How Do I Become a Teacher?
Despite the huge variety of different programs out there, there are a few universal elements to entering the teaching field. The first is that you need some schooling. This can be either a traditional Bachelors Degree in Education program, or it can be an Alternative / Post-Baccalaureate or Masters program designed for people who figured out later in life that they wanted to be teachers.
After you’re done with your schooling, you’ll need to prove that you were paying attention in class. If you want to teach in public schools, you’ll need to be certified by the state you intend to teach in. This usually involves a test like the PRAXIS exam. Your initial certification typically qualifies you to teach for a number of years (3-5 is common), during which you will have to reach additional milestones (take more tests, get more schooling) to achieve your permanent certification.
The bottom line with all of it is that each state is different, and you should plan to spend some time looking through the state Department of Education website in the state in which you intend to teach. In many states, you can get a teaching job with no certification at all, provided that you go enroll in a certification program. This typically happens in “high needs” subjects and locations, and is determined by the state/local education authorities, so it’s worth checking with your state Department of Education as well as the local school districts.
On a related note, if you think you want to become a teacher, you might want to talk to the local school districts about volunteering in a school, or taking a non-teaching job just to see what the environment’s like, and what the job of a teacher really entails. This can also be a good way to get a foot in the door for future teaching job openings in that school.
Teach in the field you most enjoy
One attractive aspect of teaching is that the education field allows you to teach almost any discipline that you enjoy yourself. If you are into sports, you might become a gymnastics teacher or a coach. If you are the “book” type, you might become a librarian or an English teacher. If you are artistically or musically inclined, you could choose your own skill area and learn how to teach others the very thing that inspires you. The possibilities are endless.
Most secondary education teachers focus on one or two related disciplines. Thus a math teacher might also teach accounting while an English teacher might teach journalism and broadcast along with the usual English or Language arts classes. Foreign language teachers might be expected to teach classes in multi-cultural studies. Generally, you want to make sure that you are able to teach more than one subject in a specific discipline in order to have the most attractive resume for a would-be employer.
Elementary teachers actually have a more challenging education program than secondary teachers because they are usually expected to teach nearly all subjects to a given class. The exceptions would be art, music, gymnastics and foreign language introduction. Teachers in these areas rotate through the classes, thereby giving the primary teacher some planning time. In any case, you will be able to earn your teaching degree online.
Teaching and Salary
For most people, the purpose of an education degree is to become a teacher. You can teach with only a bachelors degree, but to stay in the field long term and to get the highest annual raises, you will eventually want to complete a masters degree. Some people complete doctoral degrees, but usually those with doctoral degrees intend to teach on the college level or to work in administration. If you have the patience and the funds for a doctoral degree, however, having one will get you a higher salary, even as a teacher.
The most often cited reason for the teacher shortage is poor salary. Good teachers do not work an 8 hour day, enjoy quiet weekends with their own families, and take two months in the summer—along with several days during the school year—for vacation. To the contrary, teachers have papers to grade, new lessons to design, visuals to duplicate for students, projects for which they usually create samples, and textbooks which they must read ahead of the students. While an experienced teacher can “recycle” lessons to some extent from one year to the next, today’s emphasis on “individualized” instruction virtually requires teachers to change and adapt their lessons with each new crop of students. Additionally, teachers are expected to participate in after school activities, attend sporting events, meet with parents, and advise clubs—usually for no addition in pay. Most teachers enjoy these activities, but the fact remains that they often put in long hours. During the summer, they are expected to take continuing education classes so they stay on top of the latest developments in education. People in other career fields often receive much higher salaries for lower expectations in terms of time and commitment. People usually do not choose education because of the high salaries, but because of an opportunity to work in a field they love and to contribute to the development of our nation’s youth.
Teaching salaries vary greatly by state and even by county. You will need to do some research, and if a high salary is a priority, you may need to consider relocating if you are in a state that is on the low end of the pay scale. Experienced teachers in some states actually can earn 6 figure salaries. A starting salary can range from the low 30s to as much as $50,000, depending on the state, on your degree, and on the demand for your subject area. Coaches, for example, often teach gymnastics or a related course and can be the highest paid teachers in the school.
Highly qualified teachers
The Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” act had little impact on the students or American families, but it had a significant impact on schools and on teachers. Schools, under this act, have to show from year to year that test scores have “improved” over the previous year. The scores can still be very low, but as long as a measurable improvement has been achieved, the school will receive a passing report card. While the real benefits of this act have been dubious at best, no one can deny that it has changed the expectations which schools must have of their teachers. Teachers are to be “highly qualified,” meaning they are to have the required hours of study in their field, have to pass Teacher Exams, and must successfully complete annual evaluations. Even though you will be studying online, you want to make sure that your educational institution is an accredited school with faculty members and administrators who understand exactly what you will be required to do once you enter the classroom. Our website can help you locate the program in your choice of subject area. Once you complete the short enquiry form, you will receive contact from the school and will be given an opportunity to ask unlimited questions. Choose the school that demonstrates the highest level of proficiency in providing the program that fits your career goals.
View a complete list of schools that offer a teaching degree online