You’ve thought about becoming a teacher for many years, and now college is just around the corner. What are the next steps to becoming a teacher? What do you need to know in order to make an educated decision about a teaching career?
The first step is to find out as much as you can about the educational requirements for becoming a teacher. Colleges and universities in each state offer programs that are geared to the teacher certification requirements for the state. You will need to complete a bachelor’s degree in education and, sooner or later, a master’s degree if you want to progress in your career. You probably have a college or two in mind, so begin by requesting information from these schools. Study the requirements for teaching in your state, and evaluate the schools based upon what you want to get out of your teaching education and what options the schools offer.
State certification requirements will vary according to the state, but the core requirements are usually quite similar. After you complete your education degree, you must pass an exam that tests your knowledge of subject matter as well as your professional skills as an educator. Only then will you be certified to teach in the school system of your state. You should also research the requirements for teaching in the parochial and private schools in your area, which can be quite different from public school requirements.
- One of the most fruitful steps in becoming a teacher is to talk to those who are already teaching. They can provide a wealth of knowledge about becoming a teacher and, more importantly, about what it is like to be a teacher. Talk to those teachers whom you admire, the ones who have inspired students for many years. Most of them will be delighted to help you make your decision about what your role might be in the education system.
- You can start out the conversation by asking them what made them want to become teachers, who inspired them, and what helped them choose the right college. Once you find out the steps that they took to become teachers, you can better plan your own path to teaching. You might then ask what type of person makes the best teacher — what personality traits are most important. (They might refer to being outgoing, having an even temperament, and being fair in all aspects of teaching, among other things.)
- You can ask them about the basic things like salary, certification exams, and educational requirements, as well; but the