Many women across the country dream of a career as a teacher, educating the next generation and shaping them into critical thinkers and scholars. How to start your teaching career, however, can be complex given that working with young children requires instructors to follow strict regulations. Teachers must meet very particular requirements that can differ from state to state.
There are also a few different paths that can lead to a career in teaching, so even within the same state, not all teachers will take the same route. While this makes detailed explanations of how to become a teacher difficult, there are some generalizations that can get you on the right track.
Start your teaching career with a bachelor’s degree
In order to teach, nearly all educators are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree, so applying for colleges is the best place to start. While bachelor’s degrees in other subject areas, such as science or mathematics, can lead to a career as a teacher in most states, a student entering college for the first time who intends to become a teacher should probably look for a degree program in education.
One thing that’s important to consider at this point is what age range you’d like to teach to make a positive difference. For elementary school teachers, aged children need a broad knowledge of all major subjects, since they generally have to teach every academic area to their class.
Those planning to teach older children at secondary schools will typically specialize in a particular subject area, which will affect the classes they’ll need to take during their undergraduate studies. Degree programs in education involve courses in areas like classroom and behavior management, pedagogy, grading work, and the psychology of learning, regardless of the intended age group.
Licensure and certification
To work in the public school system anywhere in the US, teachers must be licensed and/or certified by the state. The exact requirements for teacher certification vary from state to state, but as noted above, all states require at least some sort of bachelor’s degree.
A student teaching experience, under the guidance of an experienced educator, is a common requirement, allowing new teachers to develop real-world classroom experience. Licensing and certification exams are also universally required, although there are many different types of exams used by different states.
Some states use standardized exams, such as the PRAXIS II or PRAXIS Core exams, while other states have their own custom exams developed by the board of education. Teachers may need to take multiple exams as well, to become certified in particular subject areas.
Always consult the board of education in your state to find out the most accurate and up-to-date information on licensure requirements. As a teacher, you must always have professional boundaries, from verbal and physical to emotional and social distancing.
Once you are fully licensed and certified, you can begin teaching students in most states. That doesn’t mean your own educational journey has come to an end, however. Some states require that teachers, once hired by a school system, complete a master’s degree program within a few (usually five) years of becoming licensed.
The master’s degree can be in education, or in a particular subject area, but should have some sort of relevance to a teaching career. Even teachers who are not required to earn a master’s degree may want to consider it, as higher degree levels often come with higher pay as well.
Teachers must also maintain and renew their certification periodically, which often also requires some form of continuing education. Common examples are attending seminars, college-level coursework, or, indeed, earning a graduate-level degree.
Teachers who seek to rise even higher can also try to obtain national certification, such as through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which can also result in higher pay. National certification is distinct from state certification and not a replacement, however, so teachers will need to maintain both credentials from that point forward.
When you want to start your teaching career
Becoming a teacher isn’t an easy career to get into, but most find it very rewarding and worthwhile in the end. If you believe teaching is the right career for you, you must persevere through these challenges and keep your eyes on the goal.
With dedication, you can achieve your dream!