Teacher Licensing and Certification by State

Teach Without a Degree: Start Teaching Now

t3ukisfmaby-tamarcus-brownHave you ever considered a career in teaching but been reluctant to pursue your dream because you can’t afford to return to school? While a degree in education is required for most teaching jobs across the U.S., in nearly every U.S. state, it is possible to teach without a degree (e.g., a B.Ed. or M.A.T.). According to the Learning Policy Institute, in 2009-2010, 31% of American teachers obtained a teaching license through an alternative pathway. (1) In most cases, one still will need a four-year degree from a recognized college or university, but thanks to alternative pathways to certification, a degree in education is not always acquired or at least not required to start working in a classroom on a full-time basis. This means that in many U.S. states, especially those with current teacher shortages, you may be able to start teaching now.

This article outlines how to start teaching without a degree in education. The article pays specific attention to those states and regions where previously unlicensed teachers are currently most welcome.  This article also offers links to a few established programs, including Teach for America, that have a track record of placing teachers in classrooms without traditional credentials. Finally, this article examines the pros and cons of jumping into the classroom without a degree in education.

Where to Teach Without a Degree in Education

The bottom line is that where there are teacher shortages, there is a greater willingness to let eager would-be teachers teach with out a degree in eduation.  Indeed, many states (and in some cases, specific regions) with teacher shortages have special programs that enable anyone with a four-year degree from a recognized college or university, clean criminal record, and passing score on a state’s required teacher licensure exam to obtain a full-time teaching job under a preliminary license. In nearly all cases, these licenses are only granted from one to three years and under the condition that the candidate will obtain a teacher education degree (e.g., a Master of arts in Teaching) on a part-time basis while working full-time in the classroom. If your ready to do this, consider programs in the following states and regions currently reporting a high need for teachers.

Selected National and State-based Programs

Teach for America: Competitive and well respected nationwide, Teach for America is the gold standard and alternative pathways to teacher certification. While not all of the program’s graduates choose to keep teaching over the course of their life time, many do. For more information on this nationwide program that helps you teach without a degree in education, visit the Teach for American homepage.

Arizona: Arizona continues to struggle to find enough teachers to staff its classrooms and as a result, it has created a robust program to help fast track teachers into classrooms statewide: the Teaching Intern Pathway to Certification. As stated on their Arizona Department of Education website: “The teaching intern certificate enables those that hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited institution to teach full-time. Candidates will receive full teaching salary and benefits, which ensures no loss of income.” In short, the program allows interns to work while completing the requirements for an Arizona provisional teaching certificate.” For more information, visit the Arizona Department of Education.

Florida: Florida is one of the most rapidly growing states in the United States and has a current teacher shortage. You may be eligible for a temporary certificate (non-renewable) if you meet any of the following criteria: 1.) Have a bachelor’s degree in the intended area of specialization; 2.) Have a master’s degree in the intended area of specialization; 3.) Have a bachelor’s or master’s degree and the minimum number of college credits in the intended area of specialization; or 4.) Have a bachelor’s or master’s degree and pass the Subject Area Exam (SAE) in the intended area of specialization. More information is available on the Florida International University website.

Indiana: Indiana is another state currently looking for teachers with or without a degree in education. Indeed, they offers several possible routes for people who fall into this category. If you have five years of work experience and a four-year college or university degree, you may qualify for their career specialists permit. If you hold a graduate degree, you may want to explore Indiana’s Advanced Degree option. Their Transition to Teaching program and Workplace Specialists license are other alternative pathways. For more information, visit the Indiana Department of Education’s site on alternative licensure.

Nevada: In Nevada, one of the fastest and most inexpensive ways to get into the classroom is the Nevada Teaching Corps. All you need to join is a bachelor’s degree, clean criminal record and to be a permanent U.S. resident.Without a degree in education, the Nevada Teaching Corp is a great option for any prospective teacher.

