Certification, or licensure, is required to teach in public schools. TeachersCount, an excellent overall resource for those interested in teaching, explains below:
“The requirements for teacher licensure/certification are set by each state, and a state’s Department of Education website will have the most comprehensive listing of that information.” For a compilation of requirements for all fifty states click here.
While licensing requirements differ among states, most states expect teachers to fulfill the following requirements:
- You must hold a bachelor’s degree, and, in some states, a post-baccalaureate or master’s degree. For elementary education, you will usually need either a major or minor in education (for a bachelor’s degree) or a master’s degree in education. Kindergarten and elementary schools require teachers to have taken special courses in the teaching of reading, mathematics, physical sciences, and the like. Bowdoin graduates, then, who wish to teach in elementary schools should plan on a year of post-graduate education in order to earn certification or plan to teach in independent school.
- For secondary subjects, you will usually need a degree in the area you wish to teach and completion of an approved, accredited education program (such as the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars Program) that fulfills student teaching and practicum requirements.
- In addition to your major, you may be required to show proof of a strong liberal arts foundation. You will likely need to pass a state test or the Praxis exam administered by the Educational Testing Service. Some states also require proof that you have taken a variety of college courses in basic subject areas (English, math, science, social studies, and language), especially for obtaining licensure in elementary education.
Another valuable resource is teacher.org, outlining different careers within education and necessary preparation.
Alternative Teacher Certification
In recent years, a number of states, cities, and universities have begun offering alternative routes to certification as a way of attracting career changers and non-certified individuals interested in teaching. Typically, these programs consist of intensive teacher training and graduate school courses combined with an intensive teaching and/or internship experience in a school.
While post-baccalaureate teacher-education programs can take up to two years to complete, alternative certification programs usually allow you to begin teaching in a short amount of time (though you still have to take classes to obtain your alternative certification). Most programs offer students the option of obtaining their master’s degree in education at a subsidized rate.
For a summary of programs by state, as well as more information on alternative certification, you can visit National Center for Alternative Certification.
Teach for America, The New Pathways to Teaching in New Jersey Program, New York City Teaching Fellows, and the Mississippi Teacher Corps are four highly competitive, alternate-route teaching programs for college graduates who are not education majors.”
Additionally, most large cities sponsor teaching fellows programs.
Teaching at a Private School
If you do not wish to pursue certification look into teaching at a private school or consider working as a paraprofessional (also known as a teacher’s aide), a non-certified instructional staff person whose duties may include providing one-on-one or small group tutoring for students, assisting with classroom management, providing instructional assistance in a computer lab, conducting parental involvement activities, providing instructional support in the library or media center, acting as a translator, and providing instructional support to a student under the direct supervision of a teacher.