The independent, trusted guide to online education for over 24 years!

How to Become a Teacher: A Comprehensive Guide

iStock-1324921370_v2

Back in the day, teachers followed strict curriculums and guidelines to follow. Today that is not the case. A teacher’s job now transcends the classroom and spreads into society and humanity at large. These days, teachers are also mentors and counselors alongside their primary role of imparting knowledge.

Perhaps you had a teacher in school who you loved and wanted to emulate. Or even if you are just passionate about teaching, there’s no better time to become a teacher than now. As a teacher, you have the platform to make a tremendous impact on the lives of young students.

If you want to share your love for learning and enjoy working with kids, then a teaching career might be ideal. We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on the steps you need to become a teacher and any additional information you’ll need along the way.

Who Is A Teacher?

In the broader sense, a teacher is anyone who aids students to acquire virtues, competence, and knowledge. In informal settings, anyone can be a teacher, such as a parent or elder sibling. However, teachers are professionals who work in educational institutions to teach students.

What Does A Teacher Do?

Teachers are a vital part of every society. They play an essential role in education, particularly in students’ lives they encounter daily. A teacher has much influence on their students and their ability to impact them positively. Some of the duties of a teacher include:

Sharing Knowledge

The most crucial role of a teacher is to transfer knowledge through teaching. Teachers usually follow a set curriculum and strive to ensure that the students follow all the lessons.

Taking Parenting Roles Outside of Home

Since teachers and students spend so much time together, the teacher becomes an external parent by default. Here, teachers can encourage, advise, and inspire students to become the best versions of themselves.

Standing as Role Models

Teachers become role models inadvertently because of the high level of contact with students daily. Students are impressionable. This daily contact is why one quality of great teachers is that they’re cautious about passing on the right attitudes and traits.

Steps To Becoming A Teacher

Perhaps you have decided on becoming a teacher, but you don’t know what step to take next. This step-by-step guide will help you with all the information you need to kickstart your career.

It is important to note that this guide focuses on becoming a teacher in the US. Requirements differ slightly from state to state. You can check the state-by-state requirements to determine what applies to your region.

Plan Your Career Path

It would help if you considered certain factors before diving into the exciting teaching profession. One of the most important of these is the education level and ages of the students you wish to teach. Here is a breakdown of the different levels and ages of students.

Education LevelAge Range (Grade Level)
Early Childhood Education (ECE)0-8 Years
Preschool / Pre-Kindergarten3-5 Years
Elementary4-11 Years (Grades K-5)
Middle School11-14 Years (Grades 6-8)
High School14-18 Years (Grades 9-12)
Special EducationAll Grades and Ages

 

The first three levels in the above table have a broader curriculum that caters to a younger population. Educators for these levels have to teach multiple subjects to younger children.

Teachers have to focus and specialize in a particular subject area like social science, geography, or biology in the middle and high school categories. As students grow older, their knowledge widens. Teachers need to focus on a particular subject to deliver an in-depth learning experience.

Earn A Relevant Degree

A bachelor’s degree in education is nice to have. Still, it is not compulsory to have one if you want to become a teacher. However, the minimum requirement to become a teacher is a bachelor’s degree in any field.

Individuals interested in teaching elementary students usually have a degree in elementary education. Meanwhile, those who teach higher grades typically major in the subject area they want to teach.

In place of a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, you can get other teaching-specific degrees like physical education, special education, early childhood education, and education administration.

Complete A Student-Teaching Program

A student-teaching program is a kind of internship that allows teacher candidates to apply what they have learned about teaching in a classroom environment. The program usually lasts for 14 weeks. During that period, the candidate works with an experienced teacher who guides them through the ropes of their chosen career path. The roles and expectations of a candidate during this period include:

  • Observe an experienced professional educator and teach for 14 weeks.
  • Craft lesson plans under the supervision of the cooperating teacher.
  • Assume teaching responsibilities for up to three or more classes. (Workload may vary depending on the school schedule and subject).
  • Take charge of all associated classes’ administrative duties, including grading students and attendance reports.
  • Create, administer and grade examinations for the associated classes.
  • Assume additional duties, including small group tutoring or study hall.

Get A Teaching Certificate

Teachers must be certified or licensed in a particular grade level before practicing professionally in all states. However, the rule is different for private school teachers as they do not need a license.

A high or secondary school certification is awarded to qualified high school teachers, which permits them to teach grades 7 to 12.

Every state has different requirements for licensure and certification, but they generally follow these items:

  • An undergraduate degree with a pre-set grade point average.
  • Complete a student-teaching program.
  • Pass an identity verification/criminal record check.
  • Take and Pass a standard teaching certification test and a test that demonstrates expertise on the chosen subject.

For specific details about the licensing requirements in any state, you can visit Teach.org.

