How Long Does it Take to Become a Teacher?
How long does it take to become a teacher? This is a big question for those looking to enter this profession or switch to this profession after some time in a different career. This article will explore different paths and lengths of time to become a teacher.
Teaching is a field that will never decrease or die out. As the need for education and degrees for employment continues, so will the need for good teachers. According to Learning Policy Institute and Economic Policy Institute, there has been and continues to be a shortage of certified teachers throughout the nation.
Before a student can earn a degree, he or she must get through elementary, middle, and high school, and these are all areas where there continues to be a teacher shortage. Luckily, many students are choosing to become teachers. If you’re interested in becoming a teacher and are asking the question “How long does it take to become a teacher?” you’ll get your answer here.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Teacher?
Every school in every state may have its own set of teaching requirements, but in most states, teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degree programs take four years to complete. If you want to teach kindergarten or elementary school, then you would need a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. If an individual wants to teach middle school, some states require them to have a bachelor’s degree in a certain subject like science or math.
Other states might require a major in elementary education. The degree needed may also have a different name for those wishing to be high school teachers, sometimes referred to as a secondary education degree. The one thing that all teaching levels have in common is that the teachers must complete a teacher education program to obtain certification, which is required before one can teach in a public school.
Aspiring teachers or aspiring teaching who need information on teacher education programs or certification requirements can visit the Teach website. This site provides information on requirements in different states. In some states, teachers are required to earn a master’s degree after they’ve obtained certification and found a teaching position.
A master’s degree will add another two to three years of education. Many teachers choose to earn a master’s degree online so they can earn the degree and teach at the same time. Earning a master’s degree can substantially increase the teacher’s earning potential.
Although it typically takes four years to complete a bachelor’s degree, which is required for teaching, it might take some students more or less time. Many students choose to take as many courses as possible through online teaching programs. This means they can complete the courses on their own schedule. Therefore, a student may earn the degree in as little as three years.
Path 1: I am starting from scratch (0-60 credits)
If you’ve decided you’d like to become a teacher, you’ve made a great choice because good teachers are very much in demand. The first thing you’ll want to do is choose an accredited college that offers teacher education degree programs. Next, you’ll need to decide what area of study you want to pursue. For instance, if you’ve always enjoyed math, you may want to study to become a math teacher.
You’ll need to earn a bachelor’s (Bachelor of Arts) degree. You may be able to just earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education if you wish to teach kindergarten or elementary school students. If you want to teach in middle school or high school, you’ll have to choose a certain area in which to study, such as math, science, history, English, etc.). If you’ve previously taken some college courses, check with the college to see if any of them can be transferred to your teacher education program.
While enrolled in your bachelor’s degree teaching program, you’ll take a variety of courses, including general education, teaching courses, and major-related courses. As a teaching student, you’ll also have to complete practicum courses, which include observing in the classroom and eventually working under the supervision of a licensed teacher. Internships, where you work with a mentor teacher, are a vital part of the teacher education program.
Time to a teacher career: Approximately four years
Path 2: I already have a degree and want to switch careers
Although teachers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree before they can begin teaching, the bachelor’s degree doesn’t necessarily have to be in elementary education. What this means is that if the individual already has a bachelor’s degree in another field but later wants to be a teacher, the individual doesn’t have to earn another four-year bachelor’s degree. So, if you have a non-teaching bachelor’s degree and wish to become a teacher, don’t feel that the bachelor’s degree you currently have was a waste of time.
Many states offer bachelor’s degree holders an alternative path towards becoming a teacher. This path involves the student completing certain education courses necessary for teaching certification. These courses include child development and various teaching methods.
Once the student has completed the required courses or what is called a teacher education program, he or she can obtain teaching positions under the supervision of an experienced and licensed teacher. The student is then eligible for certification. The teacher education program can take anywhere from one to two years to complete.
Alternative teaching certification programs may differ by state. One state may require the teacher to become certified upon completion of the teaching program while another state may award automatic certification without taking a certification exam.
Time to a teacher career: Approximately one to two years
Licensure and Certification
Public school teachers in all the states are required to be licensed and certified. Lack of certification is a driving factor in why so many states have teacher shortages. Some teachers complete their degree programs but fail to become certified, which means they cannot obtain licensure. The licensure requirements may vary from state to state, but they’re generally similar. Most have the following requirements.
- Candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree.
- Student’s GPA must satisfy the school’s requirements.
- Candidate must pass a criminal background check.
- Candidate must pass a teaching certification test as well as a standard demonstrating the candidate’s knowledge and ability to teach in the specific subject they’ve chosen.
Teachers are required to complete professional development courses to maintain their certification. Substitute teachers are often not required to be certified. Some individuals would like to be teachers but do not wish to work full time.
If you wish to work as a substitute teacher, you’ll still need a bachelor’s degree but may be hired after only a successful interview. The interview typically includes submitting to a background check, providing personal references and letters of recommendation. Again, this may vary by state.
Private schools do not require their teachers to be licensed or certified. However, private schools may require their teachers have not only a bachelor’s degree in education but a bachelor’s degree in a certain subject like math or science.
Career Outlook and Wage Potential
Because of the shortage of certified teachers, teachers continue to be in demand according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment growth of seven percent is expected for elementary, middle school, and high school teachers during the decade of 2020-2030. This growth should result in about 111,500 new kindergarten or elementary school teachers, 44,800 middle school teachers, and 78,200 new high school teachers by 2030.
As of May 2020, elementary school teachers earned an average yearly salary of $60,940, while a salary of $60,810 was earned by middle school teachers, and high school teachers earned about $62,870. The wages for these professionals ranged from $40,030 to $102,130 or more. Various factors can affect the wages, such as degree earned, certifications earned, employer, and geographic location.
Geographic location can play a big factor in wage potential. For instance, elementary school teachers earned the highest wages in California, where the average annual wage was $85,110 as of a May 2020 report by the bureau. The lowest wages for elementary school teachers were earned in Mississippi, where the average annual wage was $43,470.
If you are looking to become a teacher, check out more of our content on specific degree programs.