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What Kind of Degree Do You Need to Be a Teacher?

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

Essential Information

The traditional educational route to teaching at the kindergarten, elementary, middle, or secondary school levels is to earn a bachelor's degree from an approved teacher education program. In addition, all would-be public school teachers must become licensed in their state before beginning employment.

Degree Requirements

Every aspiring K-12 educator can enroll in a 4-year bachelor's degree program in education to become a teacher. Individuals who are interested in teaching in middle or secondary school typically also major in the subject that they wish to eventually teach, such as music, mathematics, history, biology, or English. For example, an aspiring math teacher would take advanced math courses in addition to educational courses, such as implementing technology into a curriculum.

Prospective elementary school teachers often take a slightly different path in preparing for a career as a teacher. They can enroll in elementary or early childhood education degree programs that focus on foundations of education and educational psychology, while providing instruction in each of the various subjects taught in grades K-8.

Program Coursework

Courses in a typical bachelor's degree program in education include student assessment methods, instructional strategies, multiculturalism, and human development. Students complete class work that combines both individual assignments and group projects. Courses may also cover topics in educational technology and communication principles. Most bachelor's degree programs in education also require students to complete some type of practical fieldwork, usually an internship, at a local school where they work directly under the supervision of a licensed teacher.

Licensure Requirements

In order to work in a public school in the United States, would-be teachers must first obtain licensure. Although each of the 50 states has different requirements for obtaining a teacher's license, most mandate the completion of a teacher education program such as a bachelor's degree program in education and the passage of a state-administered exam. Supervised teaching experience, often gained through teaching internships, is also typically required. Once licensed, teachers may then be required to participate in periodic testing or continuing education courses in order to maintain their license and continue teaching in their state.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school teachers should increase by 6% over the 2014-2024 decade. The BLS also reports average annual salaries for teachers ranged from $54,510 for kindergarten teachers to $57,200 for high school teachers in 2015. The average annual salary for middle school teachers was $58,760, and for elementary school teachers it was $57,730.

To become a teacher you need at least a bachelor's degree in education or the subject you want to teach, and you must also meet any state licensing requirements.

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