Pathway to Teaching

The typical route into the teaching profession begins with a bachelor’s degree in education or a related major. However, you may be able to land a job as a pre-school teacher or kindergarten with an associate degree. Statistics show that 22% of pre-school teachers have an associate degree, and 21% have a bachelor’s degree. Whereas 67% of kindergarten teachers have an associate degree, and only 8% have a baccalaureate.

The percentages increase for elementary and middle school, with 75% and 73% have a bachelor’s degree, respectively. There is another jump to 87% of secondary school teachers have an undergraduate degree.

A crucial component before considering certification is the accreditation of the institution’s teaching program. All states have accreditation requirements. The school may need regional accreditation and independent organization accreditation. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is a requirement of many states. Endorsement by CAEP is an assurance that the school or its teaching program meets their quality standards. The organization reviews departments, schools, and colleges that prepare teachers and other educators.

Each state sets its teaching requirements. The federal level of government does not govern the process. One way of looking at the variances in teacher requirements by state is through examples. The following illustrates what it takes to become a teacher in different states.

Alabama

Before teacher certification, you need to have your bachelor’s degree from a college or university approved by the Alabama State Department of Education. Their website lists only in-state approved schools. If you attend an out-of-state institution, the program must be current with one of six regional accrediting agencies.

Before certification, teachers take the Alabama Educator Certification Testing Program. They also sit for the Praxis tests administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The next step is a background check, including the submission of fingerprints to the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the FBI.

Once you have complied with all the preliminary demands, you may apply to the Department of Education, along with transcripts, Praxis and state test scores, and a letter of Recommendation from your educator preparation program.

All of the requirements in Alabama are reflective of most states.

Alaska

The state uses a different approach to certification through a tiered system. It also requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, background check with fingerprints, as well as passing the competency test and content area exam. There is also a teacher preparation program and official transcripts requirement. Meeting these criteria may allow you to obtain the Initial/Two Year Teacher Certificate. A one-time extension of a year is available. Other levels have different qualifications.

Teaching Opportunities outside the Conventional System

There are a select number of jobs for teachers who do not have certification. Teach for America (TFA) is one example. The organization exists because 1.3 million students drop out of high school in the United States. Half of these students are of color, in predominantly low-income neighborhoods. The high dropout rates adversely affect income, crime, and society.

Individuals, corporations, and public funding support TFA’s efforts. Those joining the program become corps members whose dedication improves the quality of education for countless children. Here are their requirements for teaching.

  1. A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university before you begin the summer training – usually in June. Individuals who have met their degree requirements but do not have their diploma are eligible. All experience levels and ages may apply.
  2. Candidates must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale, as mandated by the TFA school districts’ and states’ partners.
  3. There are restrictions regarding resident status in the United States. Student, work, tourist visas, and refugee status are not acceptable. Successful applicants have to present proof of legal residency or citizenship.

TFA also recruits DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. These people started a life in this country as undocumented residents. The organization provides the opportunity for teachers to become corps members in one of 25 regions. From the Bay area of California to Connecticut, there are teaching jobs requiring no certification.

TFA seeks teachers who aspire to be leaders in the educational process. The application consists of sample lessons, group activity, and a one-on-one interview. The interview takes place at one of the hundreds of locations across the U.S. The sample lesson and group activity take place at the same location as the interview.

Private School

You could earn your state teacher’s certification while working anywhere in the nation. According to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), a teacher’s certificate is not a prerequisite of employment. The non-profit association has a network for 1,500 private schools covering K through 12th grade. Their site also has job postings. One example is the opening for a Middle School Math teacher at a private school in St. Paul, Minnesota. The required skills only state a bachelor’s degree.

Substitute Teacher

Substitute teaching is another possibility for those not being certified. You are not limited by state, as most school districts require only an undergraduate degree. Often, the degree does not need to be in education. One of the disadvantages is that your employment is not permanent, and a school might summon you on a day’s notice. However, if your degree is in education, you could perform as a substitute while earning state certification.

Conclusion

Since each state mandates its teacher qualifications, it is best to contact the Department of Education or the local school district where you plan to teach.

Additional Resources:

If I want to become a superintendent, is a Master’s Degree enough, or do I need a Ph.D.? 

Does becoming a Middle School principal have different requirements from a High School principal? 

Do Charter schools have different requirements for their teachers? 

What is usually done for a background check of teachers?