Teaching is one of the most complex and challenging careers, yet it is also one of the most rewarding and vital jobs in our world today. Teachers not only provide knowledge and education but also are an integral part of preparing students for professional life and the complexities of adulthood.
Just as their role in a student’s life is complex, so too is the path to becoming a teacher. In fact, there are many different pathways to teaching, making the journey from a college student to a certified educator more complex than people may think.
Furthermore, the process and path to teaching begins long before they are the head of their classroom as they must complete a number of education requirements, including degree and certification requirements.
In today’s blog, we’ll focus on how to become an educator, including the different levels of teaching positions candidates can pursue and the path to teaching at each level.
What is a Teacher?
Teachers are responsible for the academic, personal, and emotional development of their students. They teach students of all ages how to adapt, self-regulate, ask questions, and become resourceful.
Teachers work full-time teaching students in public and private institutions as:
- Kindergarten and elementary school teachers: These are teachers who instruct young students (typically kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade) in basic subjects, such as math, science, and reading, and will often be the ones communicating directly with parents or guardians about their child’s progress.
- Middle school teachers: Teachers in middle school educate sixth through eighth-grade students. Unlike elementary school teachers who teach all subjects to one class, middle school teachers are generally responsible for teaching one subject, like math or English, to several different classes of students throughout the day.
- High school teachers: Responsible for preparing students in ninth through twelfth grade for life after high school graduation, high school teachers teach academic lessons and various skills needed for students to attend college and enter the workforce. High school teachers typically specialize in one area, including math, history, art, music, and physical education. Furthermore, they also may teach different classes within their subject area. For example, a high school science teacher might teach biology, physics, and environmental science.
- Post-secondary teachers: Finally, postsecondary teachers instruct students in various academic subjects beyond the high school level. Often called professors or faculty, these educators teach one or more courses at colleges and universities in a specific department and degree field, like engineering or business. Postsecondary teachers also conduct research and publish scholarly articles.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), candidates can expect to earn the following median annual salaries at the following teaching levels:
- Kindergarten and elementary school teachers – $61,690
- Middle school teachers – $61,810
- High school teachers – $62,360
- Post-secondary teachers – $80,840
The Path to Becoming a Teacher
The path to teaching will vary depending on the age of students you want to teach as well as your personal interests, goals, and desires for teaching.
While all prospective teachers must earn, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree to be eligible for certification, teachers need to pursue degrees that align with the grade levels that they wish to teach. Most bachelor’s degree programs will also require students to gain hands-on experience as student teachers.
Keep in mind that all states and schools also have different requirements, so candidates should do their research to understand what will be asked of them.
For example, the state of Connecticut requires candidates to complete an educator preparatory program at a regionally accredited college or university, like University of Bridgeport, which prepares students to be future teachers through their courses, fieldwork experience, and mentorship. These programs typically offer degrees at the following levels:
- Undergraduate, bachelor’s degree programs
- Five-year bachelor’s and master’s degree programs
- Post-baccalaureate, master’s degree programs
- Post-baccalaureate, alternative route to certification (non-credit)
At University of Bridgeport, you can earn your teacher certification in as few as 15 months without paying any tuition. Visit us online to learn more!
How to Become a Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher
In order to become certified as a kindergarten and elementary school teacher, candidates should pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree that provides them with an extensive knowledge base in a wide array of subjects. Then, candidates are ready to earn their teacher certification.
Some examples of this include an Integrated early childhood and special education certification, which allows candidates to teach children from birth through kindergarten or preschool through third grade. On the other hand, elementary education certification allows candidates to teach grades first through sixth.
While you can teach with their bachelor’s degree, many individuals will continue on to graduate school to earn a Master’s degree in Elementary Education, which provides them with advanced and more extensive knowledge in a variety of subjects, including language arts, math, and social studies.
These advanced degrees can also open doors to administrative positions and leadership roles, like principals and superintendents, in the field of education. Plus, teachers with Master’s degrees in Elementary Education can earn higher salaries. Note, students with a bachelor’s degree that are not yet certified can enroll in the MS certification program to become certified.
How to Become a Secondary Education Teacher
Secondary education teachers, including middle and high school teachers, will also often be required to complete a state-approved teacher preparation program to earn their certification. This is also in addition to their bachelor’s degree, preferably in the subject area they wish to teach.
It’s also important to note that some states will require educators to eventually earn their master’s degree in order to maintain their certification, which is yet another reason why earning an advanced degree, like a Secondary Education Master’s Degree, is beneficial for many aspiring teachers.
How to Become a Post-Secondary Education Teacher
Post-secondary education teachers working for four-year colleges and universities typically need a Ph.D. or other doctorate. However, some schools will hire candidates with master’s degrees depending on the specialty or position.
Doctor of Education (Ed.D) programs are also popular for candidates looking to become post-secondary education professionals, school superintendents, administrators, and academic researchers.
In addition to work experience and their teaching license, candidates can also benefit from obtaining additional licenses and certifications.
Additional Teacher Certifications
In addition to the above degree and certification requirements, teachers may also need to pass state board exams and assessments, such as the Connecticut State Board of Education’s teacher assessment (edTPA).
Additionally, the ETA Praxis II Elementary education test and Foundations of Reading Test are required for elementary school teachers while secondary education teachers must pass the Praxis II exams in their specific subject area.
Begin Your Journey as a Teacher at University of Bridgeport
As you can see, earning a bachelor’s degree is only the beginning of the educational path to becoming a teacher.
While it can feel daunting, candidates can stay motivated, knowing they will impact the lives of students of all ages. Plus, with committed and expert faculty, staff, and comprehensive support services, like the ones at the University of Bridgeport, students will be ready to get through college and into a great career.
Find out more information about how to become an educator by contacting us today.
We can’t wait for you to join the Purple Knight family!