What Is Needed to Teach?
There will never be a shortage of exceptional teachers who lead and guide young people on their journey toward adulthood and becoming productive and capable members of society. The teaching industry is the largest employer in the US. You will have to complete various degrees to become eligible for specific positions. Fortunately, this career is filled with career advancement opportunities. With each career advancement opportunity comes an additional degree or certificate requirement. To continue to achieve greater pay and positions with more responsibility, you will be required to complete at least a master’s degree.
Teaching Degree Programs Resource and Guide
It is important to note that most school districts and states now require teachers to complete at least a bachelor’s degree, dozens or hundreds of hours of hands-on training, teacher preparation courses, and the state’s licensure process. In addition, you will also be required to complete a minimum number of continuing education and training requirements every 2-5 years in order to maintain your teaching licensure. Additionally, in some cases, if you move states, you may be required to pass the new state’s licensure exam despite your teaching experience and existing credentials.
Given that you are required to complete continuing education throughout your entire teaching career, many teachers use this requirement as an opportunity to complete higher degrees for faster and easier career advancement. Don’t forget that, to be a successful teacher, you genuinely must like children and, while most teachers understand this career path is not without challenges, they also feel the rewards are far greater than other careers.
Teaching & Education Degree Requirements
The type of degree you require will depend greatly on the type of teaching career you seek. If you have an interest in being an aide or a teacher’s assistant, you will likely only require an associate degree. This path is also a great way to determine the type of students with whom you would like to work in the long-term as you work to complete your bachelor’s degree. Once you have a bachelor’s degree, you can teach a class without supervision.
A bachelor’s degree paired with years of experience might allow you to move into specialized areas or administration positions in some school districts. However, most school districts require at least a master’s degree for such career advancement. Keep in mind that it is becoming more common for the best schools to require a graduate degree for the top administration positions, such as a superintendent, or specialized teaching careers, such as a school counselor.
An associate degree prepares you for an entry-level career in areas such as teachers’ aides and teaching assistants. Keep in mind that many states and preschool employers require a bachelor’s degree; whereas, others may only require an associate degree. This type of degree prepares you with the skills and training necessary to act as a support resource for certified or licensed teachers.
An associate degree often has less stringent entry requirements than a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university. You can expect to take courses in various areas, such as childhood development, introduction to early childhood education (ECE), psychology, and more. The best programs at two-year colleges and universities work with four-year schools so that your credits will transfer to a bachelor’s degree program without complications.
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement to become a teacher in nearly every school district and state. If you want a job at a top school, you should only take classes from a highly reputable and accredited college or university. Entry requirements into such prestigious programs may be far more competitive and challenging than other higher learning institutions. All teaching students can expect to take courses in a variety of subjects, including math, science, and child development. Your core classes will vary based on the type of teacher you wish to become.
You can specialize in many potential areas within teaching during your four-year degree, such as music, physical education, elementary education, secondary education, curriculum and instruction, special education, or early childhood education. The specialization of your choice will influence the courses you must complete, and regardless of your specialization, you will have to complete many hours of hands-on training in a classroom under the direction and management of an experienced and reputable teacher.
Master’s & Doctoral Degrees
A master’s degree and a doctoral degree are required for the highest-level positions in the field of teaching. If you wish to become a counselor, director of curriculum, principal, superintendent, or any other position of influence and leadership at a school level rather than a classroom level, you will require at least a master’s degree. Additionally, more and more employers require a doctorate degree. You will also require a doctoral degree to become a professor or to be an administrator at many private schools.
Courses at the master’s or doctoral level will vary greatly based on your career path and degree specialization. You might have courses that specialize in child behavior, leadership, special education, assessment, and more. Keep in mind that it is becoming more and more common for colleges and universities to offer dual degree programs so that you can complete a master’s degree and a doctoral degree either simultaneously or consecutively to save money and time.
Whether you require certification, licensure or both will vary based on the state. Each state may require a different certificate or licensure based on the type of position you seek. While they are similar, they do have distinctive differences in some states. In some states, you require the completion of a teacher certification program to practice as a teacher without supervision; whereas, in other states, certification is considered the completion of the teacher preparation program that is included in the undergraduate teaching degree.
