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 either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree from an accredited college or university. Most jurisdictions require aspiring elementary school teachers to complete a major or minor 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
• Teaching techniques
• Teaching materials
• Teaching methods for specific student groups
Overview of modern technologies impacting classrooms; practical studies on the use of computer systems and mobile devices
• Technological concepts
• Practical use of software in the classroom
Education of Children with Special Learning Needs
Methods to provide students with extra help in the classroom; example: curriculum adjustments
• 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
Subjects and topic that teacher need to understand to teach effectively: social studies, mathematics, sciences, reading and literacy, English
• 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 license 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.
How to become a Teacher
All U.S. states require K-12 public school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers are normally required to hold a bachelor’s in elementary education; though some school systems prefer K-6 teachers to major in a particular subject area, such as science, math, or English. In general, high school teachers are required to have completed a major in a specific subject.
In addition to earning an appropriate undergraduate degree, public and most private school teachers must complete an accredited teacher education program, fulfil student teaching requirements, and get licensed/certified.
One of the most important steps in becoming a teacher is choosing a specialty. Within the K-12 education system, the options are:
• Early Childhood Teachers (mainly kindergarten through grade two)
• Elementary Teachers (teach curriculum in all subjects; kindergarten through grade six, seven, or eight)
• Secondary Teachers (teach curriculum in specific subjects; middle and high school)
• Specialty Teachers (teach in non-academic areas such as physical education, music, art)
• Special Education Teachers (teach learning disabled or developmentally delayed students)
• Administration Teachers (can become principals or superintendents; graduate degree required)
Beyond state licensure or certification, teachers can pursue voluntary certification credentials offered by the National Board Certification and the National Association for Alternative Certification.