How to Become a Teacher
Teaching is a vital and admirable career. As such, it comes with quite a bit of responsibility, both in practice and in preparation. Every state has specific requirements for teachers, and additional qualifications for public school K-12 teachers. The following steps provide a general breakdown of the requirements for teachers:
- Earn an undergraduate degree: You'll need a degree with a specialization in education, and depending on the level you want to teach, you'll need to earn a significant number of college credits in the subject area you want to teach. Many schools require minimum GPA and SAT scores for acceptance into any education program. You might also need to take basic competency exams, such as the PRAXIS Core before continuing your studies in education.
- Participate in supervised teaching: You'll be required to complete supervised practicum/clinical requirements during and after earning your degree. The school you complete this practical training in needs to be approved by your university, and you'll have to provide reports and assessments on your progress.
- Pass assessment and exams: If you teach at a public school, you'll be required to fulfill all testing requirements. For advanced grades and subject matter teachers, exams in the specific subject and education-competency exams are required (PRAXIS II or state regents' exams). Many states have recently adopted a further assessment measure known as EdTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment), which requires teacher candidates to self-assess their classroom performance.
- Obtain a state teaching license: Each state has specific teaching licensure requirements, and it's important to know the exact details before beginning your degree program. States preclude candidates who can't pass a criminal background check or those who don't have the requisite GPA.
- Pursue graduate studies: Many states expect teachers to earn a master's degree within a given timeframe of becoming certified teachers. For specific concentrations, like special education, a master's degree may be required for initial teacher certification in some states.
What Degree Do You Need to Be a Teacher
A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for obtaining a teaching degree in the U.S. For those on the traditional path, teacher education requirements include a degree in education or a major in the subject matter they want to teach along with a teaching component.
A 4-year bachelor's degree in education (or a program with a teaching practicum) typically includes general education, teaching courses, and one or more supervised classroom experiences. Courses can include:
- Fundamentals of teaching
- Educational psychology
- Student assessment
- Instructional planning
- Learning methods and intervention
- Cultural studies and diversity
To maintain a teaching license, advance in your career, or become a special education teacher, you may need a degree in special education or a master's degree along with specific certification or licensure endorsements. You can find schools with degree programs offering dual-licensure prep for both elementary and special education as well as those targeting specific student populations or disabilities. A bachelor's degree can take up to four years, depending on your previous education. A master's degree in education usually takes around two years. Course topics cover:
- Teaching students with disabilities
- Intensive support methods
- Collaborative curriculum for student success
- Prevention and remediation
- Legal and ethical teaching practices
- Assessment in special education
It's very important to ensure that the program you choose is accredited by one of the national or regional accrediting agencies and recognized by the Federal Department of Education. Accreditation shows that a program or institution has undergone a rigorous independent peer review process on a regular schedule, usually every 5-7 years. In addition, education/teacher preparatory programs that qualify for teacher certification must be approved by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
Online Teaching Degree
Both bachelor's and master's degrees in education are available online. However, it's important to remember you will have a practical teaching component in your program, so there will be some in-person requirements. Additionally, some schools might require on-campus visits one or more times during the duration of your program.
Accredited online teaching degree programs are often accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, though any CHEA or Department of Education recognized agency may accredit programs offered online.
In online teaching bachelor's degree programs, you'll access your course materials, submit assignments, access exams and communicate with instructors and peers through an online portal. Your academic advisor will assist you with completing the necessary teaching practicums and offer support to meet state licensure requirements. You'll need to find a school district that will collaborate with the distance education institution to host a student teacher in their local classrooms.
Online teaching degrees are predominantly designed to meet the learning needs of adult students, veterans, or students who have already earned at least 60 credits of college level work. The courses are between 5-10 weeks long and are often continuously open for enrollment, allowing students to start the program when work and other life obligations allow.
Scholarships for Teachers
There are a variety of scholarships available to students interested in becoming a teacher. The first step for receiving financial assistance for your studies is to complete the Federal Aid form, known as the FAFSA. It requires income data and is the gateway to both aid from state and federal governments as well as specific institutional scholarships.
- TEACH grant: This is a federal grant that requires students to agree to teach a minimum of four (4) years in high-risk public-school districts; if not, the grant reverts to an unsubsidized Stafford loan. The maximum award is $4000 per academic year, and applicants have to score in the 75th percentile on their college admission, maintain a 3.25 GPA and show financial need.
- STEM Teacher Graduate scholarships: These scholarships are for licensed teachers and graduate students interested in obtaining a graduate-level degree in education and teaching K-12 science, technology, engineering, and math. They offer a maximum award of $2500 per academic year. A minimum 3.0 GPA is required, and applicants need an undergrad or graduate degree in a STEM major and be enrolled in a graduate teaching program.
