Secondary school teachers (NOC 4031)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Secondary school teachers work with students from Grades 8 to 12. They teach academic, technical, career preparation and elective subjects.

This group includes department heads.

Common job titles
  • department head, secondary / high school
  • librarian-teacher, secondary / high school
  • reading clinician - secondary school
  • teacher - Aboriginal school community
  • teacher, academic subjects
  • teacher, adult education


In general, secondary school teachers:

  • Prepare and present course material to students following an approved curriculum
  • Include Indigenous perspectives in lessons
  • Use an organized plan of lectures, discussions, online and in-class assignments, and audio-visual presentations
  • Include laboratory work, workshop instruction and field studies, as appropriate
  • Assign and mark assignments, homework and tests
  • Check students’ progress and determine their individual needs
  • Discuss students’ needs with parents and, as needed, with school officials
  • Develop and follow special programs for students, such as Individual Education Plans (IEPs), as needed
  • Attend staff meetings, district meetings, educational conferences and teacher-training workshops
  • Build respectful, caring relationships with students

They may also:

  • Help students choose courses, prepare for a career, and deal with personal problems
  • Supervise student teachers and mentor new teachers
  • Teach distance or online courses
  • Prepare students for provincial exams

Most secondary school teachers specialize in a subject area. They may focus on mathematics, social studies, English, French, sciences, physical education, career preparation, or English language learning (ELL) instruction. Some teach elective subjects such as music, drama, art or photography. Others teach job-related skills such as carpentry, drafting, auto mechanics, cooking or hairdressing. Still others offer special education to students with special needs.

Work environment

Secondary school teachers work in public and private secondary schools. They may also work for technical institutes, vocational schools or language schools. They teach in classrooms, labs, libraries, workshops, gymnasiums or cafeterias. Some classes take place in the community or outdoors.

Most teachers work a 10-month school year, with two months off in July and August. They also have holidays over winter and spring break.

Teachers often spend time outside of regular school hours preparing lessons, grading assignments, coaching sports teams, hosting student clubs and doing administrative work. Total number of hours vary from teacher to teacher.

Teaching can be stressful, and working with youth can be challenging. Long periods of standing and speaking can lead to back and voice problems. Science labs and shop classes can also pose danger.

Secondary school teachers use technology to develop and give lessons, receive assignments, take attendance, grade work and communicate with students and parents.

Insights from industry

Teaching duties are evolving. More online resources are being used, and more focus is being placed on personalized learning and on developing students’ intellectual, personal and social skills.

With many teachers retiring and classroom size decreasing, B.C. has a shortage of trained teachers. Demand is especially high in northern B.C. and other rural areas.

Teachers who specialize in advanced math, physics, chemistry, French and French immersion are in demand throughout the province. Those who teach business education, technology education, home economics, special needs and English language learning (ELL) also have good job prospects. And the increase in career training programs means new openings for teachers of business office management, agricultural technology, food services, restaurant and hotel service and management, applied physics, environmental studies, construction, drafting, mechanics, textile and clothing production, health and social services.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Some new graduates secure teaching contracts right away. But many begin their careers as full- or part-time teachers teaching on call (TTOCs). TTOCs fill in for teachers who are absent, whether for a few hours, a few days, or while taking maternity leave or sabbatical.

New teachers usually teach junior-level courses. Those with experience often take on more senior courses. They may also have other responsibilities, including acting as department heads or program co-ordinators, or leading staff or district committees.

Teachers with experience and more education may move on to positions such as school counsellors or teacher-librarians. Some may advance into roles as education consultants, vice-principals or principals. Or they may become superintendents, specialists or senior managers at the school district level.

Additional resources