Teaching is an extremely valuable career. As a result, the path to becoming a teacher can be quite difficult. While the exact laws governing the licensure and certification of teachers will vary from state to state, there are some general guidelines you can use to plot out your journey to the career you’ve dreamed of. First, teachers must be educated, both in their intended area of expertise and in the ways of educating. They’ll have to demonstrate their ability to put theory into practice, through supervised student teaching experiences. Teachers must also pass their certification exams to prove their knowledge in both areas, and receive their license from the state where they’ll be working.
Once you’ve finally become a teacher, you’ll be expected to perform continuing education, pursuing higher degrees or other awards. Let’s look at each of these steps in a bit more detail to get a better idea of how to become a teacher.
Education for Teachers
Many colleges offer a Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.) degree program that is designed to help students become teachers. Enrolling in these programs may require particularly strong academic performance, as well as high scores on standardized tests such as the SAT.
B.Ed. degrees can be stand-alone programs or taken concurrently while earning a degree in another area (usually your intended specialty). Such programs frequently offer concentrations in teaching students of particular ages, like elementary education, or secondary education. Teachers teaching elementary students tend to require a wide knowledge on a variety of subjects since they stay with their students throughout the school day. Those teaching at the secondary level will usually focus on a particular subject, such as chemistry or history, as they will have several groups of students over the course of a day.
These different approaches to teaching will shape your degree dramatically, so it’s important to decide which area you intend to study. Education degree programs also teach material like the psychology of learning, handling student behavior, and other vital information that shapes the learning process.
First Teaching Experiences
Eventually, education students will need to start putting what they’ve learned to work. Students who are approaching the end of their degree program will be set up with nearby schools where they will be allowed to teach young students under the guidance of an established teacher. They might be referred to as student teachers, or teaching interns. Regardless of the name, this critical step provides an opportunity for hands-on experience in supervised conditions. For the safety of students, background checks, fingerprinting, etc. may take place at this stage as you begin working with children directly, as is the case in South Carolina. The student teaching experience may take several months and is typically the final challenge before graduating from an education degree program.
Certification, Examination, and Licensure
In order to teach in a public school in the US, it will be necessary to receive certification and/or licensure from the state in which you plan to teach. Completion of approved degree programs and student teaching experiences are generally part of these requirements, but most states also have a series of exams that teachers will need to pass in order to be fully licensed. Some states have their own particular teaching exams, while other states use standardized exams, such as the PRAXIS Core or PRAXIS II. These tests will measure knowledge of generally required skills, such as reading comprehension and basic mathematics, to ensure that the teacher has a firm grasp on the material. Tests may also be administered in particular subjects, in order to verify that a teacher is indeed informed in regards to their specialty. The exact tests required, the scores needed to pass, and other details will differ from state to state, so consult the department of education in the state where you plan to teach for the most accurate and relevant information.
In many states, the continued pursuit of education is expected of teachers once they receive licensure. Some states, such as New York, require teachers to obtain a master’s of education degree within a certain period of time (usually 5 years) after receiving their licensure in order to stay licensed. During this time, a teacher can work using their bachelor’s degree and begin working towards their master’s degree, which can usually be in either education or an area related to their specialty, such as a Master’s in Chemistry. Teachers may also be able to pursue a doctorate in education, which can open up career opportunities such as principal, or allow them to transition to teaching at post-secondary institutions, should they obtain a Ph.D. in another area. Additional education can also be used to meet national certifications, such as National Board certification, which may result in pay increases.
States often have alternative paths to becoming a teacher as well, although these vary far too much to get into in this article. Becoming a teacher is certainly a difficult challenge to take on, but many find the career to be extremely fulfilling. If you think you’ve got what it takes to conquer these steps, start looking at degree programs that can get you on your way.
For more great education tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics.