The Details of Becoming a Teacher

There are few things as important to the success of a society and the well-being of its members than a good education. The amount and level of learning a person receives can help determine their career path, the nature of their occupation, and even the level of their income. Good education, however, depends on good educators, and standardized credentials are necessary to ensure that teachers are at the forefront of learning. The specifics of these requirements depend on the level and type of educational position, and vary from state to state or to type of institution. Beyond the basic requirements of each state, advanced certifications can be earned that expand the position and pay an educator can qualify for.

The Nature of Being a Teacher

In all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, citizens at a minimum age of 16 must legally attend some form of schooling. Because of this, elementary, middle and secondary schools are the most common forms of educational institutions. They cover schooling from kindergarten through 12th grade and come in a variety of forms, including public or private schools, boarding or charter schools, and military academies, among others.

Beyond K through 12, a variety of postsecondary schools, such as universities, colleges, professional schools, and technical institutes, offer further educational opportunities for adults or high school graduates. Teaching positions in postsecondary schools tend to be much more specific and require other, more advanced credentials, such as professional certifications or further schooling.

A Teachers Working Environment

Depending on the town or even neighborhood, the conditions of elementary, middle, and postsecondary schools can span a huge range, from rundown to immaculate. In poor areas, school buildings may be on the verge of passing building codes and lack basic supplies and equipment. In affluent areas, buildings may be in meticulous condition and never lack anything. Postsecondary institutions, on the other hand, are usually in good condition and well supplied.

Whatever the school or educational level, students are often hungry and excited to learn, and being part of their educational experience can be extremely satisfying. However, some students can also be unmotivated or difficult, and require patience and understanding, but helping them to succeed can be just as rewarding.

Training Education and Degrees for Teaching

Just as the curriculum gets more intensive the farther along the schooling, the requirements for teaching positions increase with the level of the position:

Substitute Teacher: A substitute teaching certificate requires the same preparations as a teaching certificate as well as the completion of a state-approved teaching preparation program. The certificate allows a person to substitute for regular teacher for up to 30 days.

Elementary, Middle, or Secondary Teacher: Teachers in public institutions must have a bachelor’s degree, with a specific number of education and subject credits, and have completed an approved teacher training program as well as supervised student teaching. All public school teachers must also be licensed, the requirements of which vary state by state. More specific positions in public schools require further experience or schooling relevant to that position, such as a master’s degree in special education for teachers looking at positions or relevant work experience for vocational teachers.

Postsecondary Teacher: Almost all four-year universities or colleges require full-time, tenured teachers, as well as part-time teachers, to have a doctorate or other terminal degree in their specific field. Most teachers at two-year institutions have master’s degrees in their field. With more experience, postsecondary teachers may often move into further, temporary or permanent positions such as dean, board member, head of department, or even president.

Although they don’t need to be licensed, private schools usually hire teachers with a bachelor’s degree specific to the subject they will be teaching. Depending on the nature of the public institution, teachers must have experience related to the school, such as religious schooling for church-affiliated schools or service in the armed forces for military academies.

With further certifications and schooling, teachers can move into other, more specific roles such as a guidance counselors or principal. These more highly-certified positions can provide more pay and benefits, but are harder to find with more competition.

Teaching Licensure and Certification

The requirements for teaching certification varies state by state, but usually includes a bachelor’s degree (or higher) from an accredited university or college, often in education, and the completion of an approved teacher’s preparation program, also from an accredited university or college. There are alternative routes to certification, but these also depend on the state.

What Teachers Can Expect In The Future

Increases in both child and adult enrollment, explosive population growth in many areas around the country, and a potentially higher level of faculty retirement than in most other industries, is creating a huge number of job openings for prospective teachers. Schools are already finding it difficult to fill teaching positions, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor expects that the number of graduates leaving postsecondary schools with education degrees in the coming years may not be able to meet this need

As the largest increases in student enrollment will be in grades K through 12, the largest number of job openings will be at the elementary, middle and secondary schools. Teachers qualified to teach in the highest need subjects, such as math, science and special education, should see very little trouble in finding open positions in most urban and rural areas around the country. Budget constraints, however, may lead to cuts in supplementary programs such as music, the arts, vocational courses and foreign languages.

While postsecondary schools will also see this trend of higher levels of student enrollment and faculty retirement, and are expected to have a larger number of open positions, the competition for the openings will remain stiff as more schools use part-time faculty and student teachers instead.

The Way a Teachers Salary Works

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, pay in the education industry is greater than average for all occupations, due to the higher levels of education and training required. Most full-time teachers are salaried, with postsecondary teachers earning the most, followed by elementary, middle, and secondary teachers. Pay increases with longer years of experience and higher levels of academic training. About 38 percent of educators are part of some form of union membership, again according to the Bureau of Labor, and the benefits for full-time positions are usually very good. The 10-month work year also allows many teachers to work in the off-season, either within or outside of the educational system.