How To Be a Teacher - Traditional Teacher Pathway
The first step in following a traditional teaching path is generally earning a degree, followed by teaching experience and teacher certification exams. Most teachers are required to have at least a bachelor's degree, although some states may require teachers to then earn their master's degree within so long of securing a teaching position.
Most commonly, aspiring teachers will pursue a bachelor's degree program in education. These programs are usually offered as Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), or Bachelor of Education (Bed) degrees. Students are also usually able to specialize in a range of grades, such as elementary school or secondary school, and/or in particular subjects, such as art, music, or English for secondary school. Special education teachers also need a bachelor's degree, usually in special education.
Bachelor's degree programs in education may include courses in topics such as:
- Classroom engagement
- Educational assessment
- Diversity and inclusion
- Instructional planning
Student Teaching Experience
The majority of bachelor's degree programs in education include hands-on learning experiences in a classroom. They may include observations and/or student teaching. Student teaching is usually a requirement for state certification (discussed more below) and allows students to practice classroom management, lesson planning, and teaching under the supervision of a current teacher.
How to Get a Teaching Certificate
All states require public school teachers, including special education teachers, to hold a state teaching license, but the requirements for licensure may vary amongst states. Most states require teachers to have a bachelor's degree, pass a background check, complete student teaching and pass an exam. The differences between states usually occur in the kinds of exams teachers are required to take for licensure. For example, aspiring teachers in Ohio must take the OAE and subject tests, while aspiring teachers in Illinois can take the edTPA and subject tests.
There are several different teacher preparation programs available to help students prepare for certification. Once students have earned their license, they may need to participate in professional development to maintain it.
Can You Teach with a Bachelor's Degree?
Some students may wonder how to get a teaching certificate if you already have a bachelor's degree in a field outside of education. For example, a student with a biology or chemistry degree may be interested in teaching high school science. All 50 states offer alternative routes to becoming a teacher for students in this particular situation.
Alternative Teacher Certification Options
There are some states that may allow students to begin teaching under a supervised teacher and earning certification after meeting all the program requirements. Other states may require students to complete an alternative certification program through a college in order to take required education courses.
A few of these alternative certification programs may allow students to begin teaching while taking courses, while others may be non-degree programs that result in certification for specific grade levels. Some programs may be completed in as little as 1 year and may offer a variety of endorsements in areas like:
- Elementary education
- Secondary education