack of teachers in these subjects.
- Social studies.
- Core subjects.
- Special education.
- World languages.
- English as a second language.
According to Salary.com, “the average teacher salary is roughly $64,385 as of June 2020. But the range typically falls between $56,212 and $74,333. However, the salary varies depending on the number of years of experience and educational qualification.”
When the salary isn’t very attractive, obviously there will be more job openings than applicants.
Recently, teachers were on a strike in Arizona demanding better pay and smaller class size. There is a huge demand for teachers in Arizona and there are reports that some vacancies have been filled with people from overseas. The problem with hiring people from overseas is that when you can hire people at a cheaper price and fill the holes, there is no need for a pay hike.
This is a state which is desperately looking for skilled high school teachers. According to the US Department of Education, high school teacher requirements are extremely high in subjects such as:
- Science, (both physics and chemistry).
- Social studies.
- Special education.
- English as a second language.
Pinning down the exact salary is difficult. But while some states in America pay salaries as high as $60,000, in Arizona the teachers’ average annual salary is just $42,000.
In this state, teachers face issues with lack of support and low pay. So getting teachers with full credentials is a challenge. Unless teaching is something that you really love, living with an annual average salary of $35,000 in Colorado will be tough even if you stay in rural areas.
In other words, while an uneducated person living in the US can make more than $35,000 why would people choose the teaching profession by taking so much effort?
Moreover, teachers complain that recently a lot of responsibilities have been dumped on them, which makes it even more frustrating. Amidst all these problems, the upsetting fact is that teachers don’t get the respect they really deserve. This, in turn, leads to recruiting unskilled and untrained educators.
According to the latest report by the US Department of Education, high school teacher requirements are in the following subjects.
- Social studies.
- Core subjects.
- And they even lack support staff in psychology and counselling.
There is a huge number of vacancies with 0 applicants for teachers in Indiana. The high school teacher requirements are in fields such as:
- Career and technical education.
- World languages.
It’s being said that job applicants over the years have been falling from hundreds to single digits due to the low pay. Because the state is at a severe crisis for not getting qualified teachers, they are forced to recruit college students without a degree who have a passion for teaching and not for money.
The average starting salary of a teacher in Indiana is approximately $42,000 whereas in some districts it’s a little better at $50,500. However, the teachers struggle because their salaries don’t match inflation. The crisis will only continue to grow unless they do something about wage increments.
California is another state which faces teacher shortage challenge. It’s considered one of the most expensive places to live in – especially the Bay Area. There is an increasing number of teachers who are quitting their jobs in California because of the high cost of living. And, due to the same reason, nobody is attempting to be a teacher either.
California has a massive shortage of maths, science, core subjects, special education, and language arts teachers.
The average starting salary of a teacher is $50,000. It’s almost impossible to live in a place like the Bay Area with such low pay where you will have to end up paying 40% as home rent.
To overcome the issue of survival with such low pay, many people either commute from far away places or share their rooms with other roommates.
Teachers in Hawaii are the lowest paid teachers in the United States. Because the cost of living in Hawaii is so high, an increase in pay has been requested to the department of education although it’s hasn’t been funded yet.
According to the US Department of Education, there is a huge shortage of high school teachers in the field of maths, science, language arts, and world languages (Hawaiin). If there is a deficit of Hawaiin teachers in a country like Hawaii you can understand how deeprooted the problem is.
The salary for teachers in Hawaii varies depending upon where you stay and how much experience you have. But Salary.com says, “The average public school teacher salary in Hawaii is $61,040 as of June 2020, but the range typically falls between $53,291 and $70,471”.
The disappointing fact is that due to the eye-popping expenses in Hawaii, teachers have to pay 70% of their salary on apartment rent itself.
So, What’s The Solution?
The teacher turnover rate in the United States is a consistent issue in all the states across the country. As the schools in America are struggling with a lack of faculty members, immediate action should be taken to recruit and retain the teachers.
How do schools recruit teachers and make them stay?
- The main problem – pay them better. If the teachers are financially well-compensated, they will stay. Otherwise, even skilled teachers will quit the field and look at other options. For example, in New York, the teachers’ perks are so good and they tend to stay for long.
- Secondly, they should be given a competitive compensation. By providing support for accommodations and helping them to repay student loans will help skilled teachers to stay in the teaching field longer. Otherwise, it will prevent educators from stepping into the teaching career unless they are highly passionate about the teaching profession.
- Give respect to teachers. Unlike other countries, teachers in the United States don’t get the respect they deserve. Well-trained teachers either have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree and they also have to go through an intense teacher preparation program for the licensed teacher certificate. After going through so much if they don’t get the recognition they deserve, they will not encourage people to choose this profession.
- Teacher satisfaction declines if they don’t get job satisfaction and support. School principals play a vital role in teachers’ profession and job satisfaction. Principals should give the teachers the freedom to be who they are. Every teacher will have a unique way of presenting them in front of the students. Moreover, they should get the feeling that the principal, support staff, and other administrative teams should be there to support them in every step teachers make.
- Teachers are overloaded with work. American teachers work on an average of 46 hours a week which is higher than in other countries. In 2010, a controversial new educational initiative called Common Core was added for K-12 students. Prep for the classrooms, managing assignments, and the introduction of Common Core, all these added a lot of stress to teachers. Their working hours should be reduced. Finding a solution to the Common Core should be seriously considered.
However, at the time of writing this, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the educational system across the globe. All the schools around the world have turned on to e-learning.
So, the teacher shortage may hopefully improve drastically as everyone is working from their own homes because issues with accommodation and commuting to schools are taken care of. We’ll have to wait and see.
For more information related to the changing role of teachers post COVID, please refer to the link below.
Let’s Wrap Up
America has been facing a massive scarcity of teachers for many years and it’s going from bad to worse. In 2012, while the country encountered a shortage of 20,000 faculty members, by 2019 the number rose up to 307,000. A lot of teachers are quitting the job and looking for other job opportunities.
There are many reasons for this massive shortage of teachers. Firstly, teaching is a very low paying profession in the United States. Moreover, their working hours are longer compared to that of other countries. And teachers also don’t get the respect that they deserve.
Besides, there are a lot of untrained teachers in many schools. They often tend to leave the job much quicker, as teaching is a profession where a lot of passion and patience is needed.
The increasing number of students due to the high migration rate is also considered to be a problem for teacher shortages. Furthermore, in spite of taking a lot of effort, teachers are being blamed for the broken educational system.
A good, licensed high school teacher should have either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. And they should also undergo intensive teacher preparation programs and pass the certification exam to prove their proficiency in a particular subject.
As of 2019-2020, almost all states in the United States of America face a shortage of teachers except Alaska as per the US Department of Education. Though it’s difficult to pin down the top states that have a huge high school teacher shortage, some states that have severe scarcity are as follows:
- Washington D.C
The first solution to the problem is to pay the teachers better. Teachers should also be paid competitive compensations by supporting them with taking care of their accommodations etc. They also should be well respected for their classroom management skills, educational background, and their patience in managing teenage students.
Reducing the working hours and also good support from the principal and administrative staff in the school will attract more teachers to the teaching profession. If the recently added educational program called the Common Core can be structured in a better way, it will be a weight off teachers’ shoulders.
A. As of 2019-2020, almost all states in the US except Alaska are in desperate need of teachers due to low pay and many other reasons like lack of support, and poor working conditions. Some of the states which face massive teacher shortages are Nevada, Washington D.C, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, California, and Hawaii.
A. Yes, many foreigners with the relevant degree and the license are welcomed by the U.S Department of Education. They should also have a permanent or temporary visa from the U.S embassy at the time of joining. And due to the shortage of teachers as a desperate measure, many schools are hiring foreign nationals these days.
A. There are many reasons for the massive teacher shortages in the United States. The main reason is the low pay. The teachers with a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree are paid as equal as any uneducated person can earn. However, apart from the low salary, lack of support from the school administrative staff and combined classrooms are also said to be the reasons for people not willing to get into the teaching profession.
A. The salary of teachers in the US depending upon where they live and the number of experience they have in the field and also the certificates they have. Though the national average starting salary is considered to be around $58,000, in states like Oklahoma and Montana the starting salaries are just over $32,000.
A. To become a qualified high school teacher you must have at least a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. Apart from that, you must undergo a teacher preparation program and earn a certificate in a subject that’s relevant. You should also finish an internship in teaching in order to be a licensed teacher.