Becoming a School Teacher: Education and Career Information

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

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  • 0:02 Should I Become a…
  • 0:31 Career Requirements
  • 1:52 Step 1: Choose a…
  • 2:32 Step 2: Earn a…
  • 3:21 Step 3: Earn Licensure
  • 4:08 Step 4: Earn an…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a School Teacher?

Working with today's young can often be challenging since some have limited social skills, and they may be unruly at times. Teaching can also be a rewarding profession when educators are able to observe the fruits of their labors through student gains. Aspiring public school teachers must complete an education program, an internship, and obtain state licensure. Private school teachers usually do not need to meet state certification requirements; however, private schools typically employ teachers who have a bachelor's degree.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Education or a degree in a specific content area for secondary education
Licensure/Certification State certification can be earned in elementary or secondary education; must pass state licensing exams
Experience Complete an internship known as student teaching experience
Key Skills Flexibility, patience, people skills, and the ability to work well under stress; instructional and training skills, public speaking skills and classroom management skills; knowledge of educational software, spreadsheet software, and graphics programs
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $57,200 (for a high school teacher)
$55,860 (for middle school teachers)
$54,550 (for elementary level teachers)

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

Step 1: Choose a Teaching Level

Entry-level teachers can find employment at elementary, middle, or secondary schools. With additional education and experience, they might advance to teaching positions in technical schools, community colleges, or 4-year colleges or universities. When deciding what level they would like to teach, students should consider what age students they'd like to work with and whether they want to teach multiple subjects or concentrate on a single subject.

On way to successfully do this is to gain experience in multiple grade levels. To learn which level of teaching they may prefer, prospective teachers can substitute teach in multiple grade levels or a variety of subjects.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree is the minimum education requirement for teachers. Aspiring teachers generally enroll in an undergraduate program in early childhood education, elementary education, or secondary education. Bachelor's degree programs also are available in special education, art education, music education, and physical education. Courses for becoming a teacher include content area courses and courses in teaching methodologies.

As an undergraduate, students should look for opportunities to gain classroom experience. Student teaching is required in teaching programs and allows prospective teachers to gain real-world experience working with students in a classroom. In addition, you can gain classroom experience by volunteering at schools and completing in-class observation hours.

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Step 3: Earn Licensure

State licensure is required for employment in all public school systems. Requirements vary by state, but all states require teachers to graduate from an accredited college or university and complete a supervised teaching internship. Prospective teachers must also pass license examinations that test competency in areas such as reading, writing, math, and teaching methodologies. All states offer an alternative route to certification for prospective teachers who have a bachelor's degree in a field other than education.

When ready to become a licensed teacher, it is a good idea to prepare for the exams. To become familiar with the testing material and testing format, prepare for the test by using websites that offer sample test questions and interactive test preparation.

Step 4: Earn an Advanced Degree

Continuing one's education is often a mandate for maintaining licensure, and some school districts require teachers to earn a master's degree within a specific number of years to remain licensed. This is also an excellent way to build your professional network. Master's degree programs are valuable for students who want to deepen their knowledge in a specific subject or who seek to learn a greater variety of instructional procedures. Additionally, a master's degree in education, educational administration, or educational leadership might benefit a teacher interested in an administrative position, such as principal or instructional coordinator.

One way for teachers to explore their areas of interest is to take professional development courses. States often require teachers to participate in ongoing professional development or continuing education courses to remain licensed.

If considering a career as a school teacher, work to develop communication and instructional skills while gaining experience in the area of teaching that is of interest. School teachers can be state certified to instruct, manage, and assess student learning at the elementary, middle, or high school level upon completion of a bachelor's degree, student teaching program, and after additional state certification and examination requirements have been met.

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