So You Want to Be a Teacher? 4 Steps to Take

If you’re thinking about being a teacher, congratulations! It’s an exciting career that can be extremely rewarding, especially if it’s your passion to help kids and educate others. If becoming a teacher or professor is something you’re considering, here are some things to know about the journey and steps you’ll have to take to reach your goals.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Teacher?

The length of time it takes to become a teacher depends entirely on the state. Some states only require a bachelor’s degree. while others may require a master’s. A bachelor’s, on average, takes 4 years to complete. A master’s, two. Many will then require you to earn a teaching certificate or license.

And if you want to become a college professor, you might just need a terminal degree in your field, which is often a doctorate. Doctoral programs can take between four to six years to complete.

How To Become a Teacher

There are a few different steps to becoming a teacher, and they can vary from state to state. However, these are generally the steps you’ll need to take in order to enter this career field.

Step 1: Review Your State’s Requirements

Before anything, you should review the teacher requirements for the state you intend to teach in. This can be your home state or another. Each state clearly outlines the education, class, certification, exam, and GPA requirements in order to become a teacher. Some states may ask for extensive education, and it’s important to know what to expect before you get started.

This is also a good time to review any state-specific financial aid programs. Many areas offer loan repayment, forgiveness programs, or grants if you agree to teach in the state, in a low-income area, or in a specific high-demand subject after graduation.

Step 2: Choose a Major and Take the Right Courses

Teachers, depending on their goals, have to also choose a major. How you go about this depends on your goals.

If you want to teach in middle school or high school, you will likely want to select an area of study you’re passionate about, such as history or math. For elementary school, an early education major may be more suitable. If you’re not 100% sure you want to become a teacher, however, you may want to opt for a major you’re passionate about so you have other career options after graduation.

You should also plan on taking college courses on education, even if you’re not an education major. This will help you learn the necessary skills to lesson plan, connect with students, and more.

If you’re not sure what to major in or what classes to take, you should review your state’s requirements or discuss your goals and options with your academic advisor. Most colleges, however, have dedicated programs for future teachers that ensure you are meeting all of your state’s requirements. 

Step 3: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

All states require that you at least have a bachelor’s degree in order to teach. While you can start your education at a 2-year college or community college, you will have to attend a 4 year school at some point in order to advance your career and enter the education field.

Step 4: Take Part in Student Teaching

During college or immediately after, you should be taking part in student teaching. Many colleges have programs with local schools so talk to your department head about this opportunity. Most states require you to have a certain number of hours before you can become a teacher, but this number and requirement can vary.

Student teaching will give you much-needed experience in the education world, and partner you with a mentor (the class’s teacher) that can help guide you should you have trouble. You’ll gain lesson planning, classroom management, and time management skills that will all make a difference when you are responsible for your own class.

Step 5: Earn Your Certification and Take Exams

Most schools and states will also require you to earn certifications in order to teach. And take exams. Requirements here will vary depending on the state, the subject you intend to teach, and the grade you will be teaching. You will likely be asked to take a general teaching certification test in addition to any subject-specific exams related to your goals. You can find out more about certification options and testing requirements through your state.

Not all private schools ask their teachers to have certifications, but it varies from school to school.

Optional Step 6: Work Towards Your Master’s Degree

Some states will require you to earn a Bachelor’s degree, certification, and a Master’s degree from grad school. Even if your state isn’t one of them, working towards your Master’s can further your career. You will have more employment options and could qualify for higher pay.

If you’re interested in administration, too, you’ll absolutely want to work towards higher education as this is often a requirement.

Optional Step 7: Earn Your Doctorate

While many students wish to teach K-12, others would prefer to teach at a college level after they graduate. This often requires the highest degree you can earn. Some subjects only offer up to Master’s, but others do offer Doctorates. Whether or not you go after this higher degree depends on your career goals and particular subject or major.

Some students can become a teacher in less than four years, while others may have to attend college for six or more years in order to enter the education field. Your journey in becoming a teacher really depends on your goals, passions, and the state you intend to teach in. However, this career can be extremely rewarding and many find it’s worth the effort. If you think this is the right field for you, get started today by talking to your high school guidance counselor or college academic advisor.

Ready to explore the world of teaching? College Raptor’s Career Finder allows you to explore the different majors related to education, salary expectations, the best schools, and more!

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