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Qualifications for Being a Teacher

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a teacher. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Teachers educate students from preschool to high school in subjects such as mathematics, language arts, social studies, science and more. While most teachers hold a bachelor's degree in education, many colleges offer teaching certification programs for those who already hold a bachelor's degree in another discipline.

Required EducationBachelor's Degree in Education or Teaching Certification
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)12%*(Kindergarten, Elementary School and Middle School Teachers), 6%*(High School Teachers)
Median Salary (2014)$50,600*(Kindergarten Teachers), $54,120*(Elementary School Teachers), $54,940*(Middle School Teachers), $56,310*(High School Teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Elementary School Education

Elementary school teachers educate their students in mathematics, language arts and social studies. Accordingly, students wanting to become elementary school teachers take courses in how to teach these subjects. These students also take courses in human development, child psychology, curriculum design and literacy instruction, all of which prepare them to teach classes to younger students. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, (www.bls.gov) predicts a 12% job growth for kindergarten and elementary school teachers between 2012 and 2022. Additionally, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for elementary school teachers was $54,120 and $50,600 for Kindergarten teachers in May, 2014.

Middle and High School Education

Students who plan on teaching at the middle or high school level generally take major-level courses in the subject they wish to teach, in addition to the required teacher education curriculum. For example, students wishing to teach economics to high school seniors may major in economics and education, completing both respective requirements to earn their degree. This helps aspiring middle and high school teachers develop skills in lesson planning and curriculum assessment in their field of interest. The BLS reports that the job market for middle school teachers will grow 12% between 2012 and 2022, and 6% for high school teachers. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for middle school teachers was $54,940 and $56,310 for high school teachers in May 2014.

Fieldwork

All prospective teachers must participate in professional fieldwork, often included in education degree programs, in which they are assigned to help or teach a class under the supervision of a licensed teacher. This practice helps students gain real world experience as student teachers, monitoring classes and meeting with parents.

State Licensure

While licensure may not be necessary for private school teachers, it is required for all public school teachers. State requirements for teaching licenses vary; however, most include:

  • A bachelor's degree
  • The completion of a teacher education program
  • Supervised teaching experience
  • The completion of basic writing and math skills tests

Earning a bachelor's degree in education may be the quickest route to meet these requirements. However, an increasing number of professionals come to a teaching career after years of working in other fields. Some colleges offer alternative certification or licensure programs for professionals who already hold a bachelor's degree in an area other than education. Programs typically last 1-2 years, during which students work as teachers, under the supervision of a mentor teacher, while attending teacher education courses.

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