States that require licensure will require teacher program participants to complete a trial period of hands-on experience that requires completing dozens or hundreds of hours before licensure will be awarded. It is important to note that the initial licensure in many states is only valid for a few years and you will be required to reapply for your official licensure after your trial period is complete. Whether you require certification, licensure, or both, you must complete and pass PRAXIS teaching exams or their equivalent to be able to teach. It is also possible that a state uses certifications as a way to change specializations after you have been teaching for some time or if you are changing careers. Each state is different, and you must check with your local Board of Education to make sure you are following the appropriate path for the position you want.
Teacher Preparation Programs
Teacher preparation programs are designed for potential teachers to use their theoretical knowledge and practical experience in real life scenarios. These programs are typically required to complete certification or licensure, and the programs are often provided as part of a bachelor’s degree program. It is possible that you can further your specialization during this program by focusing all of your hands-on teaching experience within the specialization of your choice, including elementary education, early childhood education, secondary education, or special education.
It is also important to note that if you have a degree outside of teaching and wish to change careers to become a teacher, you will still have to complete a teacher preparation program. All potential program participants must meet a minimum GPA and those who are not currently earning their bachelor’s degree in teaching may have to complete some prerequisite courses in teaching prior to being accepted into a teacher preparation program.
Specialty Focus Areas for Teaching and Education
The areas in which you can specialize in teaching and education continue to expand as the dynamics and methodologies of education change. You will be able to focus on general specializations during your undergraduate degree. It is also possible to choose a specialty focus degree. If you wish to pursue more specific specializations for career advancement, you will require a master’s or doctoral degree. Certificate programs also allow teachers to specialize in areas outside of their existing educational background and expertise.
Today, you can complete teaching degrees in a variety of areas such as curriculum, administration, library science, and educational technology. You can even complete degrees in English as a second language (ESL) and physical education. If you complete a degree in a specialty focus area over a more general degree, you will increase your chances of employment over much of the competition. However, at the same time, it could hinder your career advancement if you decide that it’s not the focus area for you or end up in a location where they have too many teachers in that specialty already.
Curriculum and Instruction -
A curriculum and instruction degree is typically offered as a master’s. These degree programs help participants to be able to create the optimal curriculum and instruction methodologies for their schools. These approaches may vary based on the type of school such as a private school, special education, or a STEM school. The age of the students at the school will also impact the curriculum and instruction, including early childhood education, elementary education, and secondary education.
Early Childhood Education -
A degree in ECE will focus on teaching children from the ages of birth up to age eight. The range may vary based on the program and the employer. You will learn the best ways to teach essential developmental skills including behavioral, oral communication, imagination, social cues, and much more. You will also learn to observe, assess, and report student progress. More and more parents and states are focusing on early childhood education as an essential building block to a successful educational career in the long term. As such, you will have the power to control whether or not children develop an excitement toward learning.
Educational Technology -
This specialty focus requires a master’s degree. Technology is becoming an increasingly essential tool in classrooms at all levels of education. Teachers in these programs will be seen as highly valuable assets and often make significantly more money than traditional teaching positions. You will learn the best ways to incorporate technology into the classroom for each type of student and for students of all ages. You might be employed by a school district, work as a consultant, or start your own business with this degree.
Education Administration -
Education administration deals with the business and political side of the teaching industry. Most states and employers expect their administrators to complete at least a master’s degree. This is rapidly changing to a doctoral degree. You will learn leadership skills alongside business skills, such as finance and accounting, negotiations, interviews, and much more. It is also important to note that because administrators often have to deal with a board of directors and emotional parents, people who pursue education administration degrees will be trained in psychology and how to work in highly tense situations.
Elementary Education -
An elementary education degree will prepare you for working with children in elementary school and possibly middle school. You will learn the best ways to manage and teach young students of all academic levels in the same classroom. Teachers will also be trained to look for warning signs that students may be falling behind academically or those who are not developing at the same speed from a social or behavioral level. These degree programs will also help you learn the ways to identify learning disabilities and students who may be experiencing trouble at home.
English as a second language teachers only require a bachelor’s degree at this time. However, many employers prefer a master’s degree. With a growing number of students in the US who do not speak English fluently, ESL teachers are becoming more and more in demand. You will learn the best ways to improve the language skills of the students alongside their academic developmental requirements. In these ESL degree programs, you will also help to learn more about cultural sensitivity, classroom and social integration, and more. Another important part of your job and training will be learning the best ways to communicate with the parents of these students, who might be even more frightened and intimidated about the education process than their children.
