If you are considering a teaching career, you first question may be how to become a teacher. There are some steps you need to take, and some decisions you need to make to get on the path for a teaching career. There is more than one path – the traditional pathway of getting a degree in education. Many cities, states and universities also offer alternative routes to those thinking about a teaching career. These involve intensive training and graduate classes along with internship experience in schools. Programs offering a non-traditional teaching career route include Teach for America, Troops to Teachers, and several regional programs. The National Association of Independent Schools also offers information about teaching in private schools that don’t require traditional education. If you already have a bachelor’s or higher degree, you can take a post-collegiate program that usually lasts one year.
All 50 states require certification for teachers, but each state is different. Contact your state’s Department of Education, or look at the Teacher Certification Zone website to find your state’s certification guidelines before you start planning. You will find that most states require an undergraduate degree. If you want to be an elementary school teacher, you will probably have to major or minor in education, or earn a Masters degree in education. For secondary school teachers, you will need a degree in the area in which you want to teach, such as Math or English. Most states have a test or give the PRAXIS exam to prospective teachers.
Along with finding what certifications your state requires for teachers, you should take some time to decide what type of teaching appeals to you. Do you want to work with elementary, secondary, college or adult student? Talk to teachers about their jobs and ask for their advice. Volunteer in the classroom, or with a youth group in the community or at church. Some schools offer job opportunities for tutors, teacher’s aides and substitute teachers. Talk to your local YWCA or YMCA about teaching opportunities – swimming lessons, craft classes, scouting and coaching will give you teaching experience and an idea of what you like and don’t like.
A degree with a broad liberal arts base is one of the best ways to prepare for a teaching career. Be sure you enroll in a college or university that is accredited. Many states require an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above. If you are working in another career and want to transition into teaching, look into online schools. You can take classes when it is convenient for you and go at your own pace while continuing to work. You may find that how to become a teacher is easier than you think.