Alternative Routes For Licensing

Individuals who have a bachelor’s degree without the required education courses for certification have the option to pursue alternative paths for accreditation. Most alternative certification programs permit the candidate to start teaching immediately under the supervision of an experienced teacher. Candidates can learn topics like resource management and teaching methods during the program. Alternatively, some programs allow students to take education classes before teaching professionally. Candidates gain full certification upon the completion of these programs.

Advance Your Career

After earning your bachelor’s degree and the necessary licenses, you can begin teaching or choose to advance your career by pursuing a master’s degree in education. Some of the most common reasons to pursue a master’s degree include the need to increase earnings, eligibility for promotions, and the desire to understand broader education techniques.

Apart from a potential salary increase, other perks are attached to earning a master’s degree in education or teaching. First, you acquire a broader scope of reference for teaching, which is highly beneficial to your overall career. Also, with a more extensive knowledge bank in educational theories like cultural perspectives, learning, inquiry and research, and psychology of the developing brain, you are likely to be more confident in your daily classroom routines.

Furthermore, a master’s degree gives you greater access to potential teaching positions. And if you wish to become a school principal or administrator, this degree sets you on that path.

Getting A Teaching Job

After you have earned a teaching license, the next step in your journey is to find your dream teaching job. Whether you are just starting on the teaching career path or already experienced, it is vital to understand the job market for teachers. Searching for a teaching job the right way can significantly enhance the odds of landing a job. Below, we have outlined a few tips for finding your dream job:

Understand The Education Job Market

Education is necessary for everyone, and as such, teachers are always in demand for all grade levels and subjects. However, particular areas like foreign languages, English as a Second language (ESL), mathematics and chemistry teachers are always in higher demand. Additionally, location also plays a vital role in the market for teachers. For example, high needs schools in some rural and urban areas have difficulty attracting and retaining teachers. Here is a breakdown of vacancies for teachers in public schools by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Get Ready For The Search

There are a few things to remember before you start your job search. First, find out the requirements for the particular state where you want to teach. Remember that every state has its own requirements, and to qualify, you need the correct teaching credentials. These tips will help you fast-track your job search:

  • Update all necessary documents.
  • Write a teaching statement.
  • Prepare your list of references.
  • Apply for jobs.
  • Keep track of your applications.

While applying, take your time to thoroughly go through all the requirements and make sure to submit through the preferred method (mail, fax, and hard copies).

Teacher Salary

The passion for educating students is a major factor many people go into the teaching profession. But apart from that, a handsome paycheck can motivate more people to venture into it as a career. Here, we break the salary and outlook for every level in the teaching ladder:

High School Teacher Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Services, The median pay for high school teachers is $62,870 per annum. Also, between 2020 and 2030, there will be an estimated 77,400 openings for high school teaching jobs. This figure represents an 8 percent growth within the same time frame.

Kindergarten / Elementary School Teacher Salary

The annual salary for elementary school teachers, on average, was put at $60,940 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2020. Among elementary school teachers, entry-level positions offer below $40,030, while those at the peak of their careers earn above $100,480.

Kindergarten teachers earn slightly lower, with a $57,860 pay package yearly. In contrast, the lowest salary for kindergarten teachers was slightly below $37,360. The top earners make at least $91,980 annually.

Middle School Teacher Salary

According to BLS, the top 10 percent of middle school teachers earned an average of above $98,840 annually. At the same time, those at the foot of the earning tree racked in $40,930 yearly. In addition, the average middle school teacher earned $60,810.

Furthermore, job openings for middle school teachers are expected to grow by 7 percent between 2020 and 2030, which is as fast as any other occupation.

Preschool Teacher Salary

Generally, preschool teachers have the highest projected employment growth rate out of all the categories. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment for this category is expected to grow by 18 percent between 2020 and 2030. The median wage for preschool teachers is $31,930 annually on salaries.

Post-Secondary Teacher Salary

Post-secondary teachers are among the highest earners among teachers in the US, and understandably so. The average annual salary for a post-secondary teacher is $80,560, and the top 10 percent of post-secondary teachers earned above $179,540. Also, the employment rate for post-secondary teachers looks promising, with about 139,600 new openings predicted for each year.

Special Education Teacher Salary

Special education teachers earned an average of $61,500 in 2020. Top special education teachers made as much as $100,570, while their counterparts at the other end of the spectrum took home less than $40,820. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be around 36,800 job openings for special education teachers yearly.

The Qualities You Need To Become A Teacher

You need more than just a degree or certificate to become successful in your teaching career. A teacher’s job is much more than instructing pupils. For example, teachers have to create lesson plans, interact with parents, and work with administrators. While some of the demands may come naturally to some teachers, others might have to learn them. One way to learn these skills is through formal education, and hands-on experience is another route. Here, we list some of the most vital soft skills a teacher would need in their career path.

