Educational Requirements for Teachers
When considering a career in teaching, it is important to consider the educational requirements at the bachelor's and master's degree levels as well as the master's degree programs that are available in the field. The educational requirements for teachers vary depending on the desired area of teaching. Primary and secondary education teachers should have at least a bachelor's degree, while postsecondary education teachers require at least a master's degree.
Primary and Secondary Education Teachers
Teachers at the kindergarten, elementary, middle, or high school levels are not required to have a master's degree to teach, though many go on to pursue a master's degree while employed to increase their knowledge or pursue a pay raise. Public school teachers are required to have a bachelor's degree from an approved teacher education program and a state license. Private school teachers are not required to be licensed, but must have a bachelor's degree.
However, due to shortages of teachers in certain subjects and in urban and rural areas, some states offer alternative licensing options. These options allow teachers with a bachelor's degree specific to a subject, but not from an approved teaching program, to earn licensure and begin teaching.
Postsecondary Education Teachers
The majority of postsecondary teachers teach at colleges and universities. Most 4-year colleges require teachers to have a doctoral degree, although some schools hire doctoral candidates who hold a master's degree to teach a certain subject or fill part-time positions. Some 2-year college faculty positions are held by those with only a master's degree.
Teachers at the undergraduate and graduate levels instruct students in a variety of academic or vocational subjects. In addition to teaching courses in their academic subject, such as history, literature, or biology, postsecondary teachers at 4-year schools often conduct a considerable amount of research in their academic fields.
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Special Education Teachers
Special education teachers work with children from preschool through the 12th grade who have mental or learning disabilities or behavioral disorders. All states require a bachelor's degree and the completion of an approved training program in special education to earn licensure. Some states, however, require a master's degree in special education as well.
Adult Education Teachers
Some instructors teach adult basic education to adults with skills below the eighth-grade level, adult secondary education to those earning their GED, and English to individuals who speak other languages. Most adult education teachers are required to have at least a bachelor's degree, although some states require a master's degree in adult education or in ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) instruction. Licensing requirements vary by state as well; some states accept a public school teacher license, while others require an adult education-specific license.
Master's Degree Options for Teachers
While postsecondary teachers typically have a master's degree in their area of academic expertise, there are a variety of voluntary master's degree options for elementary and secondary school teachers. For instance, they may pursue a general Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Education (MEd) in teaching. Alternatively, there are MA and MEd programs in specialized areas within the field of teaching; for instance, they may focus specifically on teaching students of certain ages, such as elementary school students, or on teaching specific subjects, like math. Master of Science (MS) programs that focus specifically on special education are also available. Master's degrees are only required for postsecondary teachers, but elementary and secondary teachers can also benefit from master's-level studies.