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How Much Education Do You Need to Be a Teacher?

Teaching generally requires a bachelor's degree and some form of classroom readiness training. Learn about the career paths, job duties and licensing requirements to see if this is the right career for you. View article »

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  • 0:22 Education Requirements
  • 1:10 Alternative Education Programs
  • 1:59 Certification Requirements
  • 2:31 Career & Salary Outlook

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Video Transcript

Essential Information

Required Education Bachelor's degree and teacher training; or master's degree in education; doctorate often required to teach postsecondary
Other Requirements State licensure and continuing education to maintain licensure
Projected Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (for all teachers at all grade levels)
Average Salary (2015)* $57,730 (elementary school)
$60,440 (for high school teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Teachers work with students of all age groups to help develop their education. They are generally responsible for planning lessons, assigning projects and grading assignments. Educational requirements for teachers depend on their chosen specialty, which can include special, secondary, vocational or preschool education. A bachelor's degree in education is usually the basic requirement.

Education Required to Become a Teacher

Although the specific education requirements for becoming a teacher vary by state, all states require that public school teachers have bachelor's degrees. Those who teach high school and college usually need degrees in the disciplines they teach; however, college professors may also need an advanced, graduate degree.

Undergraduate training programs which lead to a bachelor's degree in education, can vary depending on the prospective teacher's specialization. Training programs for aspiring elementary school teachers provide them with insights into the best methods for teaching different subjects. Middle and secondary school teachers usually just teach one subject and may earn double majors in both education and the subject area they teach. Some states require potential teachers to take certain required courses, such as teaching children with special needs or using technology in the classroom.

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Alternative Education Programs

Many states offer alternative education programs to professionals who have already earned their undergraduate degrees and would like to transition into teaching. For example, a college graduate who has earned a bachelor's degree in political science but does not have any postsecondary training in education may use an alternative certification program, such as a Master of Arts in Teaching program, to become eligible for teacher certification. Additionally, alternative certification programs are common for high-need areas like math or science.

Students in alternative programs must already have a bachelor's degree. The bachelor's does not necessarily have to be in the subject area that the student will be teaching. In most programs students practice teaching in the classroom while taking education classes on weekends or at night. They must pass state exams and complete the program within a set period of time.

Certification Required to Become a Teacher

All states in the U.S. require public school teachers to be certified or licensed through each state's own process. Early childhood, elementary, middle and high school education certification is available. Specialty certifications are available in areas like reading, physical education, or music. Most states require that teachers pass a state exam to become licensed or certified, and they must complete some form of continuing education to renew their teaching licenses. More than 40 states have reciprocity agreements in place to make transitioning to a new state easier for state-certified teachers.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 6% increase in job growth for all teachers at all grade levels. According to the BLS, the average annual salary for elementary school teachers was $57,730, and the average annual salary for high school teachers was $60,440 in 2015.

To be a teacher, you usually will need a bachelor's degree in education and you must be licensed in your state.

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