Secondary School Teacher

Kaiako Kura Tuarua

Alternative titles for this job

Secondary school teachers plan, prepare and teach one or more subjects to students of about 13 to 18 years of age.


Graduate secondary school teachers usually earn

$51K per year

Secondary school teachers with more than two years' experience usually earn

$56K-$78K per year

Source: PPTA, 'Secondary Teachers' Collective Agreement', 2019.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a secondary school teacher are good due to a shortage of workers.


Pay for secondary school teachers varies depending on experience and qualifications. 

  • Graduate secondary school teachers usually start on about $51,000 a year.
  • Secondary school teachers with two to five years' experience usually earn between $56,000 and $69,000.
  • Secondary school teachers with more than five years' experience can earn from $69,000 to $78,000.

Voluntary bonding scheme in hard-to-staff schools

Secondary school teachers who work in schools identified as hard to staff may be eligible for an extra $10,500 after three consecutive years of teaching, and $3,500 after teaching for four and five years.

Extra pay for management responsibilities

Teachers may receive extra payment for taking on extra responsibilities or be eligible for other allowances under their collective agreement.

Extra pay in private or independent schools

Secondary school teachers who teach in private or independent schools may earn an extra $2,000 to $3,000 a year.

Source: Post Primary Teachers' Association, 'Secondary Teachers' Collective Agreement 28 October 2015 to 27 October 2018', 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Secondary school teachers may do some or all of the following:

  • plan, prepare and present lessons
  • set and mark assignments and tests
  • assess students' work for national 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
  • the curriculum subjects they teach
  • 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
  • school rules and procedures, including safety and emergency procedures.

Working conditions

Secondary school teachers:

  • work regular school hours, but often work additional hours to plan lessons, assess work or attend meetings
  • may 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

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.

From Silicon Valley to satisfaction

Craig got into teaching after spending 11 years doing physics research, some of it in California's Silicon Valley, but "I wasn't really happy."

He's much happier now being a teacher. "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 it."

Secondary School Teacher

Daniel finds out what it's like to be a secondary school teacher - 7.53 mins. (Video courtesy of TeachNZ)

Daniel: Hi, my name is Daniel, I’m 17 and I go to Onslow College. I enjoy acting and theatre and communicating with other people. Today I am checking out what it is like to be a secondary school teacher.

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'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.

Matthew: Great.

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?

Student: Yep.

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?

Daniel: Yes!

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: Yes!

Student: Sublimation.

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.

Entry requirements

To become a secondary school teacher you need to have one of the following:

  • a specialist subject degree followed by a one-year Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary) or a Master of Teaching (Secondary)
  • a Bachelor of Education (Technology)
  • a Bachelor of Teaching conjoint degree (a combination of teaching and specialist subjects).

Employers prefer you to train in at least two subject areas for your specialist subject degree so you can teach more than one subject. 

You also need to be registered with the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and have a current practising certificate.

Secondary school teacher scholarships for Māori, Pasifika and STEM teachers

Secondary school teacher scholarships for course fees and sometimes allowances are available for teaching maths, science and technology, te reo Māori and Pasifika languages. There are also scholarships to encourage Māori and Pasifika to become teachers.

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.

Secondary education

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training.

Additional requirements for specialist roles:

Special Education Teacher

To become a special education teacher you need to have two years or more of secondary school teaching experience, full teacher registration, and you must complete a postgraduate qualification in the area of special education you wish to teach in.

Personal requirements

Secondary school teachers need to be:

  • skilled at communicating clearly 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

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.

Physical requirements

Secondary school teachers need to be fit enough to cope with standing for a long time. Physical education teachers and sports coaches need to have a good level of fitness and health.


Secondary school teachers need to be registered with the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and have a current practising certificate.

Find out more about training

Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand
(04) 471 0852 - -
0800 165 225 - -
TeachFirst NZ
0800 86 5323 - -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Shortage of secondary school teachers

Secondary school teacher appears on Immigration New Zealand's regional skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled secondary school teachers from overseas to work in New Zealand.

Demand for secondary school teachers may grow from about 26,000 in 2018 to 28,550 by 2025. This is because:

  • there is a shortage of qualified, experienced teachers
  • many teachers are leaving or retiring
  • an increased number of secondary school students.

According to the Education Counts website, there were about 26,000 secondary school teachers and 3800 relief teachers working in 2017.

Chances best for English, STEM and te reo Māori secondary school teachers

According to the Survey of Principals on Secondary Teacher Supply, 78 principals said they found it difficult to find secondary school teachers who can teach English, digital technology, mathematics, science subjects and construction and mechanical technologies.

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 teachers to train in this area.

Chances good in hard-to-staff schools

Your chances of securing a job are best in schools in rural areas and in Auckland. Auckland secondary schools have difficulty recruiting teachers due to high housing costs, but some provide housing subsidies in order to attract them.

Student numbers will increase in the future

More secondary school teachers will be needed from 2020. There will be a large increase in secondary school student numbers then as those born in high birth rate years reach secondary school age.

Most teachers employed by government

State schools are the biggest employers of secondary school teachers, but they may also work in private and state-integrated schools, such as Catholic schools.


  • Education Counts, 'National School Roll Projections, 2011 Update', accessed November 2017, (
  • Education Counts, 'Teacher Headcount by Age', accessed 2019, (
  • Gerritsen, J, 'Principals Worried By Teacher Shortage Forecast', 18 October 2018, (
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Regional Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (
  • New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association, 'Secondary School Staffing Survey Report 2018', May 2018, (
  • New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association, 'Survey of Principals on Secondary Teacher Shortages', November 2017, (
  • New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association, 'Survey of Principals on Secondary Teacher Supply', August 2017, (
  • TeachNZ, 'Scholarships', accessed January 2019, (

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Secondary school teachers may move into management roles, such as head of department, dean or principal, or progress into work such as:

  • teaching trainee teachers in universities
  • doing research, policy or advisory work in the education sector
  • working in training and education roles in a museum or art gallery.

Secondary school teacher specialisations

Secondary school teachers may specialise in one or more subject areas including:

  • arts
  • English
  • English as a second language
  • health and physical education
  • kaiwhakaako Māori
  • languages
  • mathematics
  • science
  • social sciences (accounting, economics, geography, history, or social studies)
  • technology.

With further training, secondary school teachers may progress to become special education teachers.

Craig Rofe talks to three students in a physics class

Secondary school teachers inspire, motive and educate teenaged students

Last updated 17 September 2019