How Much Education Do You Need to Be a Teacher?

Aug 21, 2019

Do you need a teaching degree to teach? Teaching generally requires a bachelor's degree and some form of classroom readiness training. Learn more about teachers' education requirements as well as certification, job duties and salary to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Teachers work with students of all age groups to help develop their education. They are generally responsible for planning lessons, assigning projects, and grading assignments. Educational requirements for teachers depend on their chosen specialty, which can include special, secondary, vocational, or preschool education. A bachelor's degree in education is usually the basic requirement.

Required Education Bachelor's degree and teacher training; or master's degree in education; doctorate often required to teach postsecondary
Other Requirements State licensure and continuing education to maintain licensure
Projected Growth (2016-2026)* 7-8% (for kindergarten through high school teachers)
Average Salary (2018)* $62,200 (elementary school teachers)
$62,030 (middle school teachers)
$64,340 (high school teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do You Need to Be a Teacher?

Teachers' education requirements vary by state, but all states require that public school teachers have a bachelor's degree. Undergraduate training programs which lead to a bachelor's degree in education can vary depending on the prospective teacher's specialization. Training programs for aspiring elementary school teachers provide them with insights into the best methods for teaching different subjects. Middle and secondary school teachers usually just teach one subject and may earn double majors in both education and the subject area they teach. Some states require potential teachers to take certain required courses, such as teaching children with special needs or using technology in the classroom.

How Many Years of Schooling to Become a Teacher?

This can depend on what level and area in which you would like to teach. Those who teach high school and college usually need degrees in the disciplines they teach; however, college professors may also need an advanced graduate degree.

Do You Need an Education Degree to Teach?

Not necessarily. Although you do need a degree to be a teacher, many states offer alternative education programs to professionals who have already earned their undergraduate degrees and would like to transition into teaching. For example, a college graduate who has earned a bachelor's degree in political science but does not have any postsecondary training in education may use an alternative certification program, such as a Master of Arts in Teaching program, to become eligible for teacher certification. Additionally, alternative certification programs are common for high-need areas like math or science.

Students in alternative programs must already have a bachelor's degree. The bachelor's does not necessarily have to be in the subject area that the student will be teaching. In most programs students practice teaching in the classroom while taking education classes on weekends or at night. They must pass state exams and complete the program within a set period of time.

Certification Required to Become a Teacher

All states in the U.S. require public school teachers to be certified or licensed through each state's own process. Early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school education certification is available. Specialty certifications are available in areas like reading, physical education, or music. Most states require that teachers pass a state exam to become licensed or certified, and they must complete some form of continuing education to renew their teaching licenses. More than 40 states have reciprocity agreements in place to make transitioning to a new state easier for state-certified teachers.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 7% increase in job growth for elementary school teachers and an 8% increase for middle school and high school teachers between 2016-2026. According to the BLS, the average annual salary for elementary school teachers was $62,200, and the average annual salary for middle school and high school teachers was $62,030 and $64,340 respectively, in 2018.

You do need a degree to be a teacher, and you must be licensed in your state.

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