There has been a lot of turnover in this field recently, for many reasons, which is creating more job opportunity.
People interested in this critical and fulfilling career often wonder how long it will take to become a teacher.
How Long Will It Take to Become a Teacher?
In general, four to five years of college are required in order to become a teacher. Some programs allow one to complete their teaching credential along with their bachelor’s degree in only four years. There are some variables and exceptions, however.
Is it Hard to Become a Teacher?
The path to becoming a teacher is rigorous. After all, parents and society are entrusting their children to be educated for hours a day with teachers. It’s of utmost importance that teachers are well qualified and well trained.
Generally, teachers have to first complete a 4-year bachelor’s degree. They also need to complete a credentialing program, which is an additional 12 months, unless it’s combined with their bachelor’s.
Aspiring teachers also need to successfully complete credentialing tests and student teaching. Some states may have additional or different requirements as well.
As with most things in life, there are exceptions. The four to five year path with a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential is the requirement for public schools.
In some cases, one may be able to become a teacher in less than four years if he or she applies to a private school. This is because many private schools do not require a teaching credential, nor even sometimes a bachelor’s degree.
What Major Do You Need to be a Teacher?
One of the main requirements to become a teacher is to first have a bachelor’s degree. But what are the best majors for the bachelor degree?
The most preferable majors for elementary school or preschool teachers are early childhood education, child development, or education. Psychology is a beneficial major, as well.
For teachers who plan to teach a particular subject, a college major relevant to that subject would be helpful. Examples include math, science, writing, language arts, physical education, social sciences, history, geography, music, art, dance, or drama.
In addition to your major, you can get a minor or just take elective classes in other interests, as well. This can help you become more knowledgeable about your passions, which will translate into being a more interesting teacher!
Getting a Master’s Degree for Teaching
Although attaining a bachelor’s degree is required for teaching in a public school, getting a master’s degree has additional benefits.
Teachers who hold a master’s degree are almost always paid more than those without a master’s degree. They also may have more job opportunities, and most importantly, are shown to have better student performance.
The best master’s degrees for teachers are generally a master’s in education. There are many different options for specializations within this degree, however.
You also will need to decide if it is best for you to get a master’s of arts or science. The master’s of arts includes more theory, whereas the master’s of science is more practical and hands-on.
Some specializations include curriculum and instruction, English as a second language, Pre-K through 12, and educational leadership.
One can also earn a master’s in teaching or special education. It is also possible to earn a master’s in a specific field such as English education or mathematics education.
If you are having trouble deciding, you may want to ask the principal of your school, or your district’s administrators. Ask them which degrees would be most in demand, or most helpful for you to earn.
Becoming a Teacher at a Private School
Oftentimes, acquiring a teaching job at a private school is actually easier than at a public school. Private schools are not necessarily required to follow the same rigorous rules for their teachers as public schools are.
Instead, private schools are allowed to set their own requirements for their teachers. Although some private schools may have more strenuous standards, in many cases, standards may be more relaxed.
Many private schools do not require a teaching credential, or even necessarily a bachelor’s degree.
Private schools may have other requirements that public schools do not, however. For example, if the private school is associated with a religious institution, they usually require membership in that institution.
They will also still want to ensure that you are qualified and able to teach their students.
Of course, some private schools do have even stricter requirements, going above and beyond state requirements for public schools. There may be specialized training that they do require which may not be required at public schools.
The requirements vary from school to school, so it is important to check with schools individually.
Alternative Paths to Becoming an Educator
In addition to teaching at a private school, there are other paths to becoming an educator or working in education. Even if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree or teaching credential, or just don’t have them yet, jobs are available.
Some of these jobs include being a teaching assistant, childcare worker, or a preschool teacher.
Another term for a teaching assistant is sometimes “paraeducator.” Paraeducators have an important role in a classroom or school and work under the supervision of a teacher.
Depending on what is needed at their classroom or school, paraeducators may work one-on-one or in small groups with students. They may facilitate or support instruction, help with classroom management, or provide translation or other services, as needed.
Steps to Become a Teacher
The following steps are required for public school teachers. As described in a prior section of this article, private schools and some other teaching paths have alternative requirements.
- The first step for most teachers is to complete your bachelor’s degree. Refer to the prior section, “What Major Do You Need to be a Teacher,” to decide on a major.
- Decide if you want to teach in elementary school, high school, or special education.
- Earn your teaching credential based on your answer to Step 2. If you want to teach elementary school, you will need a multiple subject teaching credential.
Aspiring high school teachers must earn a single subject teaching credential. And special education teachers must earn the Education Specialist Credential.
The teaching credential can either be completed as part of your bachelor’s program, or after you graduate.
This step also includes completing all applicable testing and passing a background check. These procedures are essential to know that you are competent to educate children and safe for them to be around.
- Complete all student teaching requirements. This varies considerably by state. In California, 600 hours of student teaching are required.
Most other states require much less student teaching time, though.
You will need to be matched with and approved to student teach in a classroom. You will then be observed and evaluated by both the classroom teacher and a master teacher.
- Apply to be a teacher and get hired. After you have completed all of the other steps, the final step is to get your own classroom in which to teach! To do this, you will need to successfully apply, interview, and be chosen to work in a school.
Tips to Get Hired as a Teacher
Once you have completed all of the requirements to become a teacher, you’ll want to get hired as soon as possible. How can you ensure the best chances of getting hired right away?
One of the first things to do is to see which areas are most in need of teachers. You can look into this at this point, or even while you are working on your credential.
Some states, counties, cities, or school districts have greater teacher shortages than others. Although nationwide there are teacher shortages, not every school district is experiencing this.
Applying to growing districts or districts with a shortage of teachers will give you much higher chances of success.
Throughout your college education, credentialing, and student teaching, be sure to always do your best. This applies to your schoolwork and your interpersonal interactions.
In addition to the best grades, it is also important to collect glowing references and letters of recommendation. Positive letters of recommendation from your master teacher and supervisor are essential.
If there is competition for positions, you will want to make sure that you have the best application. This means, the best grades and the best letters of recommendation.
A history of relevant employment and/or volunteer work is very helpful as well. This can be working at a pre-school, or doing volunteer work with children such as at schools, libraries, or camps.
Finally, be sure to be professional, prepared, and positive during your interview. Try to do practice interviews with friends or mentors, if you are able.
How Fast Can You Become a Teacher?
Becoming a teacher usually takes between four and five years. It is possible, however, to become certified to teach in only four years. This is accomplished by completing an accelerated program which completes the credentialing process within the four-year bachelor’s degree. Some other exceptions and variables exist, as well.