Do I Need a Masters Degree to Be a Teacher?

Teachers at the postsecondary level are usually required to have a master's degree or higher. While the same is not required in order to teach K-12, prospective public school teachers must have a bachelor's degree from an approved teacher education program to become licensed.

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Educational Requirements for Teachers

Primary and Secondary Education Teachers

Teachers at the kindergarten, elementary, middle or high school levels are not required to have a master's degree to teach, though many go on to pursue a master's degree while employed to increase their knowledge or pursue a pay raise. Public school teachers are required to have a bachelor's degree from an approved teaching education program and a state license. Private school teachers are not required to be licensed, but must have a bachelor's degree.

However, due to shortages of teachers in certain subjects and in urban and rural areas, some states offer alternative licensing options. These options allow teachers with a bachelor's degree specific to a subject but not from an approved teaching program to earn licensure and begin teaching.

Postsecondary Education Teachers

The majority of postsecondary teachers teach at colleges and universities. Most 4-year colleges require teachers to have a doctoral degree, although some schools hire doctoral candidates who hold a master's degree to teach a certain subject or fill part-time positions. Some 2-year college faculty positions are held by those with only a master's degree.

Teachers at the undergraduate and graduate levels instruct students in a variety of academic or vocational subjects. In addition to teaching courses in their academic subject, such as history, literature or biology, postsecondary teachers at 4-year schools often conduct a considerable amount of research in their academic field.

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with children from preschool through the 12th grade who have mental or learning disabilities or behavioral disorders. All states require a bachelor's degree and the completion of an approved training program in special education to earn licensure. Some states, however, require a master's degree in special education as well.

Adult Education Teachers

These instructors teach adult basic education to adults with skills below the eighth-grade level, adult secondary education to those earning their GED and English to individuals who speak other languages. Most adult education teachers are required to have at least a bachelor's degree, although some states require a master's degree in adult education or in ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) instruction. Licensing requirements vary by state as well; some states accept a public school teacher license, while others require an adult education-specific license.

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