Nearly every U.S. state has one or more alternative pathways to teacher licensure. For more information on alternative licensure programs, explore Tobecomeateacher.org’s state-based licensure pages. From Alabama to Wyoming, our licensure pages have everything you need to know about launching a career in education nationwide. 

Selected City-based Programs

seussNew York City Teaching Fellows: Obtaining a full-time teaching job in New York City can be very competitive. However, there are still some ways to certify without completing an education degree. The most common way is to becoming an NYC Teaching Fellow. The program is designed to put qualified candidates into high-needs schools in New York City (e.g., 16% of teachers in the Bronx are currently part of the NYC Teaching Fellows program).

Indianapolis Teaching Fellows: If you have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, a clean criminal record, are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and want to teach, you’re eligible to apply to be an Indianapolis Teaching Fellow. The program will help you obtain a full-time teaching job and acquire additional qualifications along the way. While you will need to cover the cost of your master of arts in teaching (about $11,000 over two years), by the end of the program, you’ll have not only been working full-time for two years but have earned as a master’s degree, which also means you’ll make more money down the line.

Teach Las Vegas: If you hold a bachelor’s degree in any subject and have 7 years of work experience and have passed the Praxis exam, you can teach in Las Vegas. The program’s mandate is clear: To recruit great teachers in Clark County, one of the nation’s largest school districts. For more information, visit the Teach Las Vegas website.

Teach NOLA: If you’re already living in New Orleans or have ever dreamed of living in one America’s most culturally rich and dynamic cities, you may want to apply to Teach NOLA. All you need to start your application is a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, a clean criminal record and proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent residency.

Special Incentives for STEM Professionals

Finding qualified STEM teachers is difficult for a simple reason. While graduates of arts and humanities programs often have few high-paying job opportunities available upon graduation, most STEM graduates do. Persuading a STEM graduate to work as a teacher, then, can be difficult. For this reason, STEM subjects are more likely to be under staffed and in some states, there are many special programs to help STEM graduates teach without a degree in education.  There are also programs designed to support STEM experts while they become teachers. One established program is the Woodrow Wilson National Teaching Fellowship. The program offers STEM experts with a master’s degree up to $30,000 to spend a year acquiring the credentials needed to become a certified teacher and then assist in placing graduates in schools.

Teach Without a Degree in an Independent School

eliteThere is one context in which you can nearly always teach without a degree or at least without a degree in education: the independent school system. In only rare cases do independent schools require a degree in education, but this doesn’t mean they are not looking for high-quality candidates. Depending on the school, factors ranging from your “pedigree” (e.g., Are you a graduate of a prep school? Do you have an ivy league degree?) to level of education (e.g., Do you hold a graduate degree?) to additional skills (e.g., Were you on the Olympic rowing team and can you also serve as a rowing coach at the school?) can all play a major factor in hiring. In short, elite private schools, which typically offer the highest compensation, tend to hire people who are highly accomplished, connected and of course, able to mix and mingle with students’ parents who are often paying well over $50,000 annually to send their children to school. If you think you can compete, however, obtaining a position at a top-ranked independent school can be a great way to make a living. Many schools offer compensation that competes well with college- and university-level salaries, as well as additional benefits from tuition relief for one’s own children to subsidized housing. For more information, visit the National Association of Independent Schools job opportunities site and start exploring how to teach without a degree in education.

Teach Without a Degree: The Pros and Cons

In most cases, no one will ever know if you completed a traditional program or alternative pathway to certification. However, there are some teachers and principals, as well as teacher educators, who do feel that the traditional route to teacher licensure is more thorough and ethically responsible. There are two critiques of candidates who opt to start teaching without an education degree in hand first.

First, when candidates complete a bachelor’s degree in education or master of arts in teaching prior to obtaining their first full-time job as a teacher, they have usually spent hundreds of hours working in the classroom under the supervision of a seasoned classroom teacher and taken dozens of university-level courses on critical topics such as classroom management and curriculum development before they ever attempt to handle a classroom on their own. Are they more prepared? The bottom line is that these traditional candidates are probably better prepared to handle everything that will come their way on the job. Since we also know that the number one reason teachers quit in their first two years is lack of preparation, one can understand why many principals are more inclined to hire candidates who has already survived an extensive teacher training program.

