Do you wish to be a part of one of the greatest professions on earth? Being a teacher allows you to unleash your creativity in the classroom and educate young minds with valuable knowledge. In this guide, we will discuss the possible routes you can take to earn your teaching credential and which routes are faster and more flexible than the rest. Read on to discover the paths to becoming a teacher.

The traditional process of mastering the art of teaching involves four essential steps that prepare you to excel in your first journey into the classroom. 

Your teacher degree is just four steps away:

  1. Bachelor’s Degree

The most common way is to pursue your bachelor’s degree in education from an accredited college or university. You can also major in the subject you’d like to teach, like math or English, and then go on to pursue other teacher preparation certificates.

  • If you are from a non-education background, meaning, if you didn’t pursue your bachelors in education then you can opt for an alternate route to teaching which is discussed further on in the article.
  1. Participate in Student-Teaching

As a part of your bachelor’s in education, you will have the opportunity to intern at a school wherein you will observe and assist qualified teachers before you get to manage a classroom on your own. During this phase, you will gain valuable classroom experience.This will be your chance to practice teaching before getting into a classroom of your own.

  1. Take the Teacher Certification Test

Finally, you will be required to take the teacher certification test that will be based on your chosen teaching subject and grade level like English in middle school or math in special education.

Now you’re all set to apply for your teaching license!

Note – Meeting State Requirements 

Teacher certification requirements differ from state to state, so it’s important to find out what your state requires. You will have to appear for the teacher tests that are required by your state, plus you may need to pass a background check or other requirements. Many states use nationally standardized tests to measure the knowledge of teaching candidates. You have the option of reapplying for the same test if you don’t clear it. 

Related: A Guide To Obtaining Your Teaching Credential

So how many years of college to be a teacher? If you’re pursuing a bachelor in education program, it will take you around 4 years to complete, just like most bachelor’s degrees. Post this, you will be ready to apply for your teaching certification or licensure.

An alternative certification program typically takes one to two years to complete before you can apply for licensure. If you decide to do your masters as well then you can expect to be teacher-ready after 5 – 7 years.

Even though a master’s degree is not necessary to teach, it definitely adds to your earning potential and gives you the edge on some jobs, among other benefits. Learn more on how your master’s will add value to your teacher degree in a later section.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) estimates that the average base salary for new teachers in public elementary and secondary schools with a bachelor’s degree is about $47,000. As you become more experienced over the years, you can expect your pay to increase as well. Over the years your pay can range from $50k to $70k. 

Admission Requirements for a Bachelor’s in Education

Admission requirements for a Bachelor’s in Education program can vary from one university or college to another, but there are some common prerequisites and documents that most institutions typically require:

  1. High School Diploma or Equivalent:

You will generally need a high school diploma or an equivalency test like GED (General Educational Development). A GED (General Educational Development) certificate is awarded to you post a test. This test confirms that you have the knowledge to be eligible for admission even if you don’t possess a high school diploma .

  1. Transcripts:

Submit your high school transcripts, which provide a record of your academic performance in high school. Some institutions may also require transcripts from any previous college courses you’ve taken.

  1. Standardized Tests:

Some schools may require standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, though the importance of these tests in the admission process has been decreasing at many institutions in recent years. Check the specific requirements of the schools you’re interested in.

  1. Personal Statement or Essay:

Write a personal statement or essay that explains your interest in education, your career goals, and why you want to pursue a bachelor’s in education. This is an opportunity to showcase your passion for teaching.

Teaching degrees come in various forms, each offering unique certification levels and areas of specialization. It’s important to research the requirements for each degree and decide which one is best for you. Don’t forget to look into any scholarships or grants available for teaching degrees. Here are some of the main types of teaching degrees:

  1. Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.): 

If you aspire to become a teacher, the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) is your primary degree. It focuses on teaching methods, classroom management, and subject-specific pedagogy, equipping you for the classroom. It is possible to specialize in elementary education, secondary education, or special education.

  1. Master of Education (M.Ed.): 

If you’re looking to advance your career as an educator, the Master of Education (M.Ed.) is tailored for you. It’s a graduate-level degree offering many specializations. Some common ones may include educational leadership, curriculum development, technology in education, ESL and special education among other options. It is often pursued by experienced educators looking to advance their careers or specialize in a particular area.

