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How to Become a Teacher

By Ajoke Aminu

Published:

Are you dreaming of becoming a teacher and fostering a love for learning? All types of teachers leverage the power of knowledge to mold minds–relying on patience, hard work, and a strong passion for education. You can enhance your readiness for a teaching career by delving into this insightful article on how to become a teacher.

Career Summary

Teacher Salary

Teacher Salary

One burning question that comes to the forefront of discussions is how much teachers make. Many teachers find the intrinsic value of the work to be rewarding, knowing that they are positively impacting the lives of their students.

However, let’s look at how much elementary school teachers typically earn:  

  • Entry Salary (US$49k)
  • Median Salary (US$60k)
  • Executive Salary (US$74k)

No amount can make up for the dedication that goes into this profession, but it is safe to say teachers are averagely compensated.

What does a Teacher do?

A teacher is a professional who imparts knowledge, skills, and guidance to students—contributing to the good of the educational system and society as a whole. Teachers play a crucial role in the academic and personal development of their students, helping them acquire information, develop critical thinking skills, and grow as individuals. They are also responsible for creating and delivering instructional materials, assessing student progress, and fostering a positive learning environment.

Teacher Career Progression

  • Teacher’s Aide/Assistant: Supports the classroom teacher by assisting with instructional activities, managing student behavior, and providing individualized attention to students.
  • Classroom Teacher: Responsible for teaching a specific subject or grade level, creating lesson plans, delivering instruction, and assessing student learning.
  • Lead Teacher: Takes on a leadership role within the school or department, providing guidance and support to other teachers, coordinating curriculum development, and facilitating professional development.
  • Department Head/Subject Coordinator: Oversees a specific subject area within the school, coordinates curriculum alignment, leads department meetings, and collaborates with other departments and administrators.
  • Instructional Coach/Mentor Teacher: Provides support and guidance to new teachers, offering feedback on instructional practices, classroom management, and professional growth.
Teacher Career Progression

Pros and Cons of Working as a Teacher

Pros:

  • Making a positive impact on students’ lives.
  • Building meaningful relationships with students and colleagues.
  • Continuous learning and professional growth opportunities.
  • The opportunity to be creative and innovative in lesson planning and teaching strategies.

Cons:

  • Heavy workload and time demands, including lesson planning, grading, and administrative tasks.
  • Dealing with challenging student behaviors and classroom management.
  • Navigating a sometimes stressful and high-pressure work environment.
  • Limited resources and budget constraints.

Important Skills to Have as a Teacher

  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Effective classroom management techniques.
  • Adaptability and flexibility.
  • Organizational and time management skills.
  • Empathy and the ability to connect with students.

Popular Teacher Specialties

  • Special Education Teacher
  • English Language Learner (ELL) Teacher
  • Science Teacher
  • Math Teacher
  • Physical Education Teacher

How to Become a Teacher

Teacher 5 Steps to Career

Indeed, becoming a teacher is a noble thing. Teaching encompasses many specialties, so you shouldn’t limit your mind to what you can become. Imparting knowledge isn’t restricted to one field and there are alternative certification programs that can help you transition into the teaching profession. Just so you don’t get confused, we will explain how to become the teacher you want to be —clarifying the types of teachers and necessary qualifications.

Get a Teaching Degree

There is no greater joy than watching young minds engage with a subject and grow in their understanding. Teaching is a rewarding career that can truly make a difference in the lives of others. If you’re passionate about becoming a teacher, getting a teaching degree could be the perfect first step for you.

By earning your degree, you’ll have the opportunity to gain valuable skills and knowledge that can help you guide and inspire students. You’ll learn effective teaching methods, how to design effective lesson plans, and how to manage a classroom. Best of all, you’ll be well-equipped to help students achieve their goals and reach their full potential. To put it succinctly, let’s answer your pressing questions.

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Teacher?

