Most teacher certification programs focus on preparing students to teach at public schools. You might wonder what you have to do to be qualified to teach in a private school classroom – and whether private schools have less extensive requirements than public schools. Although private schools face fewer government regulations than public schools, the heads of private schools may face other pressures in setting teaching requirements and hiring educators. Other factors that range from accreditation standards to organizational requirements and from internal policies to competition for student enrollment may affect the requirements needed to become a private school teacher.

Do Private Schools Have Different Requirements to Teach Than Public Schools?

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Differences Between Teaching Requirements at Public and Private Schools

Public schools are funded by taxpayers and subject to state and federal regulations. Among other things, these regulations can influence the requirements a teacher in the public school system must meet, including what kind of background check is permitted and what is needed to be eligible for a state-issued teaching certification. Usually, these requirements include a bachelor’s degree, coursework in teaching and learning, fieldwork experience in the form of supervised student-teaching and passing scores on exams.

Private schools don’t receive public funding, so they have more autonomy than public school districts – but that doesn’t mean they are completely unregulated. State governments are primarily responsible for regulating private schools, according to the United States Department of Education. State regulations for private schools can vary widely. Some states set a minimum number of school days during the academic year and set recordkeeping and health and safety requirements but are otherwise hands-off in their governance of private schools. Others are more restrictive.

In general, state-issued teaching certifications are not required to teach at a private school in most instances. Depending on the policies of the school or district, any organization of which it is a part and the local municipalities, there may be no minimum education and experience requirements to begin working at a private school.

Although private schools don’t have to hire teachers with a state teaching certification, they often have the same minimum educational requirements as the public schools in their area, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, private schools may be more willing to consider teachers whose bachelor’s or master’s degrees are in a subject other than education. You may still need a bachelor’s degree, but rather than a major in education, you could possibly major in a content area related to the subject you would like to teach.

Even if certain credentials aren’t required by the state, preparing for a career in teaching at a private school often means taking many of the same steps required for teaching in the public school system.

Authorities Beyond the Government That Influence Teaching Requirements

If the states and local municipalities don’t heavily regulate a private school’s requirements to teach, other authorities might. To illustrate the quality of their education, many private elementary and secondary schools voluntarily seek accreditation from outside organizations. These agencies, such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Independent Schools and the Middle States Associations Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools, set their own standards for accreditation. To maintain their accreditation status, private schools must continue to meet the accrediting agency’s requirements.

Private schools may also answer to other entities. Those affiliated with a church or religious group may require teachers to follow traditional values of that religion. You may also need training and instruction in the organization’s religious values and practices.

The Role of Competition in Private School Teaching Requirements

Just like private businesses in other industries, private schools need to bring in enough revenue to continue operating and, ideally, to grow and thrive. They face competition – not only from other private schools in the area but also from public options like traditional public schools, public charter schools and magnet schools. Because these public options are free at the point of service – that is, parents don’t pay tuition for their child to attend – private schools must convince parents that the education they provide offers enough value to make the expense worthwhile.

How do private schools persuade parents to pay for an education their child could already receive for free at a public school? They offer compelling reasons why private school education is better in some way than that available through competing public school options.

Families paying for an expensive private school education don’t want to hear that their children’s teachers are less qualified than those working at the local public school. Even when private schools are legally permitted to hire less qualified teachers, they have reasons to hold their educators to high standards. Their reputation, their financial stability and even their continued existence is on the line.

If the private school is a for-profit organization, it must answer to investors or shareholders. Overly lax teaching requirements could turn into a financial liability if they discourage families from enrolling their children.

Additional Resources

What Does a Private School Call its Principal?

What Are the Differences Between a Charter School and a Public School?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Teacher?

Do I Have to Have a Teaching Degree to Become a Teacher?