If you want to be a math teacher, you need to invest a good deal of time in school yourself. A four-year college degree in education is usually enough education to begin a teaching career. Graduate school offers opportunities for career changers, teachers who want to further develop their skills and prospective principals. While you can get a good job teaching math with a bachelor’s degree, educators should consider whether an advanced degree would qualify them for a higher salary or a new career path.
A Bachelor’s Degree in Math Education
If you want to be a math teacher, the first step is to pursue a bachelor’s degree in education. What grade level you intend to teach and the state where you plan to work will affect the coursework you complete as an undergraduate student. In most states, high school teachers must major in a content area, like math, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Somewhat fewer states have the same requirement for middle school teachers and even fewer require a content area of study for elementary school teachers, according to the BLS. Even if your state does not require content area studies for the grade you plan to teach, it is still a good idea to major in mathematics education if you really enjoy learning and teaching math. Having extra studies in a content area can only improve your career prospects, while not having content area studies could leave you ineligible for the role you want or unprepared for the work you want to do.
When you pursue a bachelor’s degree in math education, you need to take considerable coursework in both fields of study. Teacher preparation programs usually require students to choose a grade level: high school or secondary school, middle school, elementary school or early childhood education. Many math education programs are meant for aspiring high school teachers, but programs for elementary and middle school math teachers also exist.
A teacher preparation program includes studies in classroom management and pedagogical approaches and methods. Some classes you might take as an education major include Teaching and Learning, Teaching Students With Disabilities, Instructional Design, Language and Literacy and Child and Adolescent Development. For math teachers to have a thorough understanding of their content area, you will need to take considerable coursework in calculus. Classes in linear and advanced algebra are common, as are studies in geometry, probability and statistics. To develop the specific skills needed to teach math effectively, you may take specialized education courses in the teaching of math subject matters ranging from algebra to mathematical proofs. Like teachers of other subject areas, math teachers must put their knowledge to the test in a real-world classroom as a student-teacher.
Advanced math coursework is particularly important for high school math teachers, who might teach high-level math classes such as Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus. AP courses mirror the rigor of college coursework and prepare students for the AP Exam.
Alternate Route Certification Through Graduate School
What if you already attained your bachelor’s degree but are starting to wish that you had studied math education instead? It’s not too late to fulfill your dream of becoming a math teacher. If you haven’t taken teacher preparation coursework yet, earning a master’s degree in mathematics education could fulfill the requirements to get a teacher’s license. In these “alternate route” programs, graduate students complete much of the same coursework a bachelor’s degree teacher preparation would cover, often in as little as one to two years.
Not all master’s degree programs in education are alternate route certification programs, so do your research before you start applying. You should also make sure the alternate route program meets your state’s licensing requirements, especially if studying online.
How Math Teachers Benefit From Earning Master’s Degrees
Teachers don’t just wander into their occupation. They become educators because they have a calling for expanding the intellectual horizons of children and adolescents. This same passion often drives teachers to go back to school because they want to become even better instructors. Some studies suggest that teachers who go to graduate school tend to have better student outcomes than those who don’t. In master’s degree programs in education, experienced teachers learn advanced strategies for classroom management and curriculum design. They may have the opportunity to pursue a specialization in grade level, content area or professional area of emphasis.
If you decide that it’s time to take your skills beyond the classroom, you might choose to go back to school for an educational leadership or educational administration degree instead. Math teachers who advance to principal positions are responsible for managing the operations and activities of an entire school rather than a single classroom. They enjoy a median salary of $94,390, according to the BLS. Students in an educational administration degree program complete graduate-level coursework in principalship, human resources management, school resources management, instructional strategies, staff development, education law and data-driven leadership.
Teachers who earn a master’s degree often see a pay raise. While the average salary boost for a master’s degree is around $3,205 per year for new teachers and $8,411 for the most experienced teachers, the wage difference can be as high as $30,000 in some school districts.