  1. Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT): 

If you hold a non-education bachelor’s degree and dream of teaching, the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) can be your path. This graduate degree combines education coursework with subject-specific content to prepare you for the teaching profession.

  1. Doctor of Education (Ed.D.): 

Aspiring to leadership roles in education? Consider the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), a doctoral degree that emphasizes practical research applications, ideal for educators aiming for leadership positions.

  1. Doctor of Philosophy in Education (Ph.D.): 

If your goal is academia, research, or educational leadership, the Doctor of Philosophy in Education (Ph.D.) is a research-focused doctoral degree designed to prepare you for these challenging and rewarding career paths.

In addition to these, there are many other flexible pathways involving associates, teaching certification programs, and alternate routes to teaching. Make sure you research and find the right program for you.

What does an early childhood education curriculum entail? What degree do you need to be an elementary teacher? What will be your pay as a middle school teacher and do you need a different certification to teach special education? We’ll answer these questions and much more. This section will take you through the different degrees you will need to teach different grade levels and give you insight into the curriculum and the pay you can expect. 

  1. Kindergarten (Early Childhood Education): 

To teach kindergarten, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in early childhood or Elementary education. This degree helps you understand child development and how to teach young children. You should also obtain a state-specific teaching certification or license. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for kindergarten teachers is $65,120.

  1. Elementary (Grades 1-5): 

Earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education (BS) to teach elementary school. This equips you to teach various subjects to young students. You’ll also need state-specific teaching certification for elementary education. The Bureau of Labor Statistics records the average annual wage for elementary teachers at $68,000.

  1. Middle School (Grades 6-8): 

For middle school, get a bachelor’s degree in Middle School Education or a subject like math, English, or science. Pursue state-specific teaching certification for middle school education or your chosen subject area. The 2022 median pay for middle school teachers is estimated at $67,790 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  1. Secondary Education (Grades 9-12): 

To teach high school, earn a bachelor’s degree in secondary education or a subject area like math, English, or science. Obtain state-specific teaching certification for high school education or your subject area. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the mean annual salary for secondary education teachers at $69,480.

  1. Early Education and Special Education (Pre-K to Grade 3 or 4): 

To work with young children and special needs students, get a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or special education. You’ll also need state-specific teaching certification and Special Education endorsement if required. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for special education teachers in kindergarten is $68,580.

  1. Middle School and Special Education (Grades 6-8): 

Teach middle school and special needs students with a bachelor’s degree in middle school education or your chosen subject. Secure state-specific teaching certification and a special education endorsement if needed. The mean annual salary for special education middle school teachers is estimated at $ 68,860 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

  1. High School and Special Education (Grades 9-12): 

For high school and special needs teaching, obtain a bachelor’s degree in secondary education or your subject area. Get state-specific teaching certification and a special education endorsement if required. The mean annual pay for special education high school teachers is recorded at $71,290.

We know that you are all too enthusiastic to get your teacher journey started and we’re here to tell you that it is definitely possible to get your teaching credentials ASAP. Here are some ways:

  1. Pursue a One-Year Master’s Program 

 If you hold a non-education bachelor’s degree then this option is ideal for you. You can either enroll in a Master of Arts In Teaching program or a Master of Education program. These master’s programs allow you to transition into the teaching profession quickly and efficiently. You will need to complete the required coursework and an internship after which you’ll be good to go! Requirements can vary so make sure to check the requirements for the program that you’re interested in. 

  1. Single Subject Teaching Credential 

This can prove to be an ideal option for you if you hold a bachelor’s degree in a specific field and if you wish to teach that same subject in middle school and high school. For example, if you have earned your bachelor’s degree in math then you can pursue this single-subject teaching credential and continue to master your chosen subject, in this case math, and then you will be qualified to teach. 

  1. School District Internship 

Prospective teachers who are eligible are offered an internship position where they get to teach in a classroom and get full remuneration for it. Participants in teaching internship programs typically work toward fulfilling the certification requirements necessary to become licensed teachers in their respective states. This includes completing coursework in education theory and practice, as well as passing required exams. 