Yes, in most cases, a degree is required to become a teacher. Whether or not you need a degree to become a teacher depends on the state in which you want to teach. In the United States, most states require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree in education, but there are some states that allow teachers to have a bachelor’s degree in any subject, as long as they complete an alternative teacher certification program.

These alternative certification programs allow candidates to gain the necessary teaching qualifications through additional coursework, training, or practical experience. These programs often require candidates to pass state licensing exams and fulfill specific requirements set by the education agencies.

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the exact requirements for becoming a teacher can vary by country, state, or school district. It’s recommended to research the specific requirements of the region where you intend to teach to ensure you meet all necessary qualifications. If you are interested in becoming a teacher, you should find out your state’s requirements.

Why is it Important to Get a Teaching Degree?

A teaching degree lays a strong foundation that prepares educators for the challenges and complexities of the profession. It provides the necessary knowledge, skills, and understanding to make informed decisions, create effective learning environments, and positively impact the lives of students.

There are many reasons why it is important to get a teaching degree. Here are a few of the most important ones:

  • Teaching is a complex profession that requires specialized pedagogical knowledge and skills. A teaching degree provides you with the training you need to be an effective teacher.
  • Teaching degrees are required by most states in order to become a licensed teacher. This means that having a teaching degree will give you more job opportunities.
  • Teaching degrees can help you earn a higher salary. Teachers with a degree tend to earn more than those without a degree.
  • Teaching degrees can prepare you for advancement opportunities. If you have a teaching degree, you may be eligible for administrative positions or other leadership roles in the education system.
  • Teachers with a strong theoretical background can make informed decisions about their instructional methods, curriculum design, and classroom strategies by adapting and innovating their teaching approaches to meet the evolving needs of students.

To ensure you receive your money’s worth, here are some specific skills and knowledge that you will learn in a teaching degree program:

  • Child Development: A teaching degree program will teach you about the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of children. This knowledge will help you to create a curriculum and learning environment that is appropriate for the age and developmental stage of your students.
  • Classroom Management: You’ll learn how to manage a classroom effectively. This includes learning how to discipline students, create a positive learning environment, and motivate students to learn.
  • Teaching Methods: The degree program will teach you a variety of teaching methods. This will help you to deliver instruction in a way that is effective for all learners.
  • Assessment: You’ll learn how to assess student learning. This includes learning how to create and grade tests, as well as how to provide feedback to students.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Teacher?

Did you know the United States streamlined the process of becoming a teacher, condensing it into a five-year journey? This timeline comprises the standard four years to earn a bachelor’s degree in education, along with an additional year dedicated to completing a teacher preparation program.

However, if you already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject, you’ll equally need to complete the teacher preparation program. Additionally, some states offer alternative teacher certification programs that allow you to become a teacher without completing a traditional teacher preparation program. As previously mentioned, there are different types of teachers and if your goal is to become a kindergarten or preschool teacher, a two-year degree from a community college is all it will take.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Teaching Degree?

Considering the costs associated with a teaching degree will help you make better financial plans towards your education. While the specific tuition expenses can vary based on factors such as the institution, location, and residency status, you can anticipate tuition ranging from around US$25,000 at public colleges to as high as US$100,000 at private colleges.

In addition, explore financial aid options, scholarships, grants, and potential opportunities for work-study programs that can help mitigate the financial burden of pursuing a degree in education. Many institutions offer various forms of financial assistance to support students in their educational pursuits.

Seek Certification Programs

When considering certification programs to become a teacher, there are various options available that can provide an alternative pathway to entering the teaching profession. These programs are designed for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than education. 

Here are some popular programs to explore:

  • Alternative Certification Programs: Many states offer alternative certification routes, also known as lateral entry or non-traditional programs. These programs are typically shorter in duration and provide the necessary coursework and training to fulfill teaching requirements. They may include a combination of online or in-person classes, mentoring, and supervised teaching experiences.
  • Teach For America: Teach For America is a highly respected nonprofit organization that recruits and trains recent college graduates and professionals from various fields to teach in underserved communities. Accepted candidates undergo an intensive summer training program and commit to teaching for two years in partner schools.
  • Troops to Teachers: Troops to Teachers is a program that supports military personnel in transitioning to teaching careers. It provides counseling, guidance, and financial assistance to eligible veterans, helping them navigate the certification process and find employment in the education field.
  • Local University or College Programs: Many universities and colleges offer post-bachelor’s certification programs if you want to become a teacher. These programs provide the required education coursework and often include supervised teaching experiences to gain practical classroom skills.

Can I Become a Teacher Through Online Education?

Online certification programs will also allow you to complete the necessary coursework and training remotely. These programs often provide flexibility in terms of scheduling and can be a viable option if you need to balance work or other commitments while pursuing certification.

Top Teaching Certifications and Resources

Become an Educator through Alternative Teacher Certification 

Start your alternative teacher certification journey on Udemy, gaining crucial insights and guidance for aspiring educators pursuing non-traditional pathways into the profession.

Learn More

Many educational organizations and institutions provide their own curated resources and professional development opportunities. Regardless, the pursuit of additional knowledge is not just a choice but a necessity for a teacher.

In other words, here are 10 additional reliable online resources any teacher must have:

  • Education.com: An online educational platform with resources for students, parents, and teachers, including worksheets, games, lesson plans, and activities.
  • Scholastic: A publishing company providing educational materials such as books, magazines, and digital resources for students, teachers, and parents.
  • National Education Association (NEA): The largest labor union and professional organization for educators, advocating for public education and offering resources and support for teachers.
  • Edutopia: An educational website showcasing innovative teaching practices, educational research, and resources for creating effective learning environments.
  • Teachers Pay Teachers: An online marketplace where teachers buy and sell educational resources, including lesson plans, worksheets, and classroom materials.
  • Education Week: A publication covering news and trends in K-12 education, providing in-depth reporting and analysis on educational policies and practices.
  • Learning for Justice: A project promoting diversity, equity, and inclusivity in schools through resources, lesson plans, and professional development materials.
  • PBS LearningMedia: An online library of educational resources, including videos, interactive lessons, and games aligned with curriculum standards.
  • Common Sense Education: A nonprofit organization offering digital citizenship and media literacy resources for educators, parents, and students.
  • ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development): A professional association supporting educators with resources, publications, and professional development opportunities to improve teaching and learning.

As you explore these resources, consider seeking the following valuable certifications alongside:

  • Teacher Preparation Programs
  • Alternative Certification Programs
  • Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Certification Programs
  • Graduate Teacher Certification Programs
  • Online Teacher Certification Programs
  • Accelerated Teacher Certification Programs
  • State-Specific Teacher Certification Programs
  • Career-Changer Teacher Certification Programs
  • Specialty or Subject-Specific Teacher Certification Programs
  • International Teacher Certification Programs.

Enhance Your Skill Set

You are probably brimming with academic knowledge but still lacking the hands-on experience necessary to excel in your career. One of the best ways to hone your skills and prepare yourself for the classroom is to pursue practical experience opportunities. Gaining hands-on experience in teaching will expose you to different scenarios, student behaviors, and teaching methods.

Moreover, you will gain insight into industry best practices, allowing you to better serve your future students. We’ll explore opportunities you can leverage to develop professionally and become a well-rounded educator. But first, let’s look at the must-have skills as a teacher.

