The path to becoming a teacher is a bit different from other career paths. Teachers must be qualified, educated, and then earn a teaching credential from the state in which they would like to teach. Each state is different, however, and the specific requirements to become a teacher can vary greatly on a state-by-state basis. Many states offer various levels of teaching credentials depending on your experience, the grade level and subject matter you would like to teach. However, despite these differences, most states have relatively similar basic educational requirements:
- Undergraduate Education
- Teacher Education
- Masters in Education
- Teaching Credential Tests
The most basic requirement for teachers across the country is a Bachelor’s degree. Many states require elementary school teachers to major or minor in education, whereas secondary school teachers are often required to have a Bachelor’s degree in the subject they wish to teach (biology teachers should major in biology, history teachers should major in history, etc.). Secondary school teachers should also complete an educational program during their undergraduate career in which they take classes specifically on education, as well as participate in a student teaching/practicum program.Return to the top
Teachers can become licensed in their states through one of two routes, both of which involve teacher education programs to guide and prepare qualified educators. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is the nation’s primary organization for the establishment of accredited teacher education programs. To become licensed as a teacher, students must learn about pedagogy, methodology, and technique to provide them with a comprehensive knowledge of teaching.
Some teacher education programs are available after the completion of a Bachelor’s degree. Others are offered by nationally accredited schools of education and are incorporated into the undergraduate program, where students prepare to become teachers as they pursue their Bachelor’s degree, by incorporating classes on the philosophy of education, psychology of learning, methodology, and technology in the classroom into their courses of study. Graduating from an accredited program is not required, but it may make fulfilling requirements easier.
It is also possible to complete a Master’s level teacher preparation program with no previous teaching experience as a means to earning your teaching credential. While it is generally not required to have a Master’s Degree to teach primary or secondary school (it is almost always required for teaching on the college or graduate levels), earning one can be beneficial to your teaching career. This can be a Master of Arts in Teaching or a Masters of Education.
A Master’s in Education can be a very good thing to have. It demonstrates advanced proficiency in your field of expertise, and many schools actually pay their teachers more for having a Master’s. This is known as compensation for advanced degrees, and schools do this as a way to increase the quality of education as well as offer incentives for teachers to continue their education.
Learn more about the types of careers in education to pursue after graduate school.
Most states require teachers pass a standardized test to demonstrate well-rounded knowledge of liberal arts. Some states have their own state tests, but over 40 states require the Praxis exam. The Praxis exam is administered by the Educational Testing Service to measure basic skills and specific content knowledge in order to guarantee that teachers are highly qualified and well educated. The Praxis is broken into two different tests:
Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators
The Praxis Core tests are composed of three multiple-choice tests that measure basic skills in reading, math, and writing (which includes an essay) in order to determine if you are skilled enough to successfully complete a teacher education program. The Praxis Core exam is available both electronically and on paper and is required by many colleges and universities for admission into teacher education programs. States set their own standards for passing scores.
Praxis Subject Assessments
The Praxis Subject Assessments are taken after the teacher education program, but before full teacher licensing. There are over 90 different content area tests, ranging from agriculture to world history, and varying in lengths of 1, 2, 2.5, 3.5 or 4 hours. Up to three Praxis subject exams may be taken in one day. States set their own standards for passing scores, as well as the content areas they require for teacher certification.