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How Much Education Do You Need to Be a Teacher?

Teachers work with students in all age groups and help them understand different subjects and critical thinking skills. Additionally, they are generally responsible for planning lessons, assigning projects and grading assignments. Educational requirements for teachers depend on their chosen specialty, which can include special, secondary, vocational or preschool education. A bachelor's degree in education is usually the basic requirement.

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Education Required to Become a Teacher

Although the specific education requirements for becoming a teacher vary by state, all states require that public school teachers have bachelor's degrees. Those who teach high school and college usually need degrees in the disciplines they teach; however, college professors may also need an advanced, graduate degree.

Undergraduate training programs, which lead to a bachelor's degree in education, can vary depending on the prospective teacher's specialization. Training programs for aspiring elementary school teachers provide them with insights into the best methods for teaching different subjects. Middle and secondary school teachers usually teach just one subject and may earn double majors in both education and the subject area they teach. Some states require potential teachers to take certain required courses, such as teaching children with special needs or using technology in the classroom.

Alternative Education Programs

Many states offer alternative education programs to professionals who have already earned their undergraduate degrees and would like to transition into teaching. For example, a college graduate who has earned a bachelor's degree in political science but does not have any postsecondary training in education may use an alternative certification program, such as a Master of Arts in Teaching program, to become eligible for teacher certification. Additionally, alternative certification programs are common for high-need areas like math or science.

Students in an alternative licensing program must already have a bachelor's degree. The bachelor's does not necessarily have to be in the subject area that the student will be teaching. In most programs, students practice teaching in the classroom while taking education classes on weekends or at night. They must pass state exams and complete the program within a set period of time.

Certification Required to Become a Teacher

All states in the U.S. require public school teachers to be certified or licensed through each state's own process. Early childhood, elementary, middle and high school education certification is available. Specialty certifications are available in areas like reading, physical education or music. Most states require that teachers pass a state exam to become licensed or certified, and they must complete some form of continuing education to renew their teaching licenses. More than 40 states have reciprocity agreements in place to make transitioning to a new state easier for state-certified teachers.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, (www.bls.gov) predicts a 12% hike in job growth for kindergarten, elementary, and middle school teachers between 2012 and 2022. In this same time period, high school teaching jobs are only expected to grow 6%. According to the BLS, median annual salaries for kindergarten, elementary, middle school, and high school teachers ranged between $53,400 and $55,050 in May 2012.

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  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Education
      • Teacher Education for Specific Subject Areas
        • Industrial Arts Teacher Education
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Education
      • Counseling and Guidance
      • Curriculum and Instruction
      • Educational Administration and Supervision
      • Educational Evaluation and Research
      • ESL Teaching
      • Philosophical Foundations of Education
      • Teacher Education for Specific Levels and Methods
      • Teacher Education for Specific Subject Areas
        • English Teacher Education
        • Foreign Language Education for Teachers
        • Mathematics Teacher Education
        • Science Teacher Education
        • Social Studies Teacher Education
        • Teaching, Reading
  • School locations:
    • Rhode Island (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Education
      • Educational Administration and Supervision
      • ESL Teaching
      • Teacher Education for Specific Levels and Methods
      • Teacher Education for Specific Subject Areas
        • Social Studies Teacher Education
  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Notre Dame include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Education
      • Teacher Education for Specific Levels and Methods
      • Teacher Education for Specific Subject Areas
        • Science Teacher Education
  • School locations:
    • Tennessee (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Education
      • Counseling and Guidance
      • Educational Administration and Supervision
      • International and Comparative Education
      • Special Education
      • Teacher Education for Specific Levels and Methods
      • Teacher Education for Specific Subject Areas
        • English Teacher Education
        • Mathematics Teacher Education
        • Music Teacher Education
        • Teaching, Reading

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics