Careers to Consider: Become a Teacher

Teaching is a vital and admirable career. As such, it comes with quite a bit of responsibility, both in practice and in preparation. Every state has specific requirements for teachers, and additional qualifications for public school K-12 teachers. The following steps provide a general breakdown of the requirements for teachers:

  1. Earn an undergraduate degree: You’ll need a degree with a specialization in education, and depending on the level you want to teach, you’ll need to earn a significant number of college credits in the subject area you want to teach. Many schools require minimum GPA and SAT scores for acceptance into any education program. You might also need to take basic competency exams, such as the PRAXIS Core before continuing your studies in education.
  2. Participate in supervised teaching: You’ll be required to complete supervised practicum/clinical requirements during and after earning your degree. The school you complete this practical training in needs to be approved by your university, and you’ll have to provide reports and assessments on your progress.
  3. Pass assessment and exams: If you teach at a public school, you’ll be required to fulfill all testing requirements. For advanced grades and subject matter teachers, exams in the specific subject and education-competency exams are required (PRAXIS II or state regents’ exams). Many states have recently adopted a further assessment measure known as EdTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment), which requires teacher candidates to self-assess their classroom performance.
  4. Obtain a state teaching license: Each state has specific teaching licensure requirements, and it’s important to know the exact details before beginning your degree program. States preclude candidates who can’t pass a criminal background check or those who don’t have the requisite GPA.
  5. Pursue graduate studies: Many states expect teachers to earn a master’s degree within a given timeframe of becoming certified teachers. For specific concentrations, like special education, a master’s degree may be required for initial teacher certification in some states.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Teacher

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for obtaining a teaching degree in the U.S. For those on the traditional path, teacher education requirements include a degree in education or a major in the subject matter they want to teach along with a teaching component.

A 4-year bachelor’s degree in education (or a program with a teaching practicum) typically includes general education, teaching courses, and one or more supervised classroom experiences. Courses can include:

  • Fundamentals of teaching
  • Educational psychology
  • Student assessment
  • Instructional planning
  • Learning methods and intervention
  • Cultural studies and diversity

To maintain a teaching license, advance in your career, or become a special education teacher, you may need a degree in special education or a master’s degree along with specific certification or licensure endorsements. You can find schools with degree programs offering dual-licensure prep for both elementary and special education as well as those targeting specific student populations or disabilities. A bachelor’s degree can take up to four years, depending on your previous education. A master’s degree in education usually takes around two years. Course topics cover:

  • Teaching students with disabilities
  • Intensive support methods
  • Collaborative curriculum for student success
  • Prevention and remediation
  • Legal and ethical teaching practices
  • Assessment in special education

It’s very important to ensure that the program you choose is accredited by one of the national or regional accrediting agencies and recognized by the Federal Department of Education. Accreditation shows that a program or institution has undergone a rigorous independent peer review process on a regular schedule, usually every 5-7 years. In addition, education/teacher preparatory programs that qualify for teacher certification must be approved by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Teacher Certification

Licensure or certification is only required to teach in K-12 public schools. Education programs include the courses necessary to apply for a state teaching license or certification. Colleges and universities generally offer robust guidance for obtaining teaching licensure for their students. All teacher certification programs include a student teaching experience, which is required to make you eligible to apply for licensure. These programs typically provide test preparation, which is another licensure requirement.

Each state requires teachers to pass at least one teaching certification exam. Many states allow national exams, such as PRAXIS or NES. You might need to take a core exam that tests your general knowledge of teaching pedagogy, policies, and ethics. Depending on what grade level or subject you want to teach, you could also be required to take a more advanced teaching exam as well as subject-specific exams to add those endorsements to your license.

Information provided by, see additional information including online programs, scholarships for teachers and certification requirements and average salary by state here: