Are you considering becoming a teacher? Teaching is a noble profession and one that can have a positive lasting effect on individuals, families and communities. Think about your own educational journey: Who was your favorite teacher? Why did they make an impression on you? How did they help you thrive?
Chances are a number of bright, caring educators shaped your life in invaluable ways. And now you want to join the profession to educate, guide and challenge students of your own.
Whether you are in high school and considering college majors, or you have been working in another profession for years and want to enter the education field, explore this guide on how to become a teacher from the University of Kansas School of Education and Human Sciences.
Is teaching the right profession for you?
Like any rewarding profession, teaching presents its fair share of challenges. Before you pursue the education necessary to become a teacher, you should determine if teaching will make the best use of your strengths and fit your personality and life.
Some of the qualities of a good teacher include:
- Communication skills
- Organization skills
Most teaching jobs are social in nature and require you to interact with students, other teachers, administrators and/or parents on a daily basis. Teachers also need to be able to act on their feet and make decisions that comply with a school's rules and regulations. In addition, a teacher must have the ability to defuse disruptive behavior and mediate disputes.
To discover if teaching is the right profession for you, get closer to the profession. Do you know any teachers? Inquire about their favorite and least favorite parts of the job. You may also be able to shadow a teacher for a day or volunteer at your local school.
What level do you want to teach?
Another factor to weigh is the age of students you prefer to work with. Teaching jobs exist at the following levels:
- Preschool (ages 3-4)
- Kindergarten (ages 4-5)
- Elementary school (ages 5-12)
- Middle school (ages 12-14)
- High school (ages 14-18)
- Postsecondary (ages 18+)
Preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school teachers generally teach a variety of subjects, including reading, writing and math, as well as basic life skills. Middle school, high school and postsecondary (college and university) teachers typically always focus on one subject matter area.
You can also pursue a career as a special education teacher. Depending on the role, special educators work with students in a certain grade level, or they may work with students of varying ages.
What degree do you need to be a teacher?
All states require public K-12 teachers to hold a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited school. (For instance, KU's online educator preparation programs are accredited under NCATE/CAEP standards.) In addition, you will need a license or certification depending on the state where you want to teach.1 Requirements vary by state, and you should familiarize yourself with your state's licensure requirements as soon as possible.
Preschool, kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically enroll in early childhood education programs, whereas middle and high school teachers take both general education courses and courses in the subject area in which they wish to teach. For instance, an individual who wants to teach high school biology will take advanced courses in biology as well as the necessary education courses.
You must also perform a certain number of student teaching hours before you can sit for a licensure or certification exam; again, this varies by state. Note that private school education and licensure requirements may differ.
What if you already have a bachelor's degree and want to become a teacher?
Plenty of teachers are called to education later in their careers after earning a bachelor's or master's degree in another area. Luckily, many colleges and universities offer master's and certificate programs designed to help aspiring teachers enter the profession. These programs can also be ideal for current educators who want to expand their skill set.
How long does it take to become a teacher?
The answer to that question varies depending on your situation and how much schooling you have completed. Typically, bachelor's degree programs take four years, plus any additional time required to student teach (if not completed during your bachelor's program) and time required to study and sit for the necessary licensure or certification exams.
Master's degrees in education generally take around two years. Certificate programs vary depending on the institution, but you can expect these programs to last anywhere from 6 to 12 months.
How much do teachers make?
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, median annual pay for the following education professions in 2018 was:
- $78,470 - Postsecondary school teachers3
- $60,320 - High school teachers4
- $59,780 - Special education teachers5
- $57,980 - Kindergarten and elementary school teachers6
Pay for a teacher varies based on multiple factors, including location, public versus private, school district and level of education. If you want to maximize your earning potential, consider going for a master's degree in teaching. Teachers who hold master's degrees earn an average of $7,358 more per year compared to those with bachelor's degrees, once they reach the maximum point of the pay scale.7
Ready to become a teacher?
Are you ready to rise to the challenges of a profession where no two days are alike, and reap the rewards that come from watching your students learn and grow thanks to your guidance and knowledge? It's not easy, but teaching can transform your life.
Note: No program can guarantee a licensure outcome. It is each student's responsibility to determine the licensure requirements in his or her state and to apply for the initial license or licensure endorsement necessary to his or her career goals. Our department staff and licensure officer can provide individual support during the application process to help you understand your state's requirements.
1. Retrieved on June 11, 2019, from learnhowtobecome.org/teacher/
2. Retrieved on June 11, 2019, from usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/university-of-kansas-155317/overall-rankings
3. Retrieved on June 11, 2019, from www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
4. Retrieved on June 11, 2019, from www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
5. Retrieved on June 11, 2019, from www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/mobile/special-education-teachers.htm
6. Retrieved on June 11, 2019, from www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
7. Retrieved on June 11, 2019, from nctq.org/blog/How-do-school-districts-compensate-teachers-for-advanced-degrees