The second critique of alternative certification routes is that they are usually used to respond to teacher shortages in high-needs schools. Some teachers and many anti-poverty activists complain that it is simply unfair to place the least prepared teachers in classrooms with the highest needs kids. Again, the critique is legitimate. Why put a teacher with virtually no prior training into a classroom where students are coming from high-needs backgrounds and likely need additional support and put teachers with four or more years of training in classrooms with the most privileged kids? While passion and compassion can and do go a long way, so does experience in classroom management and expertise on everything from child psychology to assessment.

While neither of the above critiques are a reason to not pursue an alternative pathway to teacher certification, it is useful for potential teachers to at least understand how their decision to teach without a degree in education may be perceived by some hiring committee members.

1. For more, see the Learning Policy Institute, Solving the Teacher Shortage (2016).

Contributor: Cait Etherington, Dec. 24, 2016

 

VIRGINIA: TOP 10 BACHELOR’S PROGRAMS

Virginia is home to some of the nation’s top colleges and universities and top schools of education. The challenge is choosing the right school. To help you narrow your search, ToBecomeATeacher.org has ranked the state’s top 10 bachelor of education programs, but which school you ultimately choose will depend on your own priorities. To get started, explore the following detailed program descriptions, ranking data and statistics. Next, explore our licensing page to find out more about Virginia’s required degrees and exams for educators. Finally, make a decision about which school is the right place for you to start building a future career in education.

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VERMONT: TOP 10 BACHELOR’S PROGRAMS

Although small is population, Vermont is home to dozens of colleges and universities and some of the nation’s top schools of education. The challenge is choosing the right school. To help you narrow your search, ToBecomeATeacher.org has ranked the state’s top 10 bachelor of education programs. Which school you choose, will depend on your own priorities. To get started, explore the following detailed program descriptions, ranking data and statistics. Next, explore our licensing page to find out more about Vermont’s required degrees and exams for educators. Finally, make a decision about which school is the right place for you to start building a future career in education.

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UTAH: TOP 10 BACHELOR’S PROGRAMS

Utah is home to dozens of colleges and universities and some of the nation’s top schools of education. The challenge is choosing the right school. To help you narrow your search, ToBecomeATeacher.org has ranked the state’s top 10 bachelor of education programs, but which school you ultimately choose will depend on your own priorities. To get started, explore the following detailed program descriptions, ranking data and statistics. Next, explore our licensing page to find out more about Utah’s required degrees and exams for educators. Finally, make a decision about which school is the right place for you to start building a future career in education.

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TEXAS: TOP 10 BACHELOR’S PROGRAMS

Texas is home to some of the nation’s top colleges and universities and top schools of education. The challenge is choosing the right school. To help you narrow your search, ToBecomeATeacher.org has ranked the state’s top 10 bachelor of education programs, but which school you ultimately choose will depend on your own priorities. To get started, explore the following detailed program descriptions, ranking data and statistics. Next, explore our licensing page to find out more about Texas’s required degrees and exams for educators. Finally, start applying to some of Texas’s very best schools of education.

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RHODE ISLAND: TOP 10 BACHELOR’S PROGRAMS

In Rhode Island, future educators will find many highly regarded schools of education where it is possible to complete an undergraduate degree leading to teacher licensure. To help you narrow your search, ToBecomeATeacher.org has ranked the state’s top bachelor of education programs. Of course, which school you ultimately choose will depend on your own priorities. To get started, explore the following detailed program descriptions and ranking data. Also, explore our licensing page to discover everything you need to know about Rhode Island’s required degrees and exams for educators. Finally, start applying to launch your future career in teaching.

