How to Become a Teacher

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Teachers play a critical role in preparing children for their future by providing them with a foundation for their education. Becoming a teacher typically involves a very specific education and career path, but many states also offer alternative paths toward becoming a teacher. Knowing the steps for becoming a teacher can help you decide whether this is the right career path for you. Learn everything you need to know about becoming a teacher including necessary education and skills with career insights.

What does a teacher do?

A teacher is a professional who is responsible for educating children at the elementary, middle or high school level. Teachers may work within their local public school district, at a private school or as an online instructor. The role of a teacher may vary based on their specialty and the age of the children they are instructing but typically involves preparing lesson plans and class activities, providing instruction, preparing and administering tests to check for understanding, grading assignments and communicating with students and their parents about their educational progress.

Why become a teacher?

A career in teaching offers several advantages, including:

Impact and influence

Many teachers choose their careers because of the passion they have for impacting the lives of others. Individuals who enjoy helping children identify their goals, learn and reach their potential may find a career in teaching to be very rewarding. Teachers often describe being able to witness the moment a student understands a concept they have had trouble with as one of the most rewarding benefits of their career.

Continued development

Teaching also provides teachers the opportunity to expand their own knowledge and understanding within their chosen subject area through continuing education and professional development courses and seminars.

Consistent schedule

Another benefit of teaching is the consistent schedule it provides. Most teachers work Monday through Friday and have weekends, holidays and summers off.

Career advancement opportunities

Teachers have several opportunities available to advance their careers. Those who want to remain in the classroom may pursue lead teaching positions where they oversee all of the other teachers within their grade level or subject area, or they may continue their education to become a post-secondary professor at the university or college level. Other teachers may choose to pursue advancement opportunities outside the classroom by continuing their education to move into administrative positions such as a Principle or into roles on their local school board where they can influence policy and legislation.

The traditional route to becoming a teacher

Here are the steps you can follow for a traditional route to becoming a teacher:

1. First, think about the area you want to teach

The first thing you should do if you want to pursue a career in teaching is to consider what career path you want to take in teaching. A few things to consider include what subject area you want to teach and whether you want to teach elementary, middle or high school students. Knowing what type of teacher you want to be can help you choose the right college major for your career.

2. Second, attain a bachelor’s degree

Once you know what type of teacher you want to be, you will need to attain a bachelor’s degree in education or a subject that is related to the subject area you want to teach. For example, many elementary school teachers choose to major in elementary education, but teachers pursuing a career to teach a specific subject such as math or science in middle or high school may choose a major that is related to the subject they want to teach.

You may also want to consider whether you want to choose a minor or earn any additional certifications. For example, individuals pursuing a teaching career in middle or high school may choose a minor in education. Individuals interested in teaching students with special needs may get a special certification in special education.

3. Third, complete student teaching

While you are earning your bachelor’s degree, you should try to participate in a student teaching program. If you are majoring in education then you will most likely be required to complete a student teaching program to earn your degree. These programs allow you to gain real-world teaching experience in the classroom under the supervision of a licensed teacher. This can help you develop strong classroom management skills and increase your confidence to prepare you for your own classroom.

4. Fourth, pass teacher certification exams

Next, you need to pass the teacher certification exams required for your state. In most states, these exams include a series of tests including a general knowledge test, a professional education test and a test for the subject matter you want to teach. You must successfully pass each of the exams required by your state before you can submit your application for a teaching license.

5. Finally, submit your teaching license application

In addition to certification, all states require teachers to be licensed as well. Licensing requirements vary by state, but generally include completing an application and passing a background and fingerprint check. Once you receive your teaching license, you can begin applying to teach in your area.

The alternative route to becoming a teacher

While the requirements of the alternative route to teacher certification vary by state, most alternative teacher certification paths involve the following steps:

1. First, research state requirements

You should begin by researching the requirements your state has for obtaining a teaching certification and license through an alternative path.

2. Second, complete teacher certification program

Next, you should enroll in and complete an alternative teacher certification program.

3. Third, gain experience

Many alternative teacher certification programs also require a student teaching program as part of their curriculum so you can gain real-world experience in the classroom. You may also want to consider working as a substitute teacher while working on your teacher certification program.

4. Lastly, get certified and licensed

After you have completed the alternative teacher certification program and met the other minimum requirements for your specific state, you need to pass the required teacher certification exams and submit your licensing application to your state. You can begin working as a teacher once you receive your state license.

Some individuals don’t discover their desire to become a teacher until after they have already attained a post-secondary degree in an area that is not related to teaching. Most states offer an alternative pathway to earning teacher certification.