Learn How to Become a Teacher

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What Steps Do I Take to Begin a Teaching Career?

Determine if Teaching Is Right for You

happy children with their hands raised who are excited to be in class

Teaching is one of the most challenging careers a person can pursue. Expect to work long hours in what can be a highly stressful environment. However, teachers hold the power to influence their students’ lives very deeply, which can be very rewarding. Whether they’re guiding preschool play groups, designing lessons for high schoolers, or leading college students toward new frontiers of scientific research, teachers find great satisfaction in developing their students’ potential. Before you start applying to teaching programs and signing up for certification exams, you should talk to teachers or read interviews, volunteer in a classroom and evaluate your strengths and experiences as they pertain to teaching. A little self-awareness and a taste of practical experience will go a long way.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

graduation cap degree and notebook with pencil together

Earning a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college is a minimum requirement on your journey to becoming a licensed teacher, but which degree you should pursue depends on the grade level you plan to teach. If you want to be an elementary school teacher, most states require elementary school teachers to major in education. If you are planning to teach more advanced subjects in secondary schools, such as math or science, a degree in a related field is generally required. It’s not uncommon for secondary teachers to double-major in education and the discipline they intend to teach.

Complete an Accredited Teacher Education Program

Most teachers complete an accredited education program as an undergraduate student. The requirements of these programs vary from school to school and usually reflect the needs and requirements of the state where the school is located. Others complete a teacher education program upon completion of their undergraduate degree.

Students completing an accredited education program

More and more frequently, states are requiring certified teachers to hold master’s degrees before they can become a teacher or shortly thereafter. Regardless, if you want to advance in your teaching career and earn a bigger paycheck, obtaining a master’s degree is a must.

Complete Your Student Teaching Requirements

Student teacher having music time with her students

Teacher education programs in all 50 states include a student teaching component that requires certification candidates to have supervised in-class teaching experience. Some institutions now offer student teaching earlier in their programs to help students better understand pedagogy and classroom management from a teacher’s point of view.

Choose Your Specialty

science teacher working with student who is looking in a microscope

Teachers are an important part of students’ lives beginning at a time when they’re barely out of diapers, helping them learn and grow as students and as people until they’re adults. Moreover, many teachers are driven to work with special needs students, students for whom English is a second language, and other groups. That’s a wide range of options, and knowing which students you’d like to work with as well as how much education you’d like to complete can help you make some of the big decisions. You can read more about different teaching careers below.

Get Certified

prospective teachers taking the certification exams

Every state requires its public school teachers to be licensed or certified. This process usually entails passing an examination, such as a state test or the widely used Praxis Series exams. These tests measure both core skills (reading, writing and mathematics) and subject-specific knowledge. Requirements to become a teacher vary by state and there are specific paths for certification reciprocity-and even alternative teaching certification. Most states have several levels of credentials for teachers and varying certifications based on the age group and subject you plan to teach. For instance, if you plan to teach history to high school students, your state may require that you major in history and pass exams measuring your knowledge of that subject. Our comprehensive guide will help you understand what you’ll need to do to teach in the location you choose.

What Can I Teach?

If you have an area or specialty that’s dear to your heart, you’re in luck! But if not, don’t worry-there are many options, and you can enter the field in a number of ways. Here is a range of teaching career paths for you to explore:

Is a Teaching Career the Right Move for Me?

A happy teacher has her students raise their hands and all of them copy her

Some of us are natural-born teachers, while others grow into the role during our teacher training. Both types can make excellent teachers, especially when we choose the right grade levels and subject matter. There is no “perfect” teacher; all kinds of teachers are needed, and our diverse student bodies benefit from everything we bring to the classroom.

Teachers are magicians who continually have to challenge, entertain and elevate their audiences. Talented and ambitious individuals with creative insight and a fresh perspective are always in demand in the teaching profession. And this demand extends to all states across the country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, the job outlook for education, library and training positions is expected to grow by 2.3% through 2032.

Do I Have What It Takes?

How do you know if teaching is the right career choice for you? Here are some common traits shared by all great teachers.

  • Credibility
    A teaching career requires that you really know your subject. The deeper your knowledge, the better you can teach your students.
  • Passion
    Unsurprisingly, the most successful teachers are passionate about their subject matter and eager to share it with their students. Effective teachers are genuinely excited by their subjects.
  • Flexibility and Creativity
    Students respond to different teaching styles, which means you need to get creative with your communication techniques. Teachers need to engage multiple learning styles and be able to improvise or move on to Plan B when things aren’t going their way.
  • High Expectations
    Teachers must challenge their students to excel and work with students to overcome their barriers. In many cases, a student who is struggling just needs the right approach to help them learn.
  • Compassion
    Understanding students and their difficulties (and the ability to predict and overcome those difficulties) goes a long way toward helping students enjoy education and succeed in school.
  • Discipline
    Knowledge is good, but without structure and discipline, you won’t be able to teach effectively. Mastering classroom management techniques is an important part of teaching.

If these characteristics describe you, you may have the right traits to succeed as a teacher. If you’re not quite there yet, a good teacher training program will supplement your natural abilities and prepare you for a rewarding teaching career!

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