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NORTH DAKOTA: TOP 10 BACHELOR’S PROGRAMS

North Dakota is home to dozens of colleges and universities and some of the nation’s very best schools of education. To help you narrow your search, ToBecomeATeacher.org has ranked the state’s top 10 bachelor of education programs. Of course, the very best school for you will depend on your specific priorities. To get started, explore the following detailed program descriptions, ranking data and statistics. Next, explore our licensing page to find out more about North Dakota’s required degrees and exams for educators. Finally, decide which school is the right place for you to start building a future career in education.

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CALIFORNIA: TOP 10 BACHELOR’S PROGRAMS

California is home to dozens of colleges of education. This means that anyone hoping to become a licensed California teacher has many options. The challenge is choosing the right school. To help you narrow your search, ToBecomeATeacher.org has ranked California’s top 10 bachelor of education programs. Every single one of these programs has a lot to offer. Which school you choose, will depend on your own priorities. To get started, explore the following detailed program descriptions, ranking data and statistics. Next, explore our educator licensing page to find out more about California’s required degrees and exams for educators. Finally, make a decision about which school is the right place for you to start building a future career in education.

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Contact us at [email protected] with any questions or feedback.

ABOUT US

It’s often suggested that the most underappreciated vocation on the planet is the teaching profession. However, when an individual is looking to take on this career choice, they shouldn’t have to circumnavigate millions of pages of online data to retain the complete information they require in order to formulate a strong plan to achieve their goals. This is the primary reason why we have launched tobecomeateacher.org – to offer would be educators an easy to navigate online platform that will help them learn more about specific teaching careers, along with arming them with the proper tools and tips to achieve their goal of becoming an educator.  To learn more about us explore are links current news items, schools, and licensing.

WHAT WE DO

Tobecomeateacher.org was built by a collaborative team of educational and career experts, including teachers, professors and educational researchers, who focus their efforts on providing students of all levels with factual resources that will help them navigate the educational and career hurdles required to achieve their professional goals. This website was developed with the future and existing teacher in mind – to be a hub of educational and career tips and advice from fellow teachers and career guidance experts who have traveled on this journey themselves.

Our website offers teachers a wealth of practical data including:

Teachers are the people who will shape tomorrow’s world leaders. We’re dedicated to making their path a simpler one to travel.

How to Become a Teacher in New Jersey

How to Become a Teacher in Missouri

How to Become a Teacher in Mississippi

How to Become a Teacher in New York State

How To Become a Teacher in North Dakota

How To Become a Teacher in New Mexico

How To Become a Teacher in South Carolina

How to Become a Teacher in Texas

How to Become a Teacher in Virginia

How to Become a Teacher in Wyoming

How to Become a Teacher in Utah

How To Become a Teacher in Tennessee

How to Become a Teacher in Maryland

How to Become a Teacher in Massachusetts

How to Become a Teacher in Hawaii

How to Become a Teacher in Iowa

How to Become a Teacher in Ohio

How to Become a Teacher in Oklahoma

How to Become a Teacher In Nevada

How to Become a Teacher in Oregon

How to Become a Teacher In Pennsylvania

How to Become a Teacher in Idaho

How to Become a Teacher in Kansas

How to Become a Teacher in Michigan

How to Become a Teacher in Wisconsin

How to Become a Teacher in New Hampshire

How to Become a Teacher in South Dakota

How to Become a Teacher In Vermont

How to Become a Teacher in Rhode Island

BECOMING A TEACHER IN Wisconsin

Washington is a state with a long tradition of training teachers and today, it is home to several top-ranked schools of education. With many outstanding options, however, Washington’s future educators also face many decisions. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the state’s top 10 bachelor of education programs and included detailed program descriptions, statistics and ranking data. As you take your very first step on the pathway to becoming a licensed Washington educator, ToBecomeATeacher.org has everything you need to make the very best decisions.