Skills You Must Learn as a Teacher

  • Effective Communication: Clear and engaging communication is vital for delivering lessons and building positive relationships with students, parents, and colleagues.
  • Classroom Management: Skill in managing a classroom, maintaining discipline, and creating a conducive learning environment is crucial for effective teaching.
  • Adaptability: Teachers should be flexible and able to adapt to students’ needs, different learning styles, and changing educational landscapes.
  • Patience: Teaching can be challenging, and patience is essential when working with diverse students and their unique challenges.
  • Subject Knowledge: In-depth knowledge of the subject matter you teach is fundamental to providing quality education.
  • Technological Proficiency: As education becomes more tech-oriented, teachers should be comfortable with technology for instruction and classroom management.
  • Empathy: Understanding and being empathetic towards students’ feelings and needs is critical for fostering a positive learning environment.
  • Problem-Solving: Teachers encounter various challenges daily, from addressing individual learning difficulties to managing disruptive behavior. Problem-solving skills are essential.
  • Collaboration: Teachers often work with colleagues, administrators, and parents. Collaborative skills are important for a harmonious school environment.
  • Organization and Time Management: Balancing lesson planning, grading, and classroom instruction requires effective time management.
  • Assessment and Evaluation: The ability to assess student progress and adjust teaching methods accordingly is a key skill for educators.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Teachers must be aware of and sensitive to cultural and diverse backgrounds in the classroom.
  • Motivation: Inspiring and motivating students to learn and reach their potential is a core teacher skill.
  • Conflict Resolution: Teachers should be adept at resolving conflicts between students or within the classroom.
  • Critical Thinking: Encouraging students to think critically and analyze information is essential for their development.
  • Innovation: Staying up-to-date with educational trends and incorporating innovative teaching techniques keeps lessons fresh and engaging.

8 Internship Opportunities to Explore Before Becoming a Teacher Full-time

  • Teacher Preparation Programs: Many teacher education programs, especially at the college or university level, include student teaching internships as part of their curriculum. This is often a mandatory requirement for obtaining a teaching credential.
  • Alternative Certification Programs: If you’re transitioning into teaching from another career, alternative certification programs may offer internships or practicum experiences.
  • Student Teaching: This is a common form of internship for prospective teachers. It involves working as a student teacher under the supervision of an experienced educator in a classroom. You’ll gradually assume more teaching responsibilities as the internship progresses.
  • Educational Service Agencies: Some educational service agencies, that provide support to schools and districts, offer internships for aspiring teachers. These opportunities may vary but often involve working in underserved communities or specialized programs.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Some nonprofit organizations focus on education and may offer internships related to teaching. These opportunities can vary widely, from tutoring programs to after-school initiatives.
  • Online Teaching Platforms: With the growth of online education, some platforms and organizations offer internships for individuals interested in teaching online. This can be an excellent way to gain experience in virtual education.
  • Summer Programs: Many schools and educational organizations run summer programs that hire teachers or teaching interns to work with students during the break. These can be a great way to gain experience, especially if you’re studying to become a teacher.
  • International Teaching Programs: If you’re interested in teaching abroad, some internships and programs offer opportunities to teach in foreign countries. These can provide a unique teaching experience.

Ace State Licensing Exams

Through preparation, strategic studying, and maintaining a positive mindset, you can ace your state licensing exam. Stay focused, disciplined, and persistent in your efforts, and trust in your abilities to succeed.

Preparing for and acing state licensing exams:

  • Understand the Exam Requirements: Familiarize yourself with the specific requirements and content areas covered in the state licensing exam. Review the exam guidelines, syllabus, and any study materials provided by the licensing authority.
  • Create a Study Plan: Develop a study plan that outlines the topics you need to cover and allocates sufficient time for each subject. Set realistic goals and create a study schedule that accommodates your other commitments.
  • Gather Study Materials: Collect relevant study materials, such as the online resources we previously listed, as well as other textbooks, practice exams, and study guides. Utilize reputable sources that align with the exam content and format.
  • Review and Organize: Start by reviewing the core concepts and topics covered in the exam. Break down the content into manageable sections and create organized study notes or flashcards to aid your learning and revision process.
  • Practice with Sample Exams: Familiarize yourself with the exam format and types of questions by practicing with sample exams or past papers. This allows you to assess your knowledge, identify areas of weakness, and become comfortable with the exam structure and time constraints.
  • Seek Support and Guidance: Reach out to instructors, mentors, or peers who have successfully passed the state licensing exam. Seek their advice, clarification on complex topics, and guidance on study strategies.

