How to Become a Teacher
Students wishing to become a teacher generally need postsecondary education, student teaching, and state licensure or certification to teach in public schools. Although there are websites offering free teacher education and various teacher preparation programs available, most teachers need to earn at least a bachelor's degree. Teachers typically need to major in education, but there is usually a specific teacher major for each academic level or unique teaching positions, such as special education. Below we explore these majors in more detail.
Elementary School Teacher Major
Students wishing to become an elementary school teacher and work with children in Kindergarten (K) through grades 5 or 6 can usually pursue a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Elementary Education. Many of these degree programs are available in online formats, and typically an elementary education degree includes student teaching experience to prepare students for state licensure. Depending on the program and state, some of these degree programs may license students for grades as high as K through 8.
Middle School and High School Education Major
Students begin to have some additional major options when planning on working as a middle or high school teacher. Middle school may be considered grades 5 through 8, while high school, or secondary school, may be considered 9 through 12.
At the middle school level, students may pursue a BS or BA in Middle School Education. Some of these programs may then offer specializations within content areas, such as social studies, science, or math. In some cases, a major in elementary education will suffice for a career as a middle school teacher.
There are some degree programs that combine middle and high school education, but usually students wishing to teach in high school need to pursue a major in secondary education, typically offered as a BA degree. However, at the secondary level there are majors in various subjects that provide training in secondary education, such as a BA in History for Secondary Education, that still leads to teacher licensure.
Special Education Major
Aspiring teachers wishing to work with special needs students also have several major options available. There are elementary, middle, and secondary school majors that offer special education as a specialization area. There are also general BS and BA degree programs in special education that may qualify teachers for grades K through 12. A few of these programs are available in online formats.
Other Teacher Majors
Most schools typically have other subjects available to students outside of the core subjects, like English, math, science, and social studies. Teachers for these subjects may major in education with a specialty in this area, such as BS in Education with a specialization in physical education, or they might pursue degrees with a major in the subject, like a BS in Physical Education. Some of these degree programs may be outside the education department, such as a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Art Education for an art teacher or a BA in Spanish with a Spanish for education option for teaching.
Schools for Teaching
There are many colleges and universities that offer education majors at the various levels of education. Some of the best schools for education majors in 2019, according to U.S. News and World Report, are:
- Stanford University
- Harvard University
- University of Wisconsin-Madison
- University of Pennsylvania
- Vanderbilt University