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How to Become a Teacher in Maine

How to Become a Teacher in West Virginia

How to Become a Teacher in Georgia

How to Become a Teacher in Louisiana

How to Become a Teacher in Illinois

How to Become a Teacher in Florida

How to Become a Teacher in Kentucky

How to Become a Teacher in Indiana

How to Become a Teacher in Delaware

How to Become a Teacher in Minnesota

How to Become a Teacher in Connecticut

How to Become a Teacher in North Carolina

How to Become a Teacher in Colorado

How to Become a Teacher in Arkansas

How to Become a Teacher in Nebraska

How to Become a Teacher in Arizona

How to Become a Teacher in Montana

How to Become a Teacher in Alabama

How to Become a Teacher in Alaska

How to Become a Teacher in California

Choosing a School, College, and Degree Program for Teaching

Steps to Choosing a Teaching Program

What you should know:

Playing a significant role in building and developing an individual’s educational foundation which includes teaching students how to read, improve life skills, prepare to enter the workforce and transition into a college learning environment, millions of teachers are employed throughout the United States. Prospective educators may consider a range of degree programs and training options to qualify for positions that provide or maintain various levels of education to youths and adults. In order to pursue a teaching position beyond the preschool level in the U.S., educators must possess at least a bachelor’s degree, and obtain state-issued certification or license.

Although the bulk of teaching positions in the U.S. require an applicant to possess a four-year degree, some teachers pursue a master’s degree to gain a greater understanding of teaching practices, qualify for higher-paying jobs, apply for leadership positions, and gain a deeper respect from peers. In order to qualify for advanced positions in administration or teach on the college/university level, an educator must earn a doctorate degree. Entry-level positions related to teaching, such as becoming a teacher’s assistant, are also available to those who have completed a two-year degree program.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a projected 3.5 million full-time-equivalent teachers provided classroom instruction at elementary and secondary schools in 2013. Projected numbers showed that 3.1 million of those teachers were employed in the public school setting, while the rest taught at private schools.

In addition to public and private school systems, teachers are also hired to work in a wide range of job settings and employers that include night school, summer school, mental health facilities, juvenile justice facilities, prisons, alternative schools, occupational/ vocational centers, literacy centers, the government, the military, and for non-profit groups such as Teach for America.

The median salary of a teacher varies according to their level of education, employer, location, and years of experience. As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay in 2012 for various teaching positions included: preschool teachers ($27,130), career/technical education teachers ($51,910), middle school teachers ($53,430),  high school teachers ($55,050 ), special education teachers ($55,060), and high school principals ($87,760).

The overall job growth rate for all teaching positions in the U.S. shows promise, and is expected to remain steady or rise, from 2012 to 2022. A variety of factors contribute to the continuous need to hire teachers, such as a growing number of older teachers considering retirement; the increased need to hire special education and English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers; increases in student enrollment; and a declining student–teacher ratio where each teacher is responsible for educating a fewer number of students, thus creating a need to hire more teachers.

To learn more about the different educational paths that aspiring teachers may take, browse the following information on potential teaching degree programs – which touches upon entry-level job prospects, as well as the highest level of education that a teacher may attain:

Earning Your Associate’s Degree

The majority of teaching positions on the primary and secondary school level require applicants to possess at least a bachelor’s degree. However, an individual with an interest in teaching may pursue entry-level positions related to education by earning a two-year degree.

The typical two-year teaching degree program touches upon childhood growth and development; classroom management; student observation; how to follow lesson plans; maintaining classroom discipline; how to assess a child’s performance; and the overall fundamentals related to the teaching profession.

Those who have completed an associate’s degree program often encounter limited job opportunities throughout the education field, such as overseeing and ‘teaching’ students on the preschool and prekindergarten level. In regards to education and working with children, an associate’s degree qualifies an individual to become a:

Teacher’s Assistant/Aide: Those who aid licensed educators in classroom lessons may also perform clerical duties (like grading tests); provide one-on-one instruction; and supervise students with their daily activities. Oftentimes, a teacher’s assistant has pursued an associate’s degree in a specific specialty, such as Early Childhood- or Elementary Education. They are often hired to work in private and public elementary, middle, and high schools.