Choose the Type of Teacher You Want to Become

Now that you are equipped with the starter pack to becoming a teacher, let’s explore some of the many different types of teachers.

Types of Teachers

  • Preschool Teacher: Preschool teachers provide early childhood education and create a nurturing environment for children aged 3 to 5 years old.
  • Elementary School Teacher: Elementary school teachers educate students in various subjects and foster their academic and social development from kindergarten to grade 5 or 6.
  • High School Teacher: High school teachers specialize in specific subjects and teach students in grades 9 to 12, preparing them for graduation and higher education or career paths.
  • Special Education Teacher: Special education teachers work with students who have disabilities, tailoring instruction to their individual needs.
  • Subject-Specific Teacher: Some educators specialize in a particular subject, such as math, science, or language arts, teaching that subject across various grade levels.
  • ESL (English as a Second Language) Teacher: ESL teachers help non-native English speakers improve their language skills.
  • Teacher Trainer: These educators provide training and professional development to other teachers.
  • Online Instructor: With the rise of online education, teachers can work remotely, instructing students through digital platforms.
  • Curriculum Developer: Curriculum developers design educational materials and resources.
  • Educational Consultant: Educational consultants work with schools or organizations to improve teaching practices and educational outcomes.
  • Education Administrator: This role involves managing schools, school districts, or higher education institutions.
  • Education Researcher: Researchers conduct studies and research in the field of education, contributing to advancements in teaching and learning.
  • Instructional Designer: Instructional designers create educational materials and courses, often for online learning platforms.
  • School Counselor: School counselors provide guidance and support to students, helping with academic and personal issues.
  • Librarian: Teacher-librarians work in schools, promoting reading and information literacy.
  • Tutor: Some teachers work as private tutors, offering one-on-one instruction to students.
  • Textbook Author: Teachers with expertise in a subject may write educational textbooks.
  • Adult Education Instructor: Adult education teachers help adults improve their literacy and skills.
  • Educational Technology Specialist: These professionals integrate technology into education, working with schools to implement digital tools.

Types of Organizations that Hire Teachers

  • Public and Private Schools
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Educational Nonprofits
  • Online Education Platforms
  • Language Schools
  • International Schools
  • Tutoring Centers
  • EdTech Companies
  • Government Education Departments

What’s the Career Outlook for Teachers?

Given the diverse types of teachers, it is challenging to provide a single projection for the entire profession. However, when considering the range of teaching positions, the overall job outlook is expected to show minimal changes over the next decade (2022-2032).

Notwithstanding, there will still be a substantial number of job openings available for teachers throughout this period. Thousands of opportunities will be available for aspiring educators to enter the profession, allowing them to make significant contributions to the field of education. This indicates a continued demand for qualified and passionate individuals to join the teaching workforce.

Teacher Popular Career Specialties

A Teacher’s Work-Life Balance

Generally, teachers work regular hours and have structured schedules that align with school hours. They typically follow a traditional academic calendar, which includes long summer breaks and holidays. However, it is important to note that the workload of teachers can extend beyond regular school hours. They may need to dedicate additional time outside of the classroom to complete tasks such as grading papers, planning lessons, and meeting with students and parents.

While teachers may occasionally bring work home or be available outside of regular school hours, it is not a constant expectation for all teachers or institutions. The specific work hours and expectations can vary depending on the type of teacher, grade level, school policies, and individual circumstances.

Should I Become a Teacher?

By carefully considering the key points explored in this article, as well as your personal interests and skills, you can make an informed decision that is right for you. Teaching is a profession that requires patience, creativity, and a genuine passion for helping others. If you possess these traits and find fulfillment in guiding and shaping young minds, then teaching could be a rewarding career for you.

Additionally, it is important to consider your long-term goals and how they align with a career in education. Whether you want to inspire future generations, make a positive impact on your community, or simply enjoy a stable and meaningful career, being a teacher can help you achieve those aspirations.


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Ajoke Aminu

About the Author

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