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Qualifications for Being a Teacher

Teachers help students in pre-school through high school learn about a variety of subjects ranging from mathematics to foreign languages. Most teachers earn a degree in education followed by becoming licensed by their state. College graduates wanting to transition to a career in education can also take alternative routes to becoming a teacher. Read on to learn more.

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Education Requirements to Becoming a Teacher

Aspiring teachers have several options available to them. Some teachers begin their careers by earning a bachelor's degree in education from an accredited college or university. Students in the education major typically have at least two program options to choose from - elementary school education or middle and high school education.

Elementary School Education

Elementary school teachers educate their students in mathematics, language arts and social studies. Accordingly, students wanting to become elementary school teachers take courses in how to teach these subjects. These students also take courses in human development, child psychology, curriculum design and literacy instruction, all of which prepare them to teach classes to younger students. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, (www.bls.gov) predicts a 12% job growth for kindergarten and elementary school teachers between 2012 and 2022. Additionally, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for kindergarten and elementary school teachers was $53,400 in May, 2012.

Middle and High School Education

Students who plan on teaching at the middle or high school level generally take major-level courses in the subject they wish to teach, in addition to the required teacher education curriculum. For example, students wishing to teach economics to high school seniors may major in economics and education, completing both respective requirements to earn their degree. This helps aspiring middle and high school teachers develop skills in lesson planning and curriculum assessment in their field of interest. The BLS reports that the job market for middle school teachers will grow 12% between 2012 and 2022, and 6% for high school teachers. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for middle school teachers was $53,430 and $55,050 for high school teachers in May 2012.

Fieldwork

All prospective teachers must participate in professional fieldwork, often included in education degree programs, in which they are assigned to help or teach a class under the supervision of a licensed teacher. This practice helps students gain real world experience as student teachers, monitoring classes and meeting with parents.

State Licensure

While licensure may not be necessary for private school teachers, it is required for all public school teachers. State requirements for teaching licenses vary; however, most include:

  • A bachelor's degree
  • The completion of a teacher education program
  • Supervised teaching experience
  • The completion of basic writing and math skills tests

Earning a bachelor's degree in education may be the quickest route to meet these requirements. However, an increasing number of professionals come to a teaching career after years of working in other fields. Some colleges offer alternative certification or licensure programs for professionals who already hold a bachelor's degree in an area other than education. Programs typically last 1-2 years, during which students work as teachers, under the supervision of a mentor teacher, while attending teacher education courses.

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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

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics