Steps to Become a Teacher

If you have a desire to work with the youth of today to build a better world for tomorrow, you’ve probably considered becoming a teacher at some point. Getting a position as a teacher isn’t the easiest career to pursue, however; there are many qualifications that an aspiring teacher must meet, and these requirements can differ between states. The requirements across states do have some commonalities, however, which you can use as a guide to get started towards a career in teaching.

Earn an Education Degree

The first thing someone interested in becoming a teacher needs to do is attend a university and work towards a degree in education. Bachelor’s degree programs in education are usually tailored towards the requirements for licensure in the state where the school is located, so try to choose a school in the state where you plan to teach. These programs also have further specializations, depending on the age of children you wish to teach. Early childhood education focuses on very young children, teaching them basics like language and how to read. Elementary education is geared towards teaching kids from kindergarten to sixth grade and often involves teaching a wide variety of subjects. Secondary education is aimed at teaching students from seventh to twelfth grade, and generally requires teachers to specialize in a particular subject. Coursework in all education programs covers topics like lesson planning, classroom management, the psychology of education, and pedagogy, the theory and practice of learning.

Complete Student Teaching

As you progress through an education degree, you will eventually reach the point where you are ready to put what you’ve learned into practice. Student teaching is essentially an internship at a public school, where an established teacher will help supervise as you teach a class for the first time. To be eligible for student teaching, a student in an education program must have a minimum GPA, have passed all required exams in their state and program (PRAXIS, etc.), file an application, receive permission, and pass background checks. Your time as a student teacher will last between 18 weeks and a full semester, and will require you to put together lessons and teach classes, working directly with children. Completion of a student teaching experience is required to graduate from an education program, and usually necessary to receive licensure.

Pass Testing Requirements

Shortly before or after graduation, an aspiring teacher will need to start preparing to pass the exams required to teach in their state. Some states use their own exams, such as California, while other states, like Tennessee, use the standardized exams known as PRAXIS, or a combination of both, like North Carolina. Tests will not only cover your knowledge of the profession of teaching and pedagogy but also the material you will be teaching. Whether you chose elementary education or secondary education may shape what exams you are required to take; elementary education exams cover a number of topics, while those for secondary education focus on one or two topics which will be that teacher’s subjects.

Obtain Certification or Licensure

Teachers are required to receive a teaching license or certification from the state to work in public schools. Receiving a bachelor’s degree from an accredited education program, completion of a student teaching experience and the passage of the above exams are all required in order to get certified or licensed. Upon finding a school that can hire them, the aspiring teacher will typically need to apply for a license and undergo a background check, providing proof of their offer of employment. Licenses need to be renewed on a regular basis, although the duration of a license’s validity will vary from state to state. Some states, such as Ohio and New York, also require that new teachers begin working towards a master’s degree, which must be completed within 5 years in order to renew their license.

Becoming a teacher is a difficult goal to achieve, but with hard work and dedication, it’s very possible. While these steps can get you started towards that goal, you should consult the laws in your state regarding teacher licensing and certification to find the exact requirements you’ll need to meet. By keeping these steps in mind, you’ll have an easier time meeting the qualifications and obtaining licensure. The next generation is waiting for a teacher who can guide them to that better future—are you ready to take the first step?