Public School Teacher: Education and Career Roadmap

Jan 02, 2019

Research the requirements to become a public school teacher. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as an educator.

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Should I Become a Public School Teacher?

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; some states require a master's degree after obtaining teaching certification or licensure
Degree Fields Education, elementary education, secondary education, or a major from a related field
Licensure/Certification Must pass state certification/licensing exams
Experience States may require supervised student teaching experience
Key Skills Flexibility; patience; verbal and written communication, instructional and training, public speaking, and classroom management skills; proficiency with educational and spreadsheet software and graphics programs
Median Salary (2015) $54,550 (elementary school teachers)
$60,440 (secondary school teachers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET Online

Public school teachers educate students in a variety of academic subjects. They provide instruction in areas such as physical education, music, art, and character education. Public school teachers may teach at the elementary, middle, or high school level. Working with diverse students with varying needs and attitudes can be tiring, stressful, and demanding. Teachers may work a 10-month work year with summers off or year-round with various breaks.

Key skills for teaching include:

  • Flexibility
  • Patience
  • Verbal and written communication skills
  • Instructional and training skills
  • Public speaking skills
  • Classroom management skills
  • Proficiency with educational and spreadsheet software and graphics programs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, elementary school teachers earned a median wage of $54,550, while secondary school teachers earned a median wage of $60,440, as of May 2015.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Becoming a public school teacher at any level requires earning at least a bachelor's degree and completing a teacher education program. A teacher education program may be included in the bachelor's degree curriculum, or it can be an additional degree or training program after earning a bachelor's degree. Most teacher education programs are categorized as either elementary or secondary education programs.

Step 2: Complete Student Teaching

All teacher education programs require hands-on classroom training. Throughout this time, student teachers are gradually given responsibilities, such as developing lesson plans or teaching a lesson to the class. Student teaching usually occurs during the last semesters of a teacher education program.

Step 3: Earn Certification or Licensure

Becoming qualified to teach in a public school requires completing the PRAXIS sequence of exams. These tests measure fundamental skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. The PRAXIS test sequence also measures knowledge of teaching practices, as well as academic content knowledge in specialized subject areas. While most states use the PRAXIS exams, some states have developed their own exams. Passing score requirements vary by state.

Success Tip:

Take practice exams to increase your success. Websites that offer sample test questions and interactive test preparation can help increase the chances of passing the certification exams.

Step 4: Earn an Advanced Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers in some states must earn a master's degree in order to remain certified. Master's degree programs in education are also valuable for students who want to expand their content knowledge in a specific subject. Students in these graduate programs can also learn a wider range of efficient instructional procedures.

Step 5: Maintain Certification or Licensure

Most states require teachers to participate in ongoing professional development or continuing education courses in order to remain licensed or certified. Professional development programs educate teachers on research-based instructional techniques that can be used to improve student achievement. The amount and type of professional development required varies by state.

Teaching at a public school requires earning a bachelor's degree, gaining hands-on experience as a student teacher, and certification as required by the state.

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