  1. Private Schools 

Private schools do not mandate a teaching certificate in their hiring process. So you have the chance to apply right after your bachelor’s if you wish to. If you wish to earn a certification then you can pursue your teacher certification alongside working. 

Alternative routes to teaching are non-traditional pathways for becoming an educator. They are designed for career changers, professionals with subject expertise, or individuals who want to become teachers through more flexible and expedited pathways.

Accelerated teacher programs – Want to become a teacher but don’t have the degree? If going back to school to get an education degree doesn’t seem feasible, there are some alternative ways to get your teaching credentials but keep in mind that most alternative teaching routes do require a bachelor’s degree.

If you possess a bachelor’s degree in any subject other than education and if you want to transition to education, there are many accelerated programs that may accept you into their teaching program, provided you meet certain requirements. 

Some requirements may include:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
  • A specific score on the ACT or the SAT, or you can pass the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators test as determined by the State Board of Education.
  • You also need to pass the Praxis II test in your specific subject area.

The requirements may vary depending on the program so it’s best to check the specific program requirements to make sure that you’re applicable.

After being admitted into the program, you will complete the required training and coursework followed by an internship. Post this you will be ready to receive your teaching license.

Another way is to Pursue your Emergency Certification – Given the shortage of teachers, many states now allow individuals who are still pursuing their teaching certification to teach in classrooms. So, depending on the requirements of your state, you will be able to get this certificate and begin your teaching career. This license is temporary and will have to be renewed after a specific duration like every year or so. 

Consider Teaching in Private Schools – Private schools have a more flexible hiring system in place and may be willing to hire professionals who don’t possess a traditional teaching degree. Consider applying to these schools if you have the expertise to educate and want to skip the teaching degree phase.

These are just some of the options you can consider if you wish to transition to education without going down the traditional education degree path. 

A master’s is a popular choice to consider as it offers several benefits as well as the chance to take your career to the next level. With a master’s degree in teaching, you can acquire a deeper understanding of pedagogy, specialize in a specific subject area, advance your career, increase your earning potential, and much more. 

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) estimates that the average base salary for new teachers in public elementary and secondary schools with master’s is estimated to be $53,510, and with experience, you can expect your pay to range from $60k to $80k.

Like with other jobs, your pay can increase based on your qualifications. According to data from Indeed, the earnings increase from the bachelor’s level to the master’s level is approximately 20%. Specifically, the median income for master’s degree holders is $77,844 per year. The unemployment rate is 2%, which is lower than the general unemployment rate for bachelor’s degrees. 

A master’s in teaching can also open up several job opportunities both inside and outside the teaching profession. With a master’s degree, you can aspire to leadership roles such as school principal or pivot your career towards educational consulting. 

With education becoming more and more flexible, you also have the chance to pursue your master’s online and earn your degree in as quickly as a year in accelerated programs.

We hope this information helped you gain a little more clarity about the education required to become a teacher. Taking your first steps toward teaching can feel overwhelming but be assured that you are in for an exciting and immensely rewarding ride. Through your job, you will have the chance to impact many lives as well as transform your own life. 

As you have already learned, there are multiple routes to reaching your dream job. Find a path that best fits your career goals and passion.  Research the different opportunities available to you and begin your journey.  

What are alternative routes to teaching, and do you need a teaching certificate to pursue them?

Alternative routes to teaching are non-traditional pathways for becoming an educator, catering to various purposes including addressing teacher shortages. Whether you need a teaching certificate depends on the specific alternative route; some programs include certification, while others may require you to obtain it separately.

Are alternative routes to teaching only for addressing teacher shortages?

No, alternative routes to teaching serve multiple purposes. While they can help address teacher shortages, they are also designed for career changers, professionals with subject expertise, or individuals who want to become teachers through more flexible and expedited pathways.

Can you become a teacher with an associate degree?

All states typically require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to obtain a full teaching license or certification. However, individuals with an associate’s degree in education or a related field can pursue roles as paraeducators, which may include positions as teacher assistants, educational aides, or childcare specialists. These roles provide valuable classroom support and assistance to certified teachers but do not typically involve full teaching responsibilities.