Secondary School Teacher
Kaiako Kura Tuarua
Secondary school teachers teach one or more curriculum subject areas to students of about 13 to 18 years of age at a secondary school.
Secondary school teachers usually earn
$48K-$72K per year
Source: Ministry of Education, 'Secondary Teachers' Collective Agreement 2013-2015'.
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
Secondary school teachers earn about $48,000 in their first year and then progress to a maximum of about $72,000 after seven years.
School principals earn between $78,000 and $148,000 a year.
Additional payments for some secondary school teachers
Secondary school teachers who work in a school that is identified as one that is hard to staff, may earn an extra $3,500 in their third, fourth and fifth years of teaching under the Government's Voluntary Bonding Scheme.
Those that teach in private or independent schools may be paid an extra $2,000 to $3,000 a year.
Source: Ministry of Education, 'Secondary Teachers' Collective Agreement 2013-2015'.
- TeachNZ website - information about secondary teachers' salaries
- TeachNZ website - information about the Voluntary Bonding Scheme
- MoreBusiness.com website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Secondary school teachers may do some or all of the following:
- plan, prepare and present teaching programmes
- set and mark assignments and tests
- assess students' work for internally assessed components of qualifications
- keep records and write reports on students
- observe and manage student behaviour in the classroom and other environments such as the gym and sports fields
- attend departmental and staff meetings
- meet with parents, whānau or caregivers, individually or at parents' evenings
- participate in or organise extracurricular activities such as sport, camp or drama
- keep up to date with curriculum changes and assessment methods.
Skills and knowledge
Secondary school teachers need to have:
- knowledge of different teaching methods and learning styles
- knowledge of the curriculum subjects they teach
- knowledge of curriculum assessment and planning
- classroom management skills, including an understanding of behaviour management
- research skills to keep up to date with best practice in teaching
- understanding of school rules and procedures, including safety and emergency procedures.
Secondary school teachers:
- work regular school hours, but often work additional hours to plan lessons or attend meetings. They may also be involved in extracurricular activities during lunchtimes, weekends, school holidays or after school
- work in offices and classrooms, but sometimes in locations such as school camps and museums when they accompany students on trips and visits
- may travel nationally to attend conferences and courses.
What's the job really like?
Craig Rofe - Physics Teacher
Taking an interest in students' lives is important
It is Monday morning, and Craig Rofe is listening to his Year 10 science students talk about what they did during the weekend.
"As a teacher you are not only teaching a subject, you're also getting the kids to look at value systems and how to interact with other people as well," he says.
And by taking an interest in his students' lives, Craig builds relationships and finds ways to make science relevant to them. Today, a student doing a genetics project suddenly gets the link between her work and someone in her whānau, who was colour blind. "And those 'aha' moments happen on a daily basis," Craig says.
Money isn't everything
Craig got into teaching after spending 11 years doing physics research, some of it in California's Silicon Valley earning "huge" amounts of money. "I had a lot of great things, but I wasn't really happy."
Now Craig's job challenge is making sure he doesn't give all his time to the job he loves, so he can leave time for a home life too. "I enjoy this work far more than any other jobs I've ever had," he says. "The kids are just great, and becoming a teacher has been worth every cent."
Daniel finds out what it's like to be a secondary school teacher - 7.53 mins. (Video courtesy of TeachNZ)
Clinton: Wellington High School's role sits at around 1000 students. Today Daniel will be observing Science Teacher, Matthew Easterbrook.
Daniel: So what are we doing today?
Matthew: Today I’ve got five lessons, so we’ve got a bit of planning to do before then, so let’s go to it!
Daniel: Alright, cool.
Clinton: Matthew was teaching undergraduates while completing his science degree. This experience gave him the passion to take up a career in teaching.
Matthew: I never looked back. It’s great, I love it.
Clinton: With the day's planning out of the way, it’s time for Daniel to sample the first lesson of the day with Matthew.
Matthew: I’m just going to introduce you to Daniel. He he’s here today, he’s a Year 13 student.
Daniel: I don’t know much about science, but I did Year 9 science, so maybe I can help you out with some of the stuff.
Clinton: After Matthew introduced Daniel to the class, booklets are handed out for the students to complete.
Matthew: Each individual lesson, you’re trying to isolate the most important thing you want the students to get out of it, and that would be your learning intentions.
Matthew: So two learning intentions today, one, I want you to understand that matter is found in three states.
