How to Become an Education Teacher


With the exception of college and university teachers who typically start teaching with very little training in the classroom, the vast majority of teachers in the U.S. spend years training to become qualified educators prior to being hired. In order to pursue a career as a teacher (especially for grades K-12), students pursuing a major in education generally complete a host of core classes related to the field (from teaching methods and sociology to the psychology and development of future students (whether they be children or adults).

How can I become a mentor teacher?

An important part of any teacher-training program is the teaching practicum, which takes place in a classroom over the course of a few weeks or entire semester. For this reason, some teaching of teachers is carried out by licensed full-time classroom teachers, referred to as mentor teachers (or a teacher coach). While these teachers may hold a master’s degree in education or specific teaching specialization, they may also only hold a bachelor’s degree.students studying in classroom

Mentor teachers are expected to be experienced, outstanding teachers. These seasoned educators often have something to share with aspiring teachers based on their real life experience working as teachers. The educators are usually affiliated in some way with the faculty of education where the teacher candidate is completing their degree and in most cases, they have had some training (such as a summer course) prior to stepping into their role as a teacher mentor.

The primary duties of a mentor teacher include providing ongoing guidance related to:

  • lesson planning
  • classroom management and possible issues
  • classroom organization
  • reflective journal techniques for classroom transition

Mentor teachers usually do not hold an academic title (such as lecturer or professor of education), since they are not teaching education at the postsecondary level but rather supervising teacher candidates on site. In essence, the job of a mentor teacher is to model what good teaching looks like, guide would-be teachers through the daily activities of a classroom teacher, and provide constant feedback on the teacher candidate’s performance in the classroom.

Teacher education programs at colleges and universities hire teacher mentors for their mentoring programs for both students and new graduates. To qualify, mentor teachers have completed extensive training themselves, and are prepared to provide one-on-one sessions with student- teachers or new educators, as well as use special strategies, such as offering coaching sessions.

How can I become a college or university education professor?

College and university education professors are typically located in departments related to education. At large research universities, education faculty may belong to one of many departments (such as curriculum studies, music education, science education, and physical education). Faculties of education usually offer courses related to an entire range of education degrees, including a bachelor of education for students wishing to become teachers, as well as a master of education, Master of Arts in teaching, Master of Arts in education, and doctorate of education and/or doctorate of philosophy in education degrees.

For this reason, many education professors teach a combination of courses – from introductory classes geared towards preparing teachers-in-training to enter the classroom, as well as graduate courses aimed at further advancing working teachers’ knowledge of a specific subject.

When professors are hired at colleges and universities to teach courses for education majors and aspiring teachers, they often specialize in a particular area of education that involves the following:

  • Child Development: Preparing students to comprehend the way cultural aspects, family, peers, school environment and neighborhoods affect children, professors help education majors develop a solid background in understanding social and behavioral sciences, and how they correlate to child development. Students also touch upon theory and research when taking courses such as Developmental Psychology; and Experimental, Observational & Psychometric Methods.
  • Child Studies: Education majors must also cover a blend of psychology, education, special education, and human development concepts in child studies courses that may include the like of Language and Literacy; Diversity; and Research Methods.
  • Elementary Education: Students with an interest in teaching elementary-level schoolchildren will take courses that concentrate on grades K-8. Examples of possible courses include Parents and Their Developing Children; Teaching Diverse Students; Assessment Strategies; Science for Elementary Teachers; and Exploring Literature for Children/Adolescents.
  • Secondary Education: Professors prepare students to work with high school students (or for grades 7-12 ) in one or more subjects by teaching courses such as Classroom Technologies; Exploring Literature for Adolescents; and Teaching Foreign Language.
  • Special Education: There is an increasing need to hire teachers able to educate students with special needs, from mild and moderate disabilities to multiple or severe disabilities. Some professors teach course material that solely focuses on specific disabilities, such as visual and/or hearing impairments.

Professors are also hired to educate students specifically enrolled in a university’s teacher education program. For example, UCLA’s Teacher Education Program (TEP) has a distinct goal of preparing future teachers to become “social justice educators in urban settings,” and offer multiple options to earn a Teaching Credential and/or Master of Education degree. The school hires professors to teach their two-year Master of Education graduate program for college graduates, where students can specialize in Elementary, Mathematics, Science, English or Social Science education. Education professors also teach in the school’s Joint Mathematics/Education (JMEP) and Science/Education Programs (STEP) for UCLA math and science undergraduates; and for IMPACT (Urban Teacher Residency) for college graduates.

In addition to teaching courses, most education professors are engaged in some form of research, often based within a school environment. Professors at a university are also expected to spend part of their time applying for research grants, carrying out research on education-related subjects; and presenting their research to colleagues and at conferences (such as the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association). They are also tasked with preparing students to engage in advanced educational research of their own. 

Education professors are also expected to publish their work (primarily in journals such as the Review of Educational Research and Journal of the Learning Sciences), which benefit the profession and add to the field as a whole. Some professors pen publications and books that are used as course materials. With few exceptions, full-time college and university education professors hold an EdD or PhD in Education. Those with a master’s degree or pursuing their PhD may teach courses at a community college, or serve as an adjunct professor.

What is the job outlook for education teachers?

Since education professors teach courses that benefit more than just aspiring teachers, they are in high demand, and often find a healthy market for job opportunities upon graduation, which fluctuates according to various factors.

Geographic location, educational credentials, specialization type, years of experience, and meeting regional needs all play a role in the job options available to new graduates and seasoned educators. For instance, the majority of education teachers are hired to work at colleges, universities and professional schools, with 50,850 individuals employed in 2014, which is where teachers will continue to find the most openings. The second-highest number of education professors (7,710) worked at junior colleges that same year.

Education teachers also find employment at business schools, computer and management training, as well as technical and trade schools.

What is the compensation for education teachers?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median salaries earned in 2014 for education teachers (including those who combined teaching and research as part of their occupation; and/or taught courses associated with instruction, curriculum, guidance, and teacher education) were as follows:

  • Elementary and middle school teachers – $53,760 – $54,940
  • High school teachers – $56,310
  • Postsecondary teachers – $59,720 (median), $65,180 (mean)

The salaries of education teachers are dependent upon a handful of factors, which include place of employment, level of experience, and location. For example, some states are known to pay professors a higher salary than others, as seen in the following locations cited by the BLS for paying the top-five most lucrative annual mean salaries for the education teaching field: Alaska ($84,160), Rhode Island ($83,330), North Dakota ($75,690), New York ($75,200), and California ($72,290).

Although the majority of education teachers work at colleges, universities and professional schools, these are not the places of employment that pay the highest salary. In 2014, those who worked at junior colleges reportedly earned an annual mean wage of $66,810, as opposed to the $65,240 earned at the college and university level.

In conclusion, those who teach education courses play a significant part in academics because they are responsible for inspiring and enhancing the knowledge and understanding that an aspiring teacher is expected to hold in regards to their role in the classroom. The majority of education teachers are employed in colleges, universities, junior colleges, and professional schools. With a wide variety of specializations in the education field, teachers may concentrate on more than one area, ranging from the psychological development of elementary school students to using advanced technology in the classroom.

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