Some states expect employees with an associate’s degree who become instructional aides that work with special needs students to pass a skills-based test before accepting a position. Teaching assistant positions at schools with federal Title 1 programs require applicants to hold at least a two-year degree; complete two years of college; or pass a state or local assessment.

Child Care Worker: Working with pre-kindergarten children, a child care worker with an associate’s degree is typically hired for positions within child care centers and residential homes. State licensure is sometimes required when working with multiple children.

Preschool Teacher: Early childhood teachers generally instruct and care for students ranging between the ages of three and five. Although qualifications vary according to state requirements and the employer, many preschool teachers must possess a two-year teaching degree in Early Childhood Education. A requirement of some states is to have a license, while other preschool teachers are expected to become certified with a CDA (child development associate) credential.

Unlike educators who have completed a four-year degree program, obtaining a license is generally not a requirement in order to apply for the above-mentioned job positions.

A preschool teacher or teacher’s assistant with aspirations to pursue a career that educates students from kindergarten up to the 12th grade must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree program at a college or university to become a licensed teacher.

Earning Your Bachelor’s Degree

A four-year degree is required in order to teach kindergarten through grade 12.

Blending class instruction and hands-on experiences with individual assignments and group projects, the typical coursework associated with a bachelor’s degree program usually centers on equipping students with a liberal arts education that touches upon human and childhood development; educational psychology;  methods of student assessment; education theory; creative teaching strategies; literacy; and diversity in the classroom.

The majority of bachelor’s degree programs for future educators often require completion of practical fieldwork experience, such as an internship, where students work under the direct guidance of a licensed professional at a local school. The student-teaching experience generally lasts 10-15 weeks, and prepares a prospective educator to work in a classroom setting.

Aspiring teachers with a focus on educating a particular grade or age group of students often face a specific set of expectations from potential employers. For instance, public high school teachers are required to have an academic background in the subject they seek to become certified in. Therefore, a student with an interest in teaching English often majors and takes advanced classes in the subject as an undergraduate – in addition to completing education-related coursework.

Prospective elementary school teachers often prepare for their careers in a slightly different manner by enrolling in an education degree program specifically geared towards the elementary or early childhood education field. Here, they learn the basics of education and educational psychology, as well as gain training related to the various subjects touched upon in grades K-8.

In addition to teaching on the kindergarten-, elementary-, middle-, and high school level, a bachelor’s degree in Education prepares a graduate to also become a:

Career and Technical Education Teacher: Specially trained to instruct students in a range of technical and vocational subjects (such as culinary arts, health careers or auto repair), these teachers equip their students with the knowledge and skills needed to enter the workforce upon graduation. In addition to obtaining a bachelor’s degree, this type of educator possesses years of work-related experience. For example, a teacher who provides instruction in auto mechanics must have worked as a mechanic in order to qualify for a position.

Special Education Teacher: Hired to work in private schools, childcare services, preschools and on the elementary and secondary school level, a special education teacher studies to address a range of learning, mental and physical disabilities. A state-issued certification or license is a requirement to work in public schools. Graduates may also complete on-the-job training, such as an internship or residency.

To qualify for a position as a public school teacher in the U.S., graduates must satisfy varying requirements and become licensed or certified in their state, such as completing an accredited four-year teacher education program and passing an exam administered by the state. Completing a minimum number of supervised practice hours (usually fulfilled through teaching internships) is another requirement. Some states require training in technology for the classroom, while others have their own set of skills and competency tests for educators to take.

Upon obtaining licensure as a teacher, an educator must renew their teaching credentials, such as completing continuing education course requirements (which vary by state) in order to maintain their license. Those with an interest to advance their careers may pursue a master’s degree to qualify for positions related to administration, counseling, policy-making, advocacy, and educational research.