Matthew: I like to use a range of activities, so that they are interacting with each other and learning some sort of practical aspect to help bring those concepts out.
Clinton: This Year 9 class is the first of the day, and Daniel is a keen observer.
Daniel: Have you done yours?
Daniel: It’s alright, I’m not checking or anything.
Daniel: Oh nice!
Clinton: Daniel needs to concentrate as he will get a taste of what it’s like to be a teacher under Matthew’s watchful eye next period.
Matthew: Go for it!
Daniel: Right. First of all, does anyone know what the three states of matter are?
Student: Solid, liquid and gas.
Daniel: Right, nice. Does anyone know how we can change a solid into a liquid, a liquid into a gas, and then all the way back again?
Student: Well, to turn a solid into a liquid, you need to melt the solid.
Daniel: Anyone else know how to change a solid into a gas?
Daniel: Very good, sublimation. Right.
Matthew: Predict/observe/explain idea is really getting the students to think about what could happen, so their prediction.
Daniel: So we’re moving on and we’re seeing how dry ice reacts with just normal tap water but first we predict what is going to happen.
Matthew: And then they make an observation of that experiment and then they try and explain it using some scientific theory or ideas that they’ve learnt and it’s a great way to pick up any misconceptions to do with the scientific ideas you’re trying to get across.
Matthew: Why was it doing that? What’s our explanation? Reuben, have a go here.
Reuben: The water, because it’s quite warm, did it violently heat the ice which is really cold so it sort of sped up the sublimation?
Matthew: Yeah, you’re onto it.
Clinton: It’s a busy day for Matthew and Daniel. Next up this morning - Year 13 Biology.
Matthew: The new curriculum is not so content-heavy and so there is a strong emphasis on the students learning and how they learn.
Clinton: The way students learn has changed over the years with the emphasis moving more on to the student, than the teacher.
Matthew: The big change has been moving away from giving student content, content, content, into more getting them to think about their learning and how they learn, and teachers taking a step back from being the centre of attention so that the students are doing the activities, they’re developing their learning in their own way.
Clinton: For Matthew this is a busy day's teaching but not all days are as busy as this one.
Matthew: It would be unlikely that you would be teaching five periods for a full day, every day. So we have what we call “free periods”, or “non-contacts”, and that’s when you do your planning and your marking and other things.
Clinton: It’s lunchtime and Matthew takes Daniel to meet with some of his Year 11 biology students. Two years ago the students tested water in a nearby stream and discovered that it was polluted. They decided to rectify this. Today they're collecting seeds from native trees which they hope to plant next to the stream.
Matthew: So the orange ones are ripe. They should be ready.
Daniel: Not poisonous are they?
Matthew: No, I don’t think so.
Matthew: Teachers often get involved in extracurricular activities. It’s the ideal way to get to know the students outside of the formality of a classroom – it’s a much more relaxed environment.
Clinton: After lunch it’s a crash-course in Forces for the Year 11 Physics Class.
Matthew: What I wanted to show you is that forces are all around us.
Clinton: Next, a practical experiment outside the class room.
Daniel: Alright, so we’re going to have a tug-of-war – shortest against tallest.
Matthew: Even when I was a school, there was a clear division between the teacher and the student. There is still that boundary and still that respect for the teacher but I can joke with them and have a bit of a laugh.
Matthew: Oh it did break! I can’t believe it! What I was trying to show you was that this group had a greater mass, alright, which means that they were more likely to be pulling this group which is a little bit smaller in mass towards them, so the forces were unbalanced.
Matthew: I think it’s getting these cool science ideas across to students and seeing the wonder and the awe of it all and seeing them mature and develop from Year 9 through to Year 13, you know, they’re almost university students and the relationships you build up over five years are pretty powerful.
Clinton: So what advice would Matthew give anyone interested in becoming a secondary school teacher?
Matthew: You need to be flexible and a little bit relaxed about things. I think you need to let go a little bit and let the students do the learning by themselves, and be passionate about whatever you’re teaching, I think that comes out as you teach. If you love it then your students will engage with you and enjoy it as well.
Clinton: So what did Mathew think of his student teacher for a day?
Matthew: Yeah I think Daniel would be quite good as a secondary school teacher. He’s got the confidence to stand up and deliver. He’s started building relationships between the students already, which is quite important for a teacher.
Daniel: Well I think I appreciate a teacher’s job a lot more now. It’s just such a rewarding feeling when you see the students really enjoying themselves and getting into the topic that you’ve been talking about.
