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Teacher Education Requirements and Career Information

Teaching requires significant formal education. Learn about the degree, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Teaching in America is an honorable position that requires at least a bachelor's degree in many states. Certification or licensure is required in all states. A master's degree may be required depending on where and what you teach. Post-secondary instructors will need doctorates in most cases, but in some instances a master's will suffice.

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Essential Information

A teacher wears many hats. One moment they are planning material for class, the next they are meeting with the parents to talk about their child's progress. They assess how the students are learning and are the first line of defense in finding learning disabilities in children. In most cases, the prospective teacher must have at least a bachelor's degree; to teach public school, they must also possess teaching certification. Most employers ask for at least one year of experience as well. Those who love sharing what they learn with others may find this career appealing.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements State teacher licensure and certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for kindergarten & elementary teachers
6% for high school teachers
13% for postsecondary teachers
Average Salary (2015)* $57,730 for kindergarten & elementary teachers
$60,440 for high school teachers
$71,060 for postsecondary teachers

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Degree Options

The traditional route to obtaining a state license to teach in public schools is through a teacher education degree program. Most universities with teacher education programs confer several types of education degrees. Common degree offerings are early childhood education (preschool through grade three), elementary education (grades 1-6) and middle and secondary education (grades 5-12); these grade divisions vary by state.

Some programs offer teaching degrees in specific subject areas like mathematics, biology, art or history. There are also special degree programs for reading education and special education. Students interested in teaching a specific subject may opt for a dual degree in education and their area of interest. In order to be considered highly qualified, teachers must have earned a certain number of credits in the subject area they are planning to teach. Secondary schools may prefer to hire teachers with a subject-area degree.

Student Teaching

Many teacher education programs run semester-long supervised teaching programs for students. Universities typically place students in classrooms in nearby schools. However, in some cases, students may be required to secure their own teaching assignments. Ideally, students work with professional educators in the subject area they wish to teach. For example, special education students will be placed in learning support or special needs classrooms, while aspiring math teachers will be placed in secondary or middle school math classrooms.

University supervisors observe lessons given by student teachers and assess their skills. Student teachers are sometimes required to keep a journal of their experience. They may also have to provide documentation of lessons taught and examples of student work.

Career Information

State Licensing

Each state has unique requirements for teaching licenses. Two universal requirements are possession of a bachelor's degree and a supervised student teaching experience. Some states require applicants to pass written and oral exams. Exams test students' content knowledge and understanding of professional practices. Others set a minimum grade point average requirement or ask that aspiring teachers prove that they have sufficient classroom technology training.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a significant number of teachers are expected to retire in the period of 2014-2024, which will create new job openings. The BLS estimates that employment of teachers through 2024 will grow between 6% and 13%, depending on the grade level taught. Job prospects will be best in rural and inner-city school districts, which are considered less desirable places of employment. Job applicants who qualify for hard-to-fill teaching positions in fields like mathematics, science and bilingual education will enjoy good employment opportunities.

Salary Information

As of May 2015 the median annual salary for kindergarten, elementary, high school, and post secondary teachers ranged from $54,890 - $63,000, according to the BLS. Most school districts pay teachers progressively more each year. Completion of a master's degree in education or possession of a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification can increase a teacher's salary, according to the BLS. Coaching a school sports team or running another extracurricular activity is another way for teachers to boost earnings.

Schools will always need teachers. As the population grows and more and more immigrants enter the nation, schools will be continually hiring teachers. Requirements differ from state to state but a bachelor's degree is the foundation. Certification and/or licensure is also required in all states. Pay, benefits and actual time spent in prep and in class should also be considered when choosing a career in education.


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