What Degree Do You Need To Be a Teacher?
There seems to always be a demand for qualified and licensed teachers. Whether it’s due to teachers retiring, changing occupations, or teachers being let go due to state budget cuts, licensed teachers continue to be needed in all grade levels. Becoming a teacher involves education and training. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that careers in teaching can open up many job opportunities.
What degree do you need to be a teacher? It all depends on what subject and grade level you want to teach. There are varying factors that dictate state requirements for teachers. Continue reading and learn everything you need to know about teachers and teaching requirements in terms of what degree you’ll need.
In all the states, an individual must have at least a bachelor’s degree to become a licensed teacher and teach K-12 students in public schools. The bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete and must be from an accredited college.
The Bachelor of Science in Education is generally the degree earned by aspiring teachers. The curriculum in the bachelor’s degree consists of general education and major-related courses. General education courses include:
- Social Science
- Natural Sciences
Major-related courses the student may take include:
- Child Development
- Methods of Teaching Elementary Students
- Early Language and Literacy
- Children with Special Needs
- Class Management
- Effective Teaching Skills
- Assessment of Young Children
- Foundations in Education
- Curriculum & Instruction
In some states, the teacher may be required to specialize in a certain area, such as science or mathematics. In addition to completing the coursework, students must also complete an internship, which involves spending time in a classroom working alongside a licensed teacher to gain hands-on training. Bachelor’s degree teaching programs can be taken on campus or online. However, online students will still have to complete the practical experience (internship) in the classroom.
Although a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement to become a teacher in many schools, some teachers and aspiring teachers choose to pursue a master’s degree. The master’s degree may be in teaching, education, or in a specific subject or grade. Some schools may hire a teacher with a bachelor’s degree but require the teacher to earn a master’s degree once he or she has obtained some experience.
Master’s degree programs can typically be completed in two years if the student already has a bachelor’s degree. Online master’s degree teaching programs are very popular because they allow the student to earn the degree while continuing to work and gain more experience. Master’s degrees are also required if the teacher wants to obtain certification in certain subjects or grade levels. Teachers have the option to earn multiple certifications, which makes them even more of an asset to the school.
Students pursuing a master’s degree in teaching or education will complete coursework and complete a research-based project. Course topics master’s degree students may take include:
- Designing Curriculum and Instruction
- Standards-Based Assessment
- Psychology of Child Development and Learning
- Early Childhood Education
- Research Methodology
- Science, Mathematics and Content-Based Education
While searching for the answer to the question, “What degree do you need to be a teacher?” you’ve probably been told a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in teaching or education. While earning these degrees is the most common path toward becoming a teacher, it’s not the only path.
Suppose you currently have a bachelor’s degree, but it’s not in teaching. You may be thinking that you’re expected to complete another bachelor’s degree to become a teacher. The good news is that you will not have to. What you will need to do is complete a teacher education program. This is similar or the same as the program you’d have to complete after earning your bachelor’s degree.
This is a state-required program that must be completed before a teacher can apply for certification or licensure. It’s important to remember that every state is different in its teaching requirements, so it’s important to research what’s required in the state in which you want to teach. You can find some valuable information regarding teacher education programs and certification online.
Teaching degrees are not all created equal. For instance, if you have a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license for early childhood, you can’t automatically teach special education or secondary education. The type of degree you’ll need depends on what age/grade students you want to teach as well as what subject you want to teach.
Specialty Teaching Degrees
Early childhood education refers to children between the ages of birth and eight years of age. Because their young brains are still developing and soaking up the environment, they require a specialized education to ensure they develop important skills that prepare them for later years. Examples of early childhood workers would be childcare workers, preschool teachers, and kindergarten teachers. The type of training or degree each of these positions requires includes:
- Childcare workers – Daycare providers may get by with just a high school diploma and some training. If they are working in Head Start or Early Head Start schools, they must have additional training and be certified. These requirements vary by state. Although not required, a bachelor’s degree in education can be very beneficial. Childcare workers earned an average annual wage of $28,520 as of May 2022 as reported by the BLS. These workers are expected to see a six percent job growth between 2021 and 2031.
