Becoming a Math Teacher: Career Roadmap

Apr 28, 2020

Find out how to become a math teacher. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in teaching math.

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94% college-bound high school students
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Should I Become a Math Teacher?

Math teachers instruct middle and high school students in various areas of mathematics, such as algebra, geometry, and calculus. Teachers plan lessons, deliver instruction, assess student progress and evaluate student work. Many middle and high school teachers are also responsible for students in common areas of the school, in addition to those in their classrooms.

Teaching young people can be tiring and stressful; however, the rewards could be many, since teachers can often observe the benefits of their efforts when students make strides academically and socially. In addition, most math teachers work full-time during the 10-month school year.

Career Requirements

A bachelor's degree is needed to work as a certified math teacher, and some states require teachers to earn a master's degree after becoming licensed. Those interested in teaching math will need a degree in mathematics or in education with a focus in math.

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed, though requirements vary among states. In general, math teachers usually need to pass PRAXIS basic and content exams. When preparing for work as an educator, no additional experience is required outside of field experience gained as a college student, although developing some key skills such as the ability to give instruction, patience, critical thinking, listening and speaking skills, and knowledge of instructional and spreadsheet software can be beneficial.

Degree Bachelor's and master's degree
Degree Focus Mathematics or education with a focus in math
Licensure PRAXIS Exams, state licensure
Skills The ability to give instruction, patience, critical thinking, listening and speaking skills, and knowledge of instructional and spreadsheet software
Salary $61,600 (all high school teachers); $59,660 (all middle school teachers)

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2019 the median annual wage for all high school teachers was $61,600, and it was $59,660 for all middle school teachers.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Math teachers in the U.S. must complete at least a bachelor's degree program with a teaching component. Students might consider earning a bachelor's degree in math with a teacher education concentration or a degree in education with a concentration in math. Courses cover topics like algebra, advanced calculus, and elementary statistics.

Some states also offer alternative programs that allow candidates who already hold a math degree to fulfill the required teacher education. These programs vary but generally require that candidates complete the education courses mandated for state licensure. Such candidates often can teach with a temporary license for 1-2 years under the direction of a qualified instructor.

When considering a career as a math teacher, choose a program that includes a teaching practicum. Most states require potential math teachers to undertake a student-teaching practicum. Generally, student-teaching practicums are built into degree programs and take an entire semester to complete. Student teachers gain experience planning lessons, teaching classes, and grading papers under the guidance of a licensed instructor. Supervising instructors provide student teachers with feedback and formal evaluations while helping them feel comfortable with classroom settings.

Aspiring teachers must also prepare for state-required teacher exams. States have varying requirements pertaining to the exams that are required to earn licensure. Students should take the time to find out which tests are required by their state and prepare for these exams. Some education programs include preparation courses to help students pass these exams.

Step 2: Obtain Licensure

After completing a bachelor's degree program and student-teacher practicum, graduates must earn state licensure to teach in a public school. Licensing requirements differ by state but often include passing PRAXIS exams, including basic exams in reading and writing in addition to a mathematics subject area test. Teachers are generally licensed according to the grade levels they're trained to teach. For example, math teachers may be required to obtain secondary-education licensure to teach grades 7-12. Teachers in private schools are usually not required to hold state licensure.

Step 3: A Master's and Licensure

In some states, new teachers must complete a master's degree program within a specified amount of time after being hired. Many colleges and universities offer master's degree programs in mathematics education or related fields. These programs typically require 1-2 years of study to complete. Courses may cover topics ranging from human development to math instruction planning.

Teachers are typically required to renew their licensure on a regular basis. This generally includes completing continuing education courses. Some states also allow teachers to participate in state board-approved activities to maintain licensure.

Step 4: Consider Advancement

Experienced teachers may consider advancing to work as principals or other administrative positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these positions often require individuals to be licensed as school administrators and hold a master's degree in educational leadership or a closely related field.

In summary, a career as a math teacher will require a bachelor's degree and most likely earning a master's degree after being hired in order to remain certified to teach middle or high school students. In addition to earning degrees, teachers need to complete a student teaching experience, pass state PRAXIS exams for math and general knowledge, and then apply for and maintain state licensure in order to instruct, assess, and plan math classes in a public school.

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