Earning Your Master’s Degree

Teachers who pursue a postgraduate academic degree apply to a master’s degree program, which touches upon scholarship, public service aspects, and classroom teaching approaches related to various areas of education. Depending on the degree program, a graduate student may conduct research; receive specialized training; or simply expand his or her knowledge of a specific field of teaching, such as mathematics, science or history.

There are two primary options for obtaining a master’s degree in teaching:

  • Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT): Individuals seeking a hands-on teaching experience and direct student contact often choose a MAT degree program, which allows an educator to complete advanced coursework in a specific subject.
  • Master’s in Education (M.Ed): Certified teachers and aspiring educators with an interest in pursuing a job within the education system (instead of inside a classroom) may pursue this advanced degree. Offering a broader range of job possibilities, a student can major in Curriculum and Instruction; Counselor Education; or Educational Administration.

A teacher with a master’s degree qualifies for administrative positions with a greater range of responsibilities, such as becoming a high school principal, vice-principal, dean, or school district consultant. They may also teach adult education to individuals 18 years or older who are in adult literacy classes, English as a second language (ESL) programs, high school diploma programs, and various government-sponsored job training opportunities.

With teaching and/or school administration experience, an individual may become a state-licensed instructional coordinator who oversees the teaching standards and school curriculums – primarily in elementary and secondary schools on the state, local, and private level. Teachers with a master’s degree looking to supplement their public school incomes may qualify to teach night courses at a community college.

The advanced degree also allows teachers to pursue teaching prospects in additional school tiers, such as shifting from teaching elementary school to becoming a high school Earth Science teacher. Educators with a master’s degree can also take advantage of more marketable and in-demand teaching positions when they arise.

A master’s degree not only allows teachers to apply for higher-paying professional opportunities and qualify for positions in administration, but also serves as preparation for entering a doctoral program to earn an Ed.D. or Ph.D. It is not uncommon to see graduate students concentrate their studies on specific educational issues, or start conducting research to prepare for future doctoral work.

Earning Your Doctorate Degree

The highest degree that a teacher can earn within his or her field is to obtain a Doctor of Education or Ph.D. in Education, which qualifies a holder to pursue employment in academia, research, and high-level administrative jobs. In order to become a professor teaching on the college and university level, educators must obtain this advanced degree, which can take a few years to complete.

Teaching professionals may also apply to a Ph.D. program pertaining to a specific field, such as Special Education, which allows educators to assume roles in government to help develop state-wide programs and school district policies that benefit special needs students. Additional career possibilities may include becoming a head of a special education program or the director of a disability service.

Becoming Licensed and Certified as a Teacher

Before a graduate can accept a position as a teacher in a public school system in the United States, he or she must become licensed in the state in which they plan to gain employment. Unlike public schools, most private schools do not require a teacher to become licensed or certified. Licensure requirements vary on a state-by-state basis, which generally include passing a state-administered certification test and/or basic skills test.  Find Licensing Requirements in your state.

Becoming licensed and certified as a teaching professional also varies according to the type of education and training received. For example, instructional coordinators often possess teaching licenses (and in some cases, an education administrator license) when working at a public school.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2014-2015 Edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, educators are also required to complete annual professional development classes and renew their licenses in order to maintain their state teaching credentials. For example, in the state of Michigan, teachers renew their licenses every three years, and must complete 6 semester hours in a planned course of study, or 150 State Continuing Education Contact Hours (SCECHs) that are in line with the grade level taught.

In conclusion, the teaching field offers wide-ranging opportunities for graduates of an accredited degree program to make a difference, from shaping young minds to improving policies within the education system. Teachers enter an in-demand profession that not only offers an increasing number of open positions across the U.S., but also a decent salary, attractive benefit packages, and the ability to find employment that involves a variety of work settings, levels of learning, and age groups. Entry-level job positions start at the preschool level, and with the proper education, graduates may opt to teach high school students, adult education courses, career training, and become an educator on the community college level.

