Perhaps you're thinking of changing careers to teaching in the Lone Star State. Or maybe you've always dreamed of becoming a teacher but you just can't manage to fit college into your life. Online teaching certification might just be the right choice for you. Let's discuss!
Teaching in Texas
The state of Texas requires a candidate for teaching certification and licensure to have a completed Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Arts, or Bachelor of Science from an accredited university and to complete student or mentored teaching to gain classroom experience. Texas also requires aspiring teachers to pass the TExES, or Texas Examination of Educator Standards, a knowledge-based test on the subjects the individual is planning to teach. Even subjects considered secondary to 'core subjects' (math, science, literature), such as art and computer science, require the potential candidate to take and pass the TExEs.
Deciding between online courses and a traditional classroom setting relies on knowing your learning style and what your needs are. Are you currently employed and want to stay on while you go to school? Do you get more out of a classroom setting? How much one-on-one time do you want with your instructors, professors, and classmates? Do you already have a four-year degree? Factors like family, finances, past educational experience, and commute may also play a part in choosing the best option for continuing your education.
Getting a degree, like any major life decision, will require an in-depth look at your own needs and circumstances. Your preferred learning style may come second to your personal finances or family life, so finding a program that is unique to your needs is the first step. Let's weight the options and factors.
Traditional Certification Vs. Online Courses
Traditional education programs encourage students to lay the foundation of their teaching career by getting a bachelor's degree, which entails attending classes for up to four years at scheduled times on campus and following a structured syllabus of due dates. This also includes group work and hands-on projects that require you to meet up with classmates or instructors outside of your scheduled classes. Based on a typical school schedule of fall to summer (with breaks between the fall and spring semesters), you would be working at the pace of the university to earn your bachelor's degree and subsequent teaching certification.
Online alternatives allow you to work at your own pace and keep up with the needs of your daily life. These programs utilize message boards, both live and recorded virtual lectures, and email platforms to cover course material. Some online programs even offer the ability to work ahead of schedule if that's what your needs require.
Keep in mind that many online programs are designed for certification of individuals who have already completed a bachelor's degree in the subject they wish to teach. Also note that certain online universities offer a bachelor's in education but caution that it does not include a certification portion. If you already have a four-year degree and want to work towards online certification while teaching and gaining classroom experience, programs like the Texas Alternative Certification Program or iteachTexas could help you reach your goals.
If you're leaning towards an online program, either for a bachelor's or for your certification, make sure that the program is accredited. For a program to be accredited, it must undergo a federal, regional, and peer review as outlined by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Since program accreditation can impact your financial aid options and job opportunities, check with the U.S. Department of Education if you have questions about the status of the program you're interested in. You can search for an approved educator preparation program by region through the Texas Education Agency.
Is There A Cost Difference?
There are financial differences between conventional certification programs and distance learning, or online, certification. With an online program, you won't be looking at housing fees, lab fees, or meal plans, which can get expensive fast. Also gone are the small nickel-and-dime fees that students on campus would be paying for, such as parking, student activities, and health services. If you're choosing an online program, be prepared for the possibility that you may have to upgrade your computer or software to keep up with the technological needs of your coursework.
If you choose an online option, you may be working in a program that's referred to as ''blended'' or ''low residency.'' Blended programs are online programs that include an on-campus component once a semester. During these residencies, you'll meet with your advisors, professors, and classmates for work groups, lectures, and experiential classes. With this in mind, you may need to be prepared to travel and take several days off of work at up to twice a year for the duration of your degree to accommodate the residential portion of the program.
Are Online Programs Eligible for Financial Aid?
The U.S. Department of Education urges caution that not every online program is accredited or eligible for financial aid. Online programs that are not eligible for student aid may require you to take out private loans.
Texas does offer partial student loan forgiveness, deferment, or cancellation benefits for teachers who meet certain criteria. According to the Texas Education Agency, private student loans are not eligible for student loan forgiveness programs. If you're considering several different programs or schools, check in with each school or program's financial aid office to see what resources and information they can offer.
According to a survey performed by Drexel University, compared to traditional routes, online degrees and certifications carry the same weight with employers, especially if it's from a reputable university. An online certification may be attractive to schools that are employing more technology in the classroom, as it shows an ability to work with computers and an understanding of technology as an education tool. Online certifications or degrees are also becoming popular to employers, because they show personal dedication and independent focus, showing that you don't need constant instruction or management.
If you're looking for alternative certification or starting your bachelor's, there are many options available to get you on the path to the classroom as both student and teacher. Do a little research and soul searching: Do you need to work? Do you want more one-on-one time? Is the program you're looking at accredited, and can you get financial aid? Asking these questions can help you narrow your search down to a certification program that fits your needs.