If you’re looking to have a great impact on the lives of many students, then you may be considering becoming a teacher. At the start of your journey, you’ll likely find yourself asking, “What degree do you need to be a teacher?”
We’re here to share everything you need to know about becoming a teacher. We’ll answer questions like, “How long does it take to become a teacher?” as well as share the steps you can follow to land your first position as a teacher.
What Makes a Good Teacher?
Before jumping into degree options, you should first be sure that a career in teaching is the right path for you. It takes a unique type of person to be a great teacher.
One of the most important qualities you must have if you’re interested in becoming a teacher is patience. You can’t get angry at students struggling to grasp certain concepts. Instead, you must be incredibly patient, understanding, and encouraging.
Teachers also must have a great passion for what they do. It’s rare that you’d ever find a teacher who entered the field simply because of the money or the summer vacations — rather, most teachers go into it because they have a huge passion for education and want to have a positive impact on their students.
Many of the best teachers felt a strong calling to become a teacher from a young age. They claim they did not choose to teach, but teaching chose them. If you feel this deep yearning to become an educator, it probably means you’re on the right path!
It can be difficult to decide on a career, however. If you’re unsure about pursuing a teaching career, you can test the waters first by volunteering at schools either locally or abroad, by becoming a teacher’s assistant, or by getting a substitute teaching job. These opportunities do not require formal education, so they’re great options for getting your feet wet before diving into getting a degree.
What Degree Do You Need to Be a Teacher?
Once you’re truly committed to the idea of becoming a teacher, you’re all set to pursue your degree in education! Yes, you can major in education (you can even get a master’s in the field). This is the optimal subject to study, for obvious reasons.
But, if you already have a degree in another field, then don’t fret. You can still become a teacher. Keep reading to learn how.
Your Teaching Degree Options
You have some choices on what degrees or certifications you need to obtain to become a teacher, depending on how much experience you have and what type of teacher you want to become.
No matter what, you should always make sure the college or university you are looking into is accredited. If they aren’t, then employers may not consider hiring you.
You should also keep costs in mind, so you don’t wind up getting bogged down with massive student loan debt. Look into the costs of programs, apply for scholarships, and see if you can get financial aid, as well.
Once you find a few programs you’re interested in, reach out to past graduates to see what they have to say about it. This can help narrow down your search for the perfect program and see whether it will be a good fit for you.
Now let’s explore your options!
1. Bachelor’s Degree
If you don’t have a bachelor’s yet, this is the first step to becoming a certified teacher. All public schools require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree at the very least.
Many universities and colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in education, including more specific programs such as early childhood education, if you want to become a preschool or elementary school teacher, for example.
There are many different options and programs out there, depending on what teaching path you want to pursue.
If you want to become a teacher in a specific subject, such as science, history, or art, then it’s a good idea to minor in the subject you’re passionate about. This way you’ll be very well equipped and qualified to teach your future students everything they need to know.
But, it could be the case that you already have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than education. That doesn’t mean that your teaching prospects are over with. You can use that bachelor’s degree to apply for a master’s program in education. This way, you can still learn the hard and soft skills that you need to become a teacher, without letting your previous education feel like it was wasted.
2. Master’s Degree
If you’re interested in teaching high school or college students, you may want to consider getting a master’s degree. Some schools don’t require it, but it will certainly give you a leg up when searching for a job, and it will open up a whole new world of opportunities for you.
Having a master’s in education also means you will receive a higher salary, since you are more qualified. Exactly how much more you can make depends on where you live. That being said, at the highest peak of one’s career, a teacher with a master’s degree can expect to earn an average of $7,358 more per year than a teacher with just a bachelor’s degree. Now, consider how many years you may be teaching, and multiply that figure by the number of years. You can see how massively beneficial it becomes to have a master’s degree in education if you are looking to maximize your earning potential.
If you’re interested in pursuing a Master of Education, there are many options out there. You could go to school full-time to get your degree as quickly as possible. However, a lot of teachers study part-time while they teach during the day, which is a great idea to keep the income flowing.
You can even obtain your master’s completely online — this is an ideal option if you have a busy life you can’t put on hold. Studying online allows you to learn from home and gives you the most flexibility, so you can easily continue to work or care for your family while you strive towards getting your master’s.
If the high cost of getting a master’s degree has been holding you back, consider applying for the University of the People’s Master of Education in Advanced Teaching program. It’s an IB accredited, fully online program that is tuition-free. You can choose to specialize either in Elementary/Middle School Education or in Secondary Education — or both, if you’re really ambitious!
With its IB accreditation, you can work in almost any private school around the world! This is an amazing opportunity for anyone that wants to take their teaching skills to the next level, so they can provide their students with the highest quality learning environment. And because it is tuition-free, the costs will be much lower than that of a traditional on-campus institution.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Teacher?
As you can see, the amount of time it takes to become a teacher will depend on several variables. For starters, will you be attending a degree program full-time or part-time? Will you pursue a bachelor’s degree and certification, or continue your education to earn a master’s degree?
That being said, the general amount of time that it takes to become a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and licensure is 4-5 years. If you add on a Master’s in Education, then you’re looking closer to a 5-7 year span. Again, these numbers will vary based on your enrollment choices, the grade that you wish to teach, and where you want to teach. For example, some states in America will require continued licensure, or a master’s degree to teach.
To make sure that you have the requirements to teach in your respective state or country, be sure to perform adequate research to find out about what degree you’ll need to obtain specifically.
Alternative Options for Becoming a Teacher
If going back to school seems too daunting for you, there are alternative options that can allow you to become a teacher — you just won’t be as qualified for as many jobs out there.
Teach For America offers training for people wishing to teach in high-need areas. All you need is a bachelor’s degree in any field. If you are accepted into their program, you will go through a summer training intensive, and then TFA will help you with the process of finding a teaching job in one of their 51 regions across America, from New York City to Hawaii.
If you don’t live in the US, there’s also Teach For All, which operates in 48 countries worldwide to train and place educators in schools globally. Go here to see if your country is on that list.
If you’re interested in teaching abroad, you can get a TEFL certification — TEFL stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language.” You can obtain a TEFL certification either at an in-person training program or online; there are lots of programs out there, so do your research before picking one. One popular online program is TEFL Online, as they provide job placement assistance and have a job board just for their members.
As you can see, there are many different ways to become a certified teacher. Your path forward all depends on what kind of teacher you want to be and how much time you want to invest in your teaching education.
No matter what path you choose, you will be well on your way to becoming a great teacher who will positively impact many people’s lives. Good luck on your noble journey!