Alternative Pathways to Teacher Certification

Although the typical and usually recommended pathway to becoming a teacher is to complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education leading to licensure, in some regions, alternative pathways are available. These include the popular Teach for America program, as well as state-based alternatives, such as the California Teaching Corp.

What are the training requirements for receiving Teacher Certification?

Studentin05In order to participate in Teach for America or a state-based initiative, like the California Teaching Corp, you must hold a bachelor’s degree. In addition, these programs typically are looking for candidates who bring a certain set of skills and experience to the program and for candidates who are willing to work in schools where it may be difficult to find and keep dedicated, well-trained teachers.

What are the educational requirements for receiving teacher certification?

The basic prerequisites for Teach for America are a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, which must be completed by the candidate’s first day of summer training; a 2.50 cumulative GPA: and US citizenship, permanent residency status or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. In addition, the organization looks for particular types of candidates.

For example, preference is given to candidates who can demonstrate a commitment to working with children and young adults from low-income and at-risk communities, leadership skills and outstanding interpersonal skills. Applicants who have long histories of volunteer work, for example, are typically given preference over candidates with little or no history of civic engagement. All candidates must complete an online application, phone interview, online activity and final interview (usually held in person). Flexibility in location is also an important consideration for programs like Teach for America.

What are some of the career options after receiving teacher certification?

While they may be able to place candidates in a school nearby, the more willing a candidate is to relocate to an under-serviced community in their state or in another state, the more likely they are to gain a spot in the program. Since Teach for America has a relatively low acceptance rate (in 2014, their acceptance rate was 15%), flexibility is highly recommended.

Once accepted, applicants are invited to attend an intensive five-week summer training program. While the training is unpaid, the organization does provide room and board for students while attending the program. Following completion of the summer training, most members go directly into their placement school. Although they continue to receive online coaching and mentorship, they are typically working alone in a classroom.

What are the licensing requirements for teacher certification?

In most states, even teachers pursuing an alternative pathway into the profession must be licensed to teach in the state. Many states now offer an alternative certificate or license for this reason. For example, in New York State, Teach for America candidates receive a Transitional B license, which means they must be enrolled in a master’s certification program during their two-year commitment.

University and college education word cloud illustration. Word collage concept.

In order to receive a Transitional B license, all candidates must pass the New York State Teaching Certification Exam for the area in which they wish to teach, complete two online workshops, pass a background check and complete an online application. They are also expected to maintain a good academic standing in their master’s certification program throughout their time in the program. In other states, similar arrangements have been made with certification boards and local universities to ensure that candidates can certify, at least provisionally, and continue their education while working as full-time teachers.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages to Choosing an Alternative Pathway?

The major advantage to choosing an alternative pathway to teaching is that the time and money normally spent completing a bachelor of education or Master of Arts in teaching is eliminated. Indeed, many Teach for America candidates enter the organization’s five-week summer training program directly after graduating from an undergraduate program and by September, they are walking into their very own classroom. Since they are entitled to the same salary as other full-time teachers at their level, they are making rather than losing money while they gain teaching experience and working towards licence. Teach for America even provides assistance for their teachers to enroll in courses at local colleges.

While this may sound like a win-win situation, Teach for America and similar programs have been the target of criticism. Teacher’s unions and faculties of education across the US have charged that these organizations place the least experienced teachers in the most challenging schools and as a result, they do a deserve to aspiring young teachers and to the under-serviced student populations they claim to have a mandate to support. Whether or not one accepts the criticism of these programs, it is important to bear in mind that some principals prefer to hire candidates who have completed a bachelor of education or Master of Arts in teaching.

A high percentage of candidates who enter programs like Teach for America continue to work as teachers beyond the span of their initial two-year commitment to the organization. Other former Teach for America members go on to complete graduate degrees in education or degrees in other fields ranging from law to medicine but cite their time with Teach for America as an integral part of their education and civic engagement experience.

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