Licensure or certification is only required to teach in K-12 public schools. Education programs include the courses necessary to apply for a state teaching license or certification. Colleges and universities generally offer robust guidance for obtaining teaching licensure for their students. All teacher certification programs include a student teaching experience, which is required to make you eligible to apply for licensure. These programs typically provide test preparation, which is another licensure requirement.
Each state requires teachers to pass at least one teaching certification exam. Many states allow national exams, such as PRAXIS or NES. You might need to take a core exam that tests your general knowledge of teaching pedagogy, policies, and ethics. Depending on what grade level or subject you want to teach, you could also be required to take a more advanced teaching exam as well as subject-specific exams to add those endorsements to your license.
Teacher Certification Guidelines by State
|State||Required Degree & Experience||Exams Required||Average Salary (2018)||EdTPA requirement||Master's Degree|
|Alabama||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||A.E.C.A.P. & PRAXIS II||$51,180||Required as of 2018||not required|
|Alaska||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$77,920||Not required||not required|
|Arizona||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||AEPA or PRAXIS CORE/II||$48,610||Not required||not required|
|Arkansas||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$51,780||Optional as of 2016||not required|
|California||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||CBEST & CSET||$80,510||Required as of 2014||not required|
|Colorado||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$51-54,000||Not required||not required|
|Connecticut||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$55,110||Required as of 2019||not required|
|Delaware||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$65,040||Required as of 2016||not required|
|Florida||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||FTCE & Subject Area Tests||$54,120||Not required||not required|
|Georgia||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||GACE||$58,050||Required as of 2019||not required|
|Hawaii||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$60,810||Required as of 2019||not required|
|Idaho||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$51,170||Not required||not required|
|Illinois||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||ILTS & ILTS Subject Area Tests||$72,370||Required as of 2015||not required|
|Indiana||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||CASA & Subject / Specialization Tests||$53,030||Not required||not required|
|Iowa||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||NO PRAXIS CORE/PRAXIS II Only||$56,510||Required||not required|
|Kansas||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$51,490||Not required||not required|
|Kentucky||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$56,200||Not required||not required|
|Louisiana||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE &PRAXIS II/LaTAAP||$51,810||Not required||not required|
|Maine||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$54,240||Not required||not required|
|Maryland||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$72,610||Required as of 2019||not required|
|Massachusetts||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$80,020||Not required||Within 5 years|
|Michigan||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||MTTC and Subject/Specialization Tests||$62,950||Not required||not required|
|Minnesota||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||NES & MTLE Subject & Pedagogy Tests||$64,610||Required||not required|
|Mississippi||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$47,190||Not required||not required|
|Missouri||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||CBASE & MO Gateway Exams||$54,280||Not required||not required|
|Montana||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS II||$50,670||Not required||not required|
|Nebraska||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$57,500||Not required||not required|
|Nevada||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$57,910||Not required||not required|
|New Hampshire||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$61,510||Not required||not required|
|New Jersey||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$76,390||Required as of 2017||not required|
|New Mexico||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||NES & NES Subject Area Tests||$55,380||Not required||not required|
|New York||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||EAS & EdTPA||$85,300||Required as of 2017||Within 5 years|
|North Carolina||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II & NC Foundation||$47,580||Required as of 2018||not required|
|North Dakota||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II & PLT||$55,400||Not required||not required|
|Ohio||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||NO PRAXIS CORE/OAE Pedagogy & PRAXIS II||$61,930||Not required||Within 5 years|
|Oklahoma||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||OGET & OSAT & OPTE||$42,540||Not required||not required|
|Oregon||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||OR Civil Rights Exam & Subject Area Exams||$72,640||Required as of 2016||not required|
|Pennsylvania||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$64,830||Not required||not required|
|Rhode Island||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$71,440||Not required||not required|
|South Carolina||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II & PRAXIS II PLT||$54,400||Optional as 0f 2019||not required|
|South Dakota||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||NO PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$42,960||Not required||not required|
|Tennessee||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$53,620||Required as of 2019||not required|
|Texas||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||TExES, TExMAT, TASC, TASC-ASL & PASL||$58,190||Piloted as of 2019||not required|
|Utah||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II & PRAXIS II Pedagogy||$59.070||Not required||not required|
|Vermont||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$65,850||Not required||not required|
|Virginia||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||VCLA & PRAXIS II & PRAXIS II Reading||$68,770||Not required||not required|
|Washington||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||WEST-B or PRAXIS CORE & WEST-E||$67,550||Required as of 2019||not required|
|West Virginia||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$47,050||Not required||not required|
|Wisconsin||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$58,360||Required as of 2016||not required|
|Wyoming||B.A./B.S. and student teaching||PRAXIS CORE & PRAXIS II||$60,620||Not required||not required|
Average salary provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics