Educational Requirements for Becoming a Teacher

Degrees in teaching typically cover lesson planning, teaching and assessing students and classroom management. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for teaching graduates.

Essential Information

For a student to become a teacher for K - 12th grade in a public school, they must first earn a bachelor's degree and receive state certification. To receive a teacher's license, an individual must complete an approved teaching program before passing a state licensure exam. Teachers in private schools are not usually required to be certified or licensed but most hold at least a bachelor's degree. Those who wish to teach in postsecondary schools typically need to earn a doctoral degree.

Teaching Level Preschool Elementary Postsecondary
Education Requirements High school diploma; postsecondary degree may be required as well, depending on employer Bachelor's degree Doctoral degree usually required
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 17% 12%19%
Mean Salary (2014)* $28,120$56,830$74,040

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

In order to teach preschool, the student must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. To teach K - 12th grade, the student needs a bachelor's degree. In the case of public schools, the teacher must possess a bachelor's degree and also be licensed as a teacher in the state where they live. The teaching license will either qualify the instructor to teach a range of grades or a specific subject. For an individual to teach at the majority of 4-year colleges, they must hold a doctoral degree.

Preschool Teacher

Preschool teacher requirements vary by state, employer and the source of funding for the program. A few programs require only a high school diploma or associate's degree, but most require a bachelor's degree in child development or early childhood education. Some programs may require a national Child Development Association (CDA) credential.

Federally funded programs such as Head Start require all preschool teachers have at least an associate's degree by the year 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Teachers who teach in pre-kindergarten programs in public schools must be licensed in early childhood education.

Kindergarten and Elementary Teacher

Public school teachers must have a bachelor's degree in elementary education. An elementary license allows a teacher to teach kindergarten through sixth grade in most states. A future teacher must also complete a supervised practicum or student teaching internship. Some states also require a teacher to earn a master's degree within a specified time after beginning teaching. Since elementary teachers instruct in all subjects, they take classes in math, reading, science and social studies methods.

Middle School Teacher

A public middle school teacher must have a bachelor's degree in childhood education and complete a student teaching internship. A middle school license usually allows the teacher to teach grades five through eight. Most middle school teachers must have a certain number of credit hours in the subject area they wish to teach. This subject area may be indicated as an endorsement on their teaching certificate. Areas of endorsement include language arts, math, science, physical education, foreign language and special education.

Secondary Teacher

Teachers in public secondary schools must have earned a bachelor's degree in the subject they are going to teach, as well as completing a program of study in secondary education. Secondary school teaching licenses qualify teachers to teach up through grade 12 but may include some middle school grades. Some high schools may look for teachers with master's degrees. High schools hire teachers in core academic areas and the fine and applied arts.

Postsecondary Teacher

Teachers at a 4-year university or college usually need a doctoral degree in the subject they will be teaching. Universities and colleges sometimes hire teachers with a master's degree for part-time positions. Community colleges typically require a master's degree for most full-time positions. Vocational and technical colleges require a bachelor's degree in the subject of instruction.

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