Clinton: There are two options for study to become a secondary school teacher. You can either complete a specialist subject degree followed by a Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary), or complete a combined specialist subject and secondary teaching degree. For secondary teaching it is really important that your degree includes two teaching subjects otherwise you may have to do extra study.
To become a secondary school teacher you need one of the following:
- a specialist subject degree followed by a one-year Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary)
- a combined specialist subject degree and secondary teaching qualification.
You need to train to teach at least two curriculum areas, as this gives principals more flexibility with timetabling.
You also need to be registered with the New Zealand Teachers Council and have a current practising certificate, renewable every three years.
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
- Children’s Action Plan website - overview of restrictions on working with children
- New Zealand Legislation website - information on serious convictions that prevent employment with children
Teaching scholarships available for speakers of Māori and Pasifika languages
The Government wants to encourage more speakers of Māori and Pasifika languages into teaching and offers scholarships that focus on this area of need.
A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter university and teacher training.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
Special Education Teacher
Following two years of teaching to gain full teacher registration, and preferably further experience teaching, you need to complete a graduate or postgraduate qualification in one of the following specialisations:
- hearing impairment
- visual impairment
- learning and behaviour
- autism spectrum disorder
- special learning needs.
Secondary school teachers need to be:
- skilled at communicating with students and adults from a range of backgrounds and cultures
- organised, and good at solving problems
- understanding, tolerant and good at listening
- positive, open-minded and able to motivate young people
- able to work well under pressure
- firm and fair, with a sense of humour
- able to work well in a team.
Useful experience for secondary school teachers includes:
- counselling experience
- tutoring or coaching work
- work with people with disabilities
- work as a youth group leader
- work as a teacher aide.
First-year secondary school teachers are provisionally registered with the New Zealand Teachers Council, and issued with a practising certificate. After two years of satisfactory work as a teacher they gain full registration.
Find out more about training
- NZ Teachers Council
- (04) 471 0852 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.teacherscouncil.govt.nz/
- 0800 165 225 - email@example.com - www.teachnz.govt.nz/
- TeachFirst NZ
- firstname.lastname@example.org - teachfirstnz.org/
What are the chances of getting a job?
Getting first teaching position can be a challenge for new graduates
Industry sources suggest it may take time and perseverance to get your first full-time teaching job, because:
- fewer teachers are leaving the profession or retiring
- there is competition from more experienced teachers
- secondary school rolls are in slight decline.
The Ministry of Education offers seminars and advice to new graduates on its TeachNZ website to increase your chances of gaining work.
Chances of getting a job better in hard-to-staff schools
Vacancies tend to be more common in hard-to-staff schools. These are schools in rural areas, schools with a high proportion of Māori students on their roll (relative to other schools), and schools with a low decile rating of 1-3.
Māori language speakers in high demand
Qualified secondary school teachers who are also te reo Māori speakers are in high demand to teach in kura kaupapa Māori (Māori language immersion schools) and in general secondary schools. The Government offers scholarships and additional salary payments to encourage people to train in this area.
Future student numbers will increase
There will be a large increase in the number of secondary school students from 2020, as students born in high birth rate years move into secondary schools. This will mean more secondary school teachers will be needed.
Most teachers employed by government
State schools are the biggest employers of secondary school teachers, but teachers may also work in private and state-integrated schools, such as Catholic schools.
- Education Counts, 'Monitoring Teacher Supply 2014', November 2014, (www.educationcounts.govt.nz).
- Education Counts, 'National School Roll Projections, 2011 Update', June 2012, (www.educationcounts.govt.nz).
- TeachNZ, 'Scholarships', accessed May 2015, (www.teachnz.govt.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Secondary school teachers may work up to senior roles, such as dean or principal, or they may move into work outside the school system, such as:
- teaching trainee teachers in tertiary institutions
- doing research, policy or advisory work in the education sector
- working in training and education roles in a museum or art gallery.
Secondary school teachers specialise in one or more subject areas. They may teach several subjects in one area (for example, social sciences) or teach only one subject in that area (for example, history). Areas include:
- arts – includes drama, dance, music and visual art teachers
- health and physical education
- languages – includes te reo Māori teachers (kaiwhakaako Māori)
- science – includes physics, chemistry and biology teachers
- social sciences – includes history, geography, economics, classical studies, media studies, sociology and psychology teachers
- technology – includes materials technology, food technology, graphic design, information and communication technology (ICT) and biotechnology teachers.
Last updated 22 September 2015