As a teacher you’re automatically put in a position where you have a huge impact on other people’s lives. And besides the incredible pleasure that comes from seeing your students gain new insights and become interested in new subjects, teaching is also incredibly self-educational! There is no doubt that teaching is a challenging job, but with the right know-how, getting there can be a lot less daunting. Receiving your teaching certification certainly helps with getting employers to notice you. It also does wonders with your confidence once you’re in that classroom facing your student crowd.
Standard Pathways to a Teaching Career
It is important to remember that rules and requirements are different in each state, as well as among private and public schools. However, there are also some key similarities in the most common ways that teachers go about obtaining certification, which allows you to choose a general path towards your own teaching career.
The most common way to enter teacherhood is getting your undergraduate four-year degree in the education field. If you complete a program in elementary or secondary education, you can then receive the appropriate teaching certification when you graduate with your degree. Education degrees usually include a student teaching requirement, so you'll have classroom experience by the time you finish. Because different institutions establish distinct criteria and the requirements vary greatly from state to state, have a look at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) to get an idea of what is needed for your specific situation.
Enrolling in a postgraduate course in education is also a common way to prepare for receiving teaching certification. Provided that you have a bachelor’s degree (no matter the subject), you can later change the direction of your studies by completing a graduate degree in education such as an M.Ed. degree.
As long as you have a degree in any subject, you may seek specialized certification to teach young learners at an elementary students or special subjects and students with special needs. Specific training courses and apprenticeship programs, where you get to learn from skilled teachers on the job, can effectively prepare you for certification testing upon completion, which then enables you to start working as a teacher. Some states allow you to complete an apprenticeship at a school in lieu of taking a certification exam or completing a degree in education, so be sure to check out your state's requirements.
After you have completed your undergraduate or postgraduate degree in an education-related field or you have undertaken a special teacher-training program, it is time to get your teaching license by taking a certification exam. Most states have their own licensure exam for teachers, and many have several tiers of exams based on the education and experience of the examinee. For example, some states have an initial temporary licensure examination. Passing this exam will certify you for, say, a year, after which you'll have to undergo additional testing or a performance review. There are also some nationally standardized teaching exams:
Praxis I, II and III tests cover many different areas and measure aspiring teachers’ knowledge and skills. You may be expected to get a passing score in one or more of these exams before you can submit your paperwork to your State Department of Education and get your certificate. Praxis I assesses your reading, writing and mathematical knowledge and leads to appropriate teaching licensure. Praxis II measures general as well as subject-specific teaching knowledge and skills and determines highly qualified status. Praxis III is for already-practicing teachers who wish to enter the field of school counselling. In this case, during your first year of teaching, an expert will observe you giving a lesson and then interview you, before he makes the decision to award you with Praxis III. Each state has established its own passing score as well certification requirements, and in some places Praxis is not even required. For this reason, check with your State’s Department of Education before proceeding.
Alternative Routes to Becoming a Teacher
When there is shortage of teachers in certain subjects, some states may choose to offer people without a degree in education, or those who wish to change career paths different ways to become certified teachers!
Intensive Teaching Programs
If you have worked in another field for a while and now wish to change paths and become a teacher, you may want to join an intensive teaching program. These usually take from a few months to two years to complete and efficiently prepare you for the unpredictable classroom environment. Most often, you can get a temporary teaching license and start teaching while continuing the course which will then allow you to become fully certified upon completion.
School Internship and Experience
Finally, you may have the opportunity to enter the teaching field by applying for an internship at a school or by acquiring subject-specific teaching experience. Although the criteria are usually stricter in public schools, most private or independent institutions decide on their own requirements for hiring teachers and may choose to train candidates through internships, or by placing them close to their knowledgeable teachers. Check out the National Association of Independent Schools for information on alternative ways to become a teacher for independent schools.