How to Become a Teacher
Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers you can choose regardless of the teaching path you take. If you’re interested in becoming a teacher, this guide can help you understand and navigate the process. We’ll cover the basics of how to become a teacher after getting a teaching degree, general teacher requirements, and helpful steps toward reaching your goals as a soon-to-be educator.
Choosing a Teaching Degree
One of the first steps to becoming a teacher is learning about your various degree options. What degree do you need to be a teacher? A bachelor’s degree is required but spending up to two more years obtaining a master’s degree can open many more doors for you. Some of the most common master’s degrees relevant to teaching include:
- Curriculum and instruction – A Master of Curriculum and Instruction degree will assist teachers in learning how to create and implement instruction that meets the needs of each student individually and the class as a whole. It can also inform teachers of the best practices for weaving technology into the classroom.
- Educational administration – A Master of Educational Administration can assist educators interested in obtaining an administrative role, such as a principal or superintendent.
- Special education – A special education master’s program will focus on inclusion strategies, assessments, planning, and other relevant tools for special education teachers.
- English as a Second Language – A master’s degree with a focus on English as a second language (ESL), teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) will aid teachers who wish to specialize in teaching English as a second language.
- Elementary education – A Master in Elementary Education can help elementary teachers more effectively provide instruction to students in kindergarten through 5th grade.
- Secondary education – A Master of Secondary Education program will dive deep into the cognitive functions of youth in middle and high school to foster an understanding of how they learn while dealing with stress, emotions, and peer pressure.
- Specific subjects – Master’s degrees can pinpoint particular subject areas, like math or biology. These can offer teachers more specialized career opportunities and a higher salary than those with a bachelor’s degree.
Requirements to become a teacher differ in each state, but there are some general requirements that apply to all states. These include:
- Holding, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in an education or teaching field
- Completing a student teaching program under the supervision of a licensed teacher
- Obtaining teacher certification
- Passing a teacher education examination, like the Praxis exam
- Passing a subject-focused exam for those who wish to teach a specific subject
You’ll need to check with the state in which you want to hold a teaching license to find out more about its specific teacher education requirements.
Some states, for example, have alternative paths for those who would like to become a teacher but have not yet completed an education degree. West Virginia and California are two of several states with alternative licensure programs.
Many states will also have further requirements for people who desire to specialize in a focused subject rather than general education, such as special education. Arizona, for example, has different licenses for educators of students with mild to moderate disabilities than those who intend to instruct students with moderate to severe disabilities or who are deaf, hard of hearing or visually impaired.
Steps to Becoming a Teacher
Are you ready to start your teaching career? Here are the general steps you’ll need to take:
1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree
Successful completion of a bachelor’s degree is a requirement for teachers in all 50 states who intend on working in a public school district, even if they’re completing alternative instead of traditional licensure. For the traditional teaching route, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in education, teaching, elementary education, a specific subject, or another relevant area.
2. Complete a student teaching program
Student teaching gives prospective educators the necessary time to practice what they’ve learned in the classroom under a licensed teacher’s supervision. Depending on your school and degree, you might be able to complete student teaching while finishing your bachelor’s degree. Your program will govern how many weeks of student teaching you’ll need, and this will conform to your state’s requirements. Most programs last between 10 and 12 weeks.
3. Take a licensure exam
Next, you’ll need to pass an exam that tests your knowledge of necessary teaching skills. Most states have adopted the use of Praxis exams. Some states may require alternate or additional examinations, so check with your state’s Department of Education to find out what assessments you need for licensure.
4. Get a teaching license
After you successfully completed your degree, student teaching, and license exam, you should have everything you need to apply for your license. Some teaching degree programs offer application guidance as part of its service, but you can also find what you need by checking with your local Department of Education.
5. Continue your education
Teachers will need to renew their licenses every few years, depending on the state in which they teach. Most states also require proof of continuing coursework completion related to teaching before they’ll process a license renewal, so it’s crucial for educators to commit to continuing their education even after they’ve become licensed.
A common question among people interested in obtaining a teaching degree is, “How long does it take to become a teacher?” The answer depends on the type of degree and education field you’re pursuing. You’ll typically spend four years completing your Bachelor of Education, but a Master of Education or similar higher degree will add another one and a half to two years.
In this guide, we’ve covered some of the most common questions about becoming and being a teacher. Following the steps to teaching that we’ve outlined above can assist you in taking the proper steps toward getting a degree and licensure. Be sure to look up the requirements for how to be a teacher in your state to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Good luck, and we hope this information will help you reach your career goals.