What Certifications and Degrees are Required to Become a Teacher?

Teacher CertificationsThe certifications and degrees required to become a teacher depend upon the type of teaching job an aspiring educator wishes to pursue. Far from the days of the one room school house, today’s teaching profession specializes degrees to deal with the diverse learning needs and backgrounds of all students. As a result, many teachers not only hold bachelor’s degrees but masters, doctorates and certifications in a wide variety of content and specialty areas.

Teaching Degrees at the Undergraduate Level

According to to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, accredited four-year teacher training programs usually earn students a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree. In addition to completing general education requirements for the bachelor’s, studies concentrate on the grade level, subject or specialization area being declared for the major. Examples include:

  • Early Childhood Education (Preschool)
  • Elementary and Middle School Education (K-8) including language arts, math, social studies and science.
  • Secondary Education (9-12) in various subject areas
  • Physical Education and Coaching (K-12)
  • Art or Music Education (K-12)
  • Technology Education (K-12)
  • Special Education (K-12)
  • Reading and Literacy Education (K-12)
  • English Language Learner Education (K-12)
  • Dual Language Immersion (K-8)
  • Foreign Language (6-12)

Coursework covers broad, educational concepts and focused studies in the concentration area. General topics may review: the history of teaching, instructional strategies, assessment methods, educational psychology, classroom behavior management, exceptional learners, cultural and socioeconomic influences on learning, educational law and professional ethics. Practicums and student teaching experiences in different grades, subjects or specialties help students make final decisions about the degree endorsement they wish to earn.

Master’s and Doctoral Degrees in Education

As part of the certifications and degrees required to become a teacher, a higher level degree is sometimes necessary due to factors such as a teacher’s area of specialization, the state where employment is located, or anticipated career goals. For example, some states require that reading specialists or special educators hold at least a master’s for licensure. In other instances, higher educational degrees may be required to become teaching supervisors, work in administration, or instruct and complete research at the university level.

Types of Teaching Certifications

Though certification regulations vary by state, granting teaching licenses traditionally requires documentation of: course transcripts from an accredited teacher education program; supervised clock hours in practicum and student teaching experiences; and successful completion of state approved teaching exams. According to Teach For America, in recent years, alternative certification avenues have opened up in states to address teaching shortages. Candidates often have college background with professional experience and must successfully complete required courses or exams required by the state. Additionally, teachers can pursue national teaching certification which designates highly qualified teachers and can result in salary benefits and career advancement.

Related Resource: MBA Benefits

Holding the appropriate teaching degrees and certifications expands teacher expertise and provides broader employment options within the educational profession. In fact, many teachers begin their careers in one area of education and then pursue additional degrees or endorsements to become qualified to work with other subsets of the student population. By investigating the certifications and degrees required to become a teacher, aspiring educators can begin a journey towards a meaningful career with the potential to make significant impacts on the futures of their communities.