If you’re eager to go from a student role to a teacher role, then you might wonder how much time you will need to commit to preparing for a career teaching math. The precise answer will depend on where you are starting out your educational journey, but it could be as short as just one to two years or longer than four years. Once you earn your mathematics education degree, you also need to attain your teaching license or certification.
A Four-Year Degree in Math Education
If you haven’t yet earned a bachelor’s degree, then that would be your first step to becoming a math teacher. An undergraduate degree program in math education can typically be completed in four years. Your mathematics education curricula would include math classes such as calculus, algebra and differential equations as well as teaching classes like adolescent development, managing middle school and high school classrooms and curriculum and teaching in mathematics.
A crucial part of your college studies is hands-on experience as a student-teacher. Student-teaching is a semester-long experience in which the college student works in the classroom under the supervision of an established teacher, developing and carrying out lesson plans and grading assignments. Student-teaching is full-time and unpaid, but the work is intensive enough that most colleges prohibit extra coursework during the semester beyond the college class that corresponds to the student-teaching experience, the National Council on Teacher Quality reported.
Earning a bachelor’s degree can take longer than four years, especially if your schedule gets thrown off and you need an additional semester to devote to student-teaching. Among all majors, just 60 percent of students finish their bachelor’s degrees within six years.
Graduate School for Alternate Certification
What happens if you already have a bachelor’s degree in math but decided after graduating that you want to be a math teacher? You don’t have to start from scratch. The math degree you already have meets the subject area requirement imposed on high school teachers and, in many states, elementary and middle school teachers. What you do need is the coursework in education that will ultimately allow you to attain your teaching license or certification.
You can complete these requirements in a master’s degree program, sometimes called an alternate route certification program. These graduate degree programs are designed for students who are looking to change careers, so you don’t need past coursework or experience in education. Earning a master’s degree usually requires two years of study, and education is no exception. However, some states, such as Pennsylvania and Washington, allow colleges to offer graduate-level one-year certification programs that do not award a master’s degree. These options can put students on the fast-track to earning their teaching license.
Some alternate route certification programs are even offered online, though face-to-face student-teaching experience is still required.
Getting Your Teaching License
Completing your bachelor’s degree requirements, including your semester of student-teaching, is a crucial step on the path to becoming a math teacher. However, you still need to get your teaching license or certification. Licensure is required in all 50 states for public school teachers, who make up the vast majority of teachers at every grade level and who earn thousands of dollars more per year than private school teachers do.
Each state is responsible for setting its individual requirements for attaining a teaching license or certification, but those requirements typically include some combination of education, experience and exams, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For example, teachers often need a bachelor’s degree, teacher preparation coursework, a minimum GPA, supervised student-teaching experience, a passing score on a certification test and a subject area test and a background check.
For aspiring teachers pursuing alternate route certification, some states make candidates complete their full teacher preparation coursework, including student-teaching, before they can begin working in education. Other states award provisional certification. This credential allows the aspiring educator to begin teaching under the supervision of an experienced teacher while completing coursework in child development and teaching methods, the BLS reported.
Once you have completed your state’s requirements, you need to formally apply for your teaching license or certification. Your state agency may take weeks or months to issue your license, so the sooner you submit your completed application, the better.
You don’t necessarily need a teaching license, or even a degree in education, to work as a teacher in a private school. However, most private schools would still expect candidates for a math teacher position to have, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.