In my country, we have two main kinds of teacher (not counting university lecturers) – primary school teachers and secondary school teachers. The latter kind are referred to as 'subject teachers' (albeit in my own language, obviously), because they have always specialised in a specific subject or set of subjects (as opposed to primary school teachers, who have studied all the subjects taught in primary school). My question is: can I use subject teacher for this, or does that refer to something else in English? If it does, is there another word you'd suggest I use instead?

Thank you!

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    From a UK perspective, for me 'secondary school teacher' is explanatory enough, since I know that secondary teachers teach one (or a couple of) subject(s). It depends on the context of what you're writing/talking about. If there is sufficient context, I think 'subject teacher' is understandable, but my preference is simply 'secondary school teacher'.
    – JMB
    Jan 12, 2021 at 11:23
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    I have not come across the phrase subject teacher. The obvious interpretation is that the person referred to teaches a subject (or possibly subjects). It might also be interpreted as a teacher who is subject to some authority. I can't think of a particular word that means the teacher of a single subject. To make it clear, you would need to spell it out. Jan 12, 2021 at 11:23
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    The exact phrasing "subject teacher" doesn't occur naturally in my dialect. Without a clarifying context, I would find it confusing. However, using the specific subject is natural and common: an English teacher, a science teacher, a math teacher, and so on. More generally, a high school teacher is also a natural phrasing. It might matter where your target audience lies, since my dialect is a variety of American English. Jan 12, 2021 at 11:35
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    @Hannah - note that Americans will likely call these "high school teachers", a term also used here in Scotland. As far as educational terminology is concerned, there are differences even within the different countries of the UK, and in other English speaking countries.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jan 12, 2021 at 11:39
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    The terms "subject teacher" and "class teacher" aren't particularly common among (British) Anglophones, but in any relevant context they should be easily understood. Jan 12, 2021 at 11:39

1 Answer 1


I'm from the UK and I do not recognise the term "subject teacher".

There shouldn't be any need for you to use a term like this because our schooling works the same way you described - primary school teachers cover all subjects, and secondary school (also referred to as 'high school') teachers specialise in one subject.

If someone said "I'm a high school teacher" or "I'm a secondary school teacher", it would be assumed they specialise in a particular subject.

If you wanted to state the subject from the outset, you could say "I'm an English teacher", or "I'm a high school English teacher".

  • Thanks Astralbee! I think I'll just go with "secondary school teacher", since the use of "secondary school" seems to be more consistent than "high school", which seems to be more diverse in its use (for instance, in my country, many people think that "high school" refers specifically to a school that you attend between ages 12/13 and 15/16)
    – Hannah
    Jan 12, 2021 at 12:31
  • @Hannah "high school" is a throwback term. Some people still call them "junior" and "senior" schools, too.
    – Astralbee
    Jan 12, 2021 at 14:02
  • Ehum... what does that mean? That it's a throwback term?
    – Hannah
    Jan 13, 2021 at 15:10

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