Educational Requirements for Becoming a Teacher

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  • 1:16 Preschool Teachers
  • 1:54 Elementary Teachers
  • 2:26 Public Middle School Teachers
  • 2:59 Public High School Teachers
  • 3:26 Postsecondary Teachers
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Laurie Smith
Degrees in teaching typically cover lesson planning, teaching and assessing students and classroom management. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for teaching graduates.

Essential Information

Teaching Level Preschool Elementary Postsecondary
Education Requirements High school diploma; postsecondary degree may be required as well, depending on employer Bachelor's degree Doctoral degree usually required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% 6%13%
Mean Salary (2015)* $28,570$54,890$72,470

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

In order to teach preschool, the student must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. For a student to become a K - 12th teacher in a public school, they must first earn a bachelor's degree and receive state certification. To receive a teacher's license, an individual must complete an approved teaching program and then pass a state licensure exam. The teaching license will either qualify the instructor to teach a range of grades or specific subject.

Teachers in private schools are not usually required to be certified or licensed but most hold at least a bachelor's degree. Those who wish to be teachers in postsecondary schools typically need to earn a doctoral degree.

According to the Bureau of U.S. Labor Statistics (BLS), preschool teachers would experience a 7% job growth for 2014-2024. Elementary teachers would have a 6% job growth during the same period, while postsecondary teachers would have 13% job growth. The median salary as of May 2015 was $28,570 for preschool teachers, $54,890 for elementary teachers, and $72,470 for postsecondary teachers.

Career Options

Preschool Teacher

Preschool teacher requirements vary by state, employer and the source of funding for the program. A few programs require only a high school diploma or associate's degree, but most require a bachelor's degree in child development or early childhood education. Some programs may require a national Child Development Association (CDA) credential.

Federally funded programs such as Head Start require all preschool teachers have at least an associate's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Teachers who teach in pre-kindergarten programs in public schools must be licensed in early childhood education.

Kindergarten and Elementary Teacher

Public school elementary teachers must possess a bachelor's degree in elementary education. An elementary license allows a teacher to teach kindergarten through sixth grade in most states. A future teacher must also complete a supervised practicum or student teaching internship. Some states also require a teacher to earn a master's degree within a specified time after beginning teaching. Since elementary teachers instruct in all subjects, they take classes in math, reading, science and social studies methods.

Middle School Teacher

A public middle school teacher must have a bachelor's degree in childhood education and complete a student teaching internship. A middle school license usually allows the teacher to teach grades five through eight. Most middle school teachers must have a certain number of credit hours in the subject area they wish to teach. This subject area may be indicated as an endorsement on their teaching certificate. Areas of endorsement include language arts, math, science, physical education, foreign language and special education.

Secondary Teacher

A public high school teacher needs a bachelor's degree in the subject they are going to teach, as well as having completed a program of study in secondary education. A secondary school teaching license qualifies teachers to teach up through grade 12 but may include some middle school grades. Some high schools may look for teachers with master's degrees. High schools hire teachers in core academic areas and the fine and applied arts.

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers at a 4-year university or college usually need a doctoral degree in the subject they will be teaching. Universities and colleges sometimes hire teachers with a master's degree for part-time positions. Community colleges typically require a master's degree for most full-time positions. Vocational and technical colleges require a bachelor's degree in the subject of instruction.

In summary, the educational requirements for teachers can vary from an undergraduate degree and certification for public school teachers to a doctorate for college and university teachers.

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