General Education -
A degree in general education provides you with a less specialized degree. This type of degree is typically offered as a two-year associate degree. You might wish to become a full-time substitute teacher or a floating teacher’s aide. A teacher with a general education degree has many career prospects and you can work in a variety of teacher settings. This will allow you to find your niche as you complete your bachelor’s degree to become a licensed or certified teacher.
Library Science -
People who complete a library science degree may become a librarian or a library administrator. This position typically requires at least a bachelor’s degree. Keep in mind that the job of a librarian today versus 20 years ago is highly evolved and far more technologically based than ever before. In your program, you will learn ways to analyze, store, retrieve, and collect data and records electronically. You might learn web development, digital archiving, enhanced user experience, marketing analytics, and more. Today, a librarian must be tech-savvy, as well as possess a passion for information.
Physical Education -
A physical education teacher requires a bachelor’s degree. These degree programs focus on much more than teaching kids to play games and sports. You will learn the importance of diet, nutrition, fitness, sports, wellness, and mindfulness. A potential physical education teacher must also complete courses in psychology, human development, proper fitness techniques, and much more. These teachers are responsible for encouraging an active lifestyle outside of school and promoting a healthy body image and self-esteem in all students rather than just the athletic ones.
Secondary Education -
A secondary education degree program is for those who wish to teach at the high school level. These teachers require at least a bachelor’s degree and most school districts encourage their teachers to complete a master’s degree as part of their continued education requirements. Secondary education degree programs focus on the best ways to keep teenagers engaged. You will select a special area of focus for teaching, such as math, science, art, technology, etc. However, you will be trained to teach kids in a general manner, too.
Special Education -
Special education teachers are highly in demand, particularly those with a master’s degree. These degrees help teach program participants the best teaching methodologies and practices for students who are not developing at the same speed as their peers physically, mentally, or emotionally. These teachers will be prepared to teach several different subjects to young people of varying ages and varying levels of setbacks. Special education programs also help program participants to be able to work with parents, administrators, other teachers, counselors, and more. This teaching field is often considered more stressful than others. As a result, you may make more money as the shortage of qualified special education teachers continues.
Teacher’s Aide -
A teacher’s aide only requires an associate degree in most states. You will still have to complete standard background checks and obtain the proper credentials to be able to work in a school. A teacher’s aide program trains program participants to act as a support system for the primary teacher. You will learn support skills, such as to help with reading, grading papers, observing behaviors, completing reports, and more.
Income Possibilities for Each Degree Level
The higher the degree you complete the more money you will earn. Your salary is also highly dependent upon a number of additional factors, such as whether you live in a rural area or a city, the type of specialization you have, and your years of experience. Having more experience will usually increase your pay. If you live in a city, you will likely make more money than someone in a small town. The same is true of whether you work for a private or public school. Remember that some types of teachers are more in demand than others, including STEM teachers, special education teachers, and technology education teachers.
Regardless of your area of focus, the general rule is that, if you have a higher degree you will earn more money. You can earn up to $20,000 a year more with a master’s degree than someone with a bachelor’s degree in the same position. If you have a doctoral degree, you can earn another $10,000 to $20,000 a year. Essentially, if you only complete an associate degree, you are limiting your annual earning potential by at least $60,000 a year. Again, keep in mind the actual salary of any teaching position will vary based on responsibilities and the demand of the position. For example, a standard elementary teacher will make roughly $60,000 less than a high-level administrator and an elementary school teacher will make roughly $20,000 more than a teacher’s aide. To recap, the higher your degree, the greater your career prospects and the higher your earning potential.
Accreditation for Education Degrees
Accreditation is essential for teaching degrees. Most states have a pre-approved list of colleges and universities from which they will accept and permit graduates to take the licensure and certification exams. You must complete a degree from a regionally accredited college or university. It is more likely that a degree from a nationally accredited college or university will not meet the rigorous teaching standards of most states. You will also want to complete a degree from an accredited teaching program. These accreditations are separate from the university or college accreditation.
CAEP stands for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. It is important to note that the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) have merged under CAEP. These mergers have resulted in CAEP being considered the most reputable and desirable accrediting board for teaching education programs.
If your teaching program is accredited by CAEP, you will be well prepared to take your licensure and certification exams. You can find an extensive, searchable database on their website to determine whether or not the program you wish to attend is accredited. Please note that if you do not attend an accredited teaching college or university and a CAEP-accredited program, you may not be able to teach in some states. Be sure to check with the state in which you wish to teach, as well.