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Completing the education requirements to become a teacher is an indication of hard work and dedication, but getting started on the path to becoming a teacher can be confusing to some individuals. With so many degree options available, some potential teachers might wonder about the actual degree needed to become a teacher. Requirements can vary by state, but there are some general guidelines regarding degrees applicable to a teaching career.

Depends on What Kind of Teacher You Want to Be

The most appropriate degree for a teaching position depends on the setting. Elementary and secondary school teaching positions have different requirements than university positions.

In every state, elementary school teachers are required to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in education. The most common degree for elementary school teachers is the bachelor in elementary education. Some teachers also graduate with a degree specializing in the area they wish to teach, and some states require a double major in education and a specialty area. This is not always a requirement, but a teacher with a specialized degree can be a more attractive candidate for some job positions. Once a teacher is hired to a position, some employers require the teacher to pursue a Master’s degree.

For secondary education teachers wishing to work in a middle school or high school setting, a bachelor’s degree in secondary education is key. A minor or additional degree in a specialty area is a requirement for secondary school educators in many school districts. Like teachers in an elementary school setting, many secondary school educators are also required to eventually pursue a master’s degree.

Some states are making accommodations for job candidates with degrees in areas that are not directly related to education. These states will make exceptions for degrees such as psychology, history, the sciences, and some others. Job candidates still need to complete some college coursework in education. While this alternative path is available in some states, completing an education degree is the recommended path for students aiming to become teachers. The coursework for an education degree better prepares graduates for licensure requirements and working directly with students.

At the college and university level, a master’s or doctoral level is preferred for most positions, and a doctoral degree is required to become a professor. However, some entry-level positions do allow bachelor’s degree holders to become instructors. Bachelor’s degree holders are more likely to obtain entry-level college positions in a vocational or technical program. Experience within the field of instruction is a major bonus.


A student looking to become an elementary or secondary teacher should be familiar with state requirements. Individual state guidelines should help students select the most appropriate degree for a teaching position. For students seeking a position within a college or university setting, a master’s or doctoral degree is desirable, but some positions are open to individuals with bachelor’s degrees.