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How to Become a Teacher

Why Become a Teacher?

Teaching is a great career choice for anyone who wants to positively affect the lives of others as well as challenge themselves. In fact, being a teacher is much more than a career, it's a lifestyle full of meaningful and supportive relationships with co-workers, inspiring connections with students, and ongoing professional and personal development.

How to Become a Teacher

The process of becoming a teacher starts with enrolling in a degree or certificate program at an accredited college or university (online or campus-based). Many teacher education programs are designed to allow you to get your degree while you work by conducting classes in the evenings and/or on weekends. After completing your degree program you will be required by the state to pass a series of tests (Praxis I and II) that measure your basic academic skills, teaching skill, and knowledge of your content area (ie. elementary education or mathematics). Upon completion of your degree and passing all tests you are eligible to apply for a teaching certificate from the state. After receiving your certificate you can apply for teaching jobs wherever the certificate is valid. To teach in a public institution you must have a current teaching certificate. However, some private schools will allow you to teach without a teaching certificate.

Requirements for Becoming a Teacher

Requirements for becoming a teacher may vary state-to-state. Teacher Portal is working to provide you with information from all 50 states about how to become a teacher. We will provide you information on certificate requirements, salaries, jobs available and much more!

Though the requirements for becoming a teacher can vary by state, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public school teachers need to have earned a bachelor’s degree and possess a state issued license to teach or passed a certification exam. During the process in some states, teachers can be finger printed and have a background check performed (ctc.ca.gov, 2013). The BLS lists five types of teachers below the post-secondary education level. The requirements for employment, as listed by the BLS, for each teaching bracket are as follows:

  • Teacher assistants – Teaching assistants, or teacher assistants, work under licensed teachers to provide further instruction and support for students while also gaining valuable teaching experience. A high school diploma or equivalent is often the minimal requirement, but requirements can vary by state, school district and the position they are assisting. Some states require an associate degree for employment (BLS.gov/ooh, 2013).
  • Preschool teachers - Preschool teachers educate and care for children who have not yet entered kindergarten. Generally, preschool teachers are required to have at least a high school diploma and certification in early childhood education. However this requirement is dependent upon the institution. Preschool teachers in the Head Start program must have an associate degree (BLS.gov/ooh, 2013).
  • Kindergarten or elementary school teachers – Kindergarten and elementary school teachers provide primary education to children, or the basics of reading, mathematics and the sciences. In public schools these teachers are required to have a license and a bachelor’s degree. According to BLS, all states require kindergarten and elementary school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. (BLS.gov/ooh, 2013)
  • Middle school teachers – Middle school teachers provide the first step in secondary education to students. Secondary education is the education level directly above sixth grade. All states require that their public middle school teachers to have earned a bachelor’s degree. Some states require teachers have a degree in the subjects they teach, such as math or science. Other states may require teachers to major in elementary education (BLS.gov/ooh, 2013).
  • High school teachers – High school teachers provide the end of secondary education for students, these classes are more focused on specific areas and the BLS notes that most states require their pubic teachers to have majored in the subject they are teaching, such as history or chemistry. Some states require their teachers to have earned a master’s degree after earning their teaching credential (BLS.gov/ooh, 2013).

Sources and further reading:

Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/ooh//Education-Training-and-Library/Kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-7

Not all programs lead to initial teacher certification.

Some Teacher Q&A we've received.

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