Pathways to Becoming a Teacher

Employment for teachers will grow by 13 per cent between 2010 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Reference 1) Teachers are particularly needed in subjects such as math, science and bilingual education. Aspiring teachers can take the traditional path to a career in the field by obtaining a degree in education, or they can choose an alternative route after they finish college.

Degree in Education

The traditional pathway to becoming a teacher is earning an undergraduate degree in education. Students can go on to earn a master’s degree in education or in a specialised area like reading. Graduate degrees bring teachers additional pay.

Students can choose from a range of education degrees, from early childhood and elementary education to secondary education, depending on which level they want to teach. Education students often participate in student teaching, where they teach a class under the supervision of the teacher. (Reference 2) This experience gives students hands-on practice in a classroom. Obtaining an education degree is the most direct path to landing a teaching job.

Degree in Another Field

Individuals who have earned a bachelor’s degree in a field other than education are just a few steps away from a career in the classroom. For example, the Teach California program prepares people with bachelor’s degrees in other areas to teach in that state's schools. Applicants must meet a basic-skills requirement, which includes passing a basic-skills test and a test on the subject to be taught. Potential teachers also must take courses depending on the level at which they want to teach; for example, a secondary-school teacher must pass a course about the U.S. Constitution. (Reference 3) Finally, they complete computer courses and professional preparation programs, including student teaching, before receiving teaching credentials. Most states offer similar alternative pathway to teaching.

Teacher Certification

Past teacher shortages led many states to create programs to recruit teachers from other fields. These programs aim to attract individuals who are looking for a career change. For example, Georgia’s Teacher Alternative Preparation Program seeks out professionals and trains them to be teachers. Aspiring teachers take an “Essentials” course in the summer, which introduces them to teaching basics. They then apply this training in the classroom with mentoring and supervision. (Reference 4) Other areas—including New York City, northern California and Wichita, Kansas—offer similar certification programs.

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About the Author

Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.