How to Become a Certified Teacher: Education and Career Roadmap

Apr 28, 2020

Research the requirements to become a certified teacher. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in education.

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Becoming a Certified Teacher

So you think you might like to become a certified teacher? Teachers provide a wide range instruction to students to promote their academic and social development. Certified teachers may teach in public or private elementary schools, middle schools, or high schools. Working with children on a daily basis may require patience, persistence, and positive energy but teachers can often find satisfaction when they observe their students' accomplishments at the end of the school year.

Certified teachers in public schools are required to have at least a bachelor's degree in an approved program and pass certification exams. Some schools require that teachers earn a master's degree soon after acquiring certification.

Career Requirements

So what are the career requirements? Starting with the right education is important.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree at the minimum; master's degree or doctorate recommended
Degree Field Education; elementary education; secondary education; history, math, sciences, or social sciences
Experience Must complete student teaching internship
Licensure/Certification Must pass state certification exams; check with your state's department of education to determine the requirements for your particular state; include completion of a student teaching internship, passing a state exam, among other requirements
Key Skills People skills, flexibility, patience, educational software, graphics programs, spreadsheet software, instructional skills, and classroom management skills
Salary $59,670 (median salary for an elementary teachers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONET Online.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

All states require public school teachers to earn at least a bachelor's degree in a specific education discipline, such as elementary or secondary education. In most states, prospective teachers are required to major in a content area, such as math, science, chemistry, or history. Private school teachers usually do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools typically require teachers to have a bachelor's degree in education or a subject of expertise. For prospective teachers who have a bachelor's degree in a field other than education, they may enroll in graduate education programs or complete alternative certification programs.

Success Tip

Complete student teaching. Education programs typically require fieldwork experience in the form of student teaching. Student teachers typically carry out full time teaching duties under the supervision of a cooperating teacher.

Step 2: Obtain Certification

Teacher certification and licensing requirements vary by state. In general, individuals are required to submit an institutional recommendation for licensure, provide official transcripts, undergo background checks, and take state certification examinations. Licenses are normally grade or subject specific. While teaching examinations normally test competency in areas such as reading, writing, and math, they also provide comprehensive evaluations in a teacher's intended subject area.

Success Tip

Become a substitute teacher. Prospective teachers can gain valuable experience in classroom management and effective instructional techniques by working as a substitute teacher.

Step 3: Maintain Certification

Most states require teachers to participate in a certain amount of professional development opportunities in order to remain certified. Usually, teachers will have to earn a specified amount of continuing education credits in a certain amount of time. Professional development programs seek to improve knowledge and skills needed to facilitate student achievement. Professional development requirements vary by state.

Step 4: Earn an Advanced Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some states require teachers to earn a master's degree in order to remain certified. Master's degree programs in education are valuable for students who desire to focus on a specialized field of education. Students in these graduate programs also learn more comprehensive teaching methods, how to diagnose and solve problems of learning, and how to use reflective methods to improve their teaching skills.

Earning a bachelor's degree, getting certified, maintaining certification, and pursuing an advanced degree are the steps to follow to make the most of a career as a certified teacher.

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