- Preschool workers – Preschool workers’ educational requirements depend on where they work. If they’re working in a Head Start school, they must have at least an associate’s degree with certification. If they’re working in a public school, they should have a bachelor’s degree and certification. Preschool workers earned an average annual wage of $30,210 as of May 2022. These workers are expected to see a 15 percent job growth between 2021 and 2031.
- Kindergarten teachers – Kindergarten teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and certification/licensure if they’re working in a public school. Depending on the school, kindergarten teachers may be required to specialize in a certain subject area, such as mathematics. Preschool workers earned an average annual wage of $60,490 as of May 2022. These workers are expected to see a four percent job growth between 2021 and 2031.
Elementary education teachers generally teach students from grade one through grade six. They are in the same category as kindergarten teachers as far as educational requirements. They must have a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. This goes for both private and public schools. Elementary school teachers working in a public school may be required to major in a certain subject in certain states.
Some states may also require elementary school teachers to earn a master’s degree after they have been employed there for a while. They must also be certified in the grade level they want to teach. As of May 2022, elementary school teachers earned an average annual wage of $61,690. They are expected to see job growth of four percent between 2021 and 2031.
Secondary education teachers generally teach grades seven through nine. They are often referred to as middle school teachers. Secondary education teachers must also have a bachelor’s degree. Depending on the state in which they work, they may be required to major in elementary education or in a certain subject, such as history, science, or math.
Some schools or states require secondary education teachers to earn a master’s degree after they get certified and begin teaching. The same requirements do not apply to those teaching in private schools. Secondary education teachers are expected to see a four percent growth in jobs. As of 2022, secondary education teachers earned an average annual wage of $61,320.
Special education teachers teach and work with students who suffer from emotional, mental, learning, and physical disabilities. They must have a bachelor’s degree in both public and private schools. However, they are only required to obtain certification in public schools.
Some schools may allow the bachelor’s degree to be in education or in a subject matter like science or math with a minor in special education, while other schools may require the major to be in special education. Special education teaching students learn about the various types of disabilities a student may have and how to deal with them and help the student learn despite the disabilities.
Some states will not allow special education teachers to become fully certified until they’ve earned a master’s degree in special education. Special education teachers earned an average annual salary of $61,820 in 2022 and are predicted to see a job growth of four percent in 2021-2031.
Teach English as a Second Language
Also known as English for Speakers of Other Languages, English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers teach students to speak, write, and read English. These students are typically those whose native language is not English or those who are immigrants to the U.S. The students may also be from other cultures or countries. Teaching these students can be tricky or difficult sometimes because the student and teacher do not share a common language.
English as a Second Language teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Teachers who want to teach at a community college may be required to have a master’s degree or have completed graduate courses in English as a Second Language or in adult education. Teachers of English as a Second Language saw an average annual wage of $59,720 in 2021. Despite the need for these valuable teachers, employment of these teachers is actually expected to decrease by six percent between 2021 and 2031.
It can’t be stressed enough that every state has different requirements for its teachers, so it’s important to check with your state board of education on the requirements for your state. One thing that is fairly consistent with all the teachers needing degrees is that they must be certified, and they’re all required to complete a teacher education program or teacher preparation program after they earn the degree.
Teach.org offers valuable information on teacher education programs, certification, and just about anything you’d want to know about becoming a licensed teacher. You can also find information on state requirements on the U.S. Department of Education website. This is a requirement for certification so that they may be licensed to teach. To be eligible for certification, the teacher must meet these requirements.
- Must have a bachelor’s degree with an acceptable GPA
- Must have completed a student-teaching program
- Must pass a criminal background check
- Must pass a teaching certification exam
- Must pass a test demonstrating knowledge of the subject they will be teaching
Getting a degree in education means a solid career where you will help not only your students, but the community as a whole. Inquire with a few programs and enjoy your future career.