CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a teacher.
Is becoming a teacher right for me?
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All U.S. states require teachers to hold a degree from an accredited college or university. Most jurisdictions require aspiring elementary school teachers to complete a Bachelor's Degree in Education. Prospective middle or high school often double major in education and the discipline they wish to teach.
These are the components of a typical bachelor’s degree program for teachers:
Methods of Teaching
Various teaching methods for most grade levels, from elementary through secondary school
- Target Skills
Teaching methods for specific student groups
- Focus - Overview of modern technologies impacting classrooms; practical studies on the use of computer systems and mobile devices
- Target Skills
Practical use of software in the classroom
Education of Children with Special Learning Needs
- Focus - Methods to provide students with extra help in the classroom; example: curriculum adjustments
- Target Skills
How to make effective curriculum changes and develop appropriate materials for students with learning challenges
How to increase instructional access and work with parents to create curriculum plans
Subject Area Instruction
- Focus - Subjects and topic that teacher need to understand to teach effectively: social studies, mathematics, sciences, reading and literacy, English
- Target Skills
How to apply various teaching methods to certain subjects
Understanding of what students need to learn in various subject areas
Teacher Education / Student Teacher Program
Teacher education programs throughout the United States include a professional development / student teaching component. The National Council on Teacher Equality describes student teaching as the final clinical experience on the path to becoming a licensed teacher.
Candidates are paired with a mentor teacher and typically spend around 10 weeks in the mentor teacher’s classroom. Throughout this time, they are frequently observed and given feedback by student teaching supervisors from their college or university.
Student teachers are evaluated on:
- Content knowledge
- Ability to plan and deliver instruction
- Classroom management
- Time management
- Use of technology
- Collaboration with peers
- Building relationships with students and parents
- Capacity to adapt to teaching challenges presented
Master’s Degree (optional)
A master’s degree is required for certain specialties, such as Administration Teachers, who wish to become principals or superintendents.
A master’s may also be required to teach in some high schools and middle schools.
The curriculum components of a typical master’s degree program for teachers would include:
- School and Community Partnerships
- Legal and Ethical Issues
- School Finance
- Curriculum Development
All teachers in the U.S. public school system need a license, sometimes called certification. The University of Kentucky College of Education maintains a state-by-state guide to teacher certification.
Some states have their own licensure test. Others use the standard Praxis Exam administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). These tests measure core skills of reading, writing, and mathematics, as well as subject-specific knowledge.
The type pf exam required generally depends on the grade level and subject that the teacher has chosen.
The National Board Certification is a credential which can be pursued by U.S. teachers who have completed a minimum of three years of full-time classroom teaching.
To obtain the credential, teachers must complete a rigorous peer-reviewed process that includes submitting work samples and videos of their teaching and passing a three-hour exam. This optional certification is very highly regarded in the teaching field.
Teaching licenses are usually valid for a specific period of time. To renew licensure, teachers must generally complete additional coursework. Some states require that teachers eventually earn a master’s degree to remain licensed/certified.
Although the change has not yet occurred, there is momentum within state school systems to mandate a master’s degree for all teachers.