Patience

Patience is a critical factor for success as a teacher. Every teacher must understand that the classroom is a mix of different intellectual abilities, cultural backgrounds, and learning styles. A teacher would find it easier to work with committed students who contribute during class discussions, turn in classwork early, and are generally easy-going.

On the other hand, some students might cause behavioral disruptions and submit assignments late. In cases like this, the teachers should be able to balance their expectations and the unique ability of every student.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is essential for a teacher, as it will help them achieve the institution’s goals. At the same time, they consider the students’ best interest. They should also align parents’ expectations with the institution’s standards. For instance, a good English teacher should check if the themes of a particular story are appropriate for the class.

Communication

Teachers communicate through so many methods daily to their students. Communication includes body language, written and verbal communication routes. Body language is one of the most common and yet unconscious methods of classroom communication. The way a teacher stands, how often they smile and make eye contact with students can go a long way to determine whether the students engage in the course or not. Strong verbal communication is also a key trait of good teachers. Teachers should clarify their lesson expectations and present complex concepts in simple language. Written communication skills mostly come to play when teachers give feedback on classwork or draft progress reports for the parents.

Organization

Most public schools have at least 30 students or more in a classroom. This environment can be overwhelming if a teacher loses control of their class. To avoid this, a teacher must ensure that every material needed to keep the classroom running without stress is in place. Additionally, a well-organized classroom should be free from distractions.

Imaginative Thinking

A teacher would have to employ various creative methods while instructing the students. And the method employed relies heavily on the age range of the students involved. A post-secondary school teacher might need to use relevant media like short clips and images to illustrate specific lessons. On the other hand, those teaching a younger population can incorporate creative arts and singing to enhance learning.

Leadership

Every teacher needs to display leadership skills both inside and outside the classroom environment. A teacher who demonstrates strong leadership skills is more likely to advance faster in the profession. Teachers can aim for extra duties outside the classroom to develop leadership traits. Opportunities include managing a sports team or taking charge of a particular club, like dance, drama, or chess.

Teamwork

Teamwork has to do with how teachers interact with other school officials. There are regular meetings to discuss the best classroom practices and curriculum for teaching students in most schools. In these scenarios, teachers can show their teamwork attributes. They can do so when working with school nurses, guidance counselors, and psychologists. Also, teachers might have to work with suggestions from other personnel, even if it differs from their personal opinion.

Time Management

A teacher’s job doesn’t end in the classroom, and most of the time, they need to work from home during evenings and at weekends. Teachers need to grade papers, source classroom materials, and plan lessons away from the classroom. To keep a healthy work-life balance, they should set aside certain day hours for personal activities. These healthy boundaries should not interfere with the school and student activities. Teachers who can manage their time effectively tend to be more productive.

Computer Skills

With the increase of classroom technologies, teachers must have good computer skills to stay relevant. Apart from tracking grades, teachers can also use computers to prepare study guides, worksheets, lesson plans, and tests. Classroom activities are not left out, as technology is also helpful for interactive videos and online databases/libraries. So, an educator must be comfortable using a computer for different purposes.

Conflict Resolution

Disagreements are likely in any classroom, especially when all the students come from different backgrounds. Younger students might have disputes over toys and games, while conflicts over personal matters are more common among older students. The teacher’s responsibility is to limit these squabbles to the barest minimum and nip any disagreements in the bud. The skill also comes in handy when dealing with students’ parents who may have different viewpoints.

What Type Of Teachers Are In Demand?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are at least 77,400 high school teaching job openings each year. It is no news that teachers are almost always in high demand. However, some niches are underpopulated and offer less competition than others. These high-demand jobs often require particular expertise or extra certifications.

ESL Teachers

“English as a Second Language” tutors are among the most in-demand teachers. One out of every five kids speaks a non-English language at home. In hard stats, about 21 percent of public school students have a hard time following lessons in English. ESL educators help plug this gap by assisting students in communicating in English better. Teaching ESL goes beyond English words, as educators also help immigrant students blend into society.

Math Teachers

Mathematics teachers are another set of in-demand teachers. Qualified math educators for both elementary and secondary teaching positions are scarce. According to the website, Nations Report Card, only 39 percent of the fourth-grader population in the US scored a mark that merited “proficient” in math. Because of this, school districts are always looking for qualified individuals to take up math teaching positions.

Science Teachers

Recent studies have shown that students in the US are not up to par with their global contemporaries in science. Considering that the world relies heavily on scientific innovation, there is a constant need for passionate and qualified science teachers to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.

Start Today!

Teaching is a gratifying profession, and there are many opportunities to advance and grow in leadership and understanding human behavior in the career. The best part is that you can also achieve financial freedom as a teacher.

Now that you have these valuable insights on becoming a teacher, all you need is to take steps towards achieving it. You can also visit the GetEducated.com educational resources to find out more about the diverse opportunities in education.

Related Resources

Browse Now

Search Over 1,600+ Schools with 30,000+ Degrees