All states in the U.S. require prospective teachers to earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, before they can be licensed to teach at a public school. A basic liberal arts undergraduate education provides a practical foundation for learning, and, eventually, for teaching. Typical bachelor’s degree programs require four or five years of full-time study at the college level.
One traditional route to teaching at the elementary, kindergarten, middle or secondary school level is to earn a bachelor of education degree from an approved college, university or teacher education program. Some of the programs that prospective early childhood, elementary or secondary school teachers enroll in focus on pedagogy, which is the study of being a teacher. Classes offered include strategies or styles of instruction, the process of teaching, education theory and practice, and educational psychology. Undergraduate education majors must also take courses in a variety of the subjects taught in grades K-8.
Subject Specific B.A. or B.S
Aspiring educators who are interested in teaching in secondary schools are often advised to choose an undergraduate major in the subject or discipline they plan to teach. For example, a teacher who wants to be a Biology instructor can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, while also completing required education courses in education, child and adolescent psychology, classroom technology and communication skills. Accredited colleges and universities usually offer B.A. or B.S. programs that provide coursework to meet the certification requirements of the state where the bachelor’s degree program and students are based.
How to Begin a Bachelor’s Degree Program
In order to enroll in a college or university with the goal of obtaining a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, students must first obtain a high school diploma, a GED or an Associate’s degree. College or university admission is often very competitive. Each college or university has specific prerequisites, such as minimum grade point average (GPA), passing standardized test scores, extra-curricular activities, essays and interviews.
Criteria for Getting a Bachelor’s Degree
Courses in a typical bachelor's degree program in education include methods of student assessment, instructional strategies, human development and cultural sensitivity. In addition to fulfilling all academic requirements, most bachelor's degree programs in education also require students to complete some type of supervised fieldwork, such as an internship in a classroom.
What a Bachelor’s Degree Allows Prospective Teachers to Do
The minimum most states require of teachers is that they earn a well-rounded undergraduate degree before pursuing a certificate or license to teach K-12 students. Earning a bachelor’s degree in a specific subject, or earning a bachelor's degree in education while concurrently completing a minor in a specific subject area, allow teachers to satisfy requirements for a content area endorsement, which refers to the subject a teacher will be certified as highly qualified to teach. For example, a teacher who wants to become a high school English instructor might choose to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree with a minor in English. English would then be listed on the teaching certificate as the teacher’s endorsement.
A student may enroll in a bachelor's program that leads to teacher licensure. These programs are generally 4-5 years long. Elementary level teachers study and will eventually teach all K-8 subjects. Teachers at the secondary level typically major in one or two subject, which they will ultimately teach. Students begin their teacher training in the last or fifth year of their bachelor's program. They are also required to complete a student-teaching internship prior to seeking licensure.
All states require public school teachers to be licensed before they begin their teaching careers. To find out the specific requirements of a state, students should contact their State Department of Education.
Career Opportunities with a Bachelor’s degree
Different career paths are available for individuals who earn a bachelor’s degree and want to be teachers. Students who aspire to become teachers must complete at least a four-year bachelor's degree. After earning a bachelor’s degree, individuals who want to teach must then satisfy additional state requirements in order to receive a teacher’s certificate or license.
Education careers include teaching in public or private school settings at all learning levels, including preschool, elementary school, middle school and high school, also known as secondary school. Some states currently offer emergency and provisional teaching credentials for those interested in becoming teachers in understaffed areas or high-need subjects.
In addition to school-based teaching jobs, community organizations that provide services for children or teens may be interested in hiring someone with a bachelor’s degree in education or in a specific subject, with an emphasis on teaching that subject. After-school programs, educational summer camps, community centers and education-based non-profits are some of the venues that prefer to employ people who have earned bachelor’s degrees and who have some experience – from fieldwork, internships or past jobs – working with or teaching young people. State or national government organizations may provide career options for individuals who hold a B.A. with an education emphasis.