In order to become a teacher in the US, a student must first earn his or her undergraduate degree. This is the first step on the journey toward becoming certified and obtaining a teaching license.
Each state has its own unique educational certification and licensing requirements, such as the type and number of exams needed to pass certification and minimum previous teaching experience.
Teaching Programs Guide
Online Degrees in Education
Bachelor’s in Education
Master’s in Education
Doctorate in Education
First Steps: Getting In To Teaching
For students who choose teaching as their desired career, the journey begins by enrolling at an accredited college or university as an undergraduate pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education & teaching. There are several variations of undergraduate teaching programs, each one geared toward preparing future educators to work in a particular subject or area of education. For example, those who wish to teach in elementary schools will earn a bachelor’s in early childhood education. This degree prepares students to instruct children from birth through grade three. Teachers of early education are taught how to instruct multiple subjects across the various age levels of young children, from mathematics and science to social studies and language arts. Elementary education bachelor’s degree programs also include courses on child development, teaching approaches and methods, curriculum building, learning assessment and education technology.
Middle school teachers usually teach grades six, seven and eight. They tend to earn their bachelor’s degree in the particular subject they want to teach, as well as a minor in education and any requirements that are set in place by the state to obtain licensure. Some states require middle school teachers to hold a master’s degree. All middle school teachers must take courses in childhood development and learn about the particular psychological and intellectual challenges and changes that children experience between the ages of 10-14.
High school teachers earn a bachelor’s degree in secondary education that has a curriculum with a similar structure to that of a middle school teacher. High school teachers also instruct a specific subject such as English, science, physical education or music and art. There are often undergraduate programs that cover K-12 education when relating to areas such as music, art or related electives.
In addition to classroom experience and teaching methods, all teachers will take courses pertaining to childhood or adolescent development, depending on the grade levels they wish to teach. These courses help future instructors better understand the mindset that their students will be in, identify any learning difficulties in the classroom and adjust their own unique teaching style. One of the challenges teachers face is maintaining a teaching style that covers necessary material for an entire class while simultaneously providing individualized care and instruction. An understanding of the mental development of students at a particular age can make the instructional process easier.
Next Steps: Teacher Certification
Just as doctors and lawyers have to pass exams after graduation and earn their license to practice medicine or art in their state, all teachers must first earn certification and licensure that are in accordance with their state’s requirements. These requirements vary greatly among states, though all require a student to pass a certification exam (or four, in New York’s case) in order to become a licensed teacher.
Many teachers who wish to teach a particular subject must take several exams in order to become licensed to work. A common exam administered by many states is the Praxis exam. This exam is offered in two segments; the first is the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators, which assesses a candidate’s knowledge in the core subjects of English, science and mathematics. The second is the Praxis Subject Assessment exam, formerly known as Praxis II, which assesses subject-specific knowledge, as well as subject-specific and general teaching skills needed for new educators.
Next (and Ongoing) Steps: Continue Learning
Graduate degrees in education are optional for teachers in some states and required in others, depending on the level of education and subject one wants to teach. In some states, middle school teachers and above must have earned a master’s degree. University professors all must usually hold a Ph.D. in the subject they want to teach. Those who earn a doctorate degree in education will then be equipped to instruct others who wish to become teachers of their particular subject area.
A master’s degree offers those who have already earned their bachelor’s degree an opportunity to further explore the area of education they are most passionate about, as well as increase their job credentials. Students who choose to earn their master’s or doctorate degree in education may also elect to study a particular subject, such as business, law or health care. Other advanced topics such as child development, adolescent education and science education can also be pursued and will prepare graduates for greater opportunities and a higher salary.
Search Teaching Schools by State
You can also view all accredited teaching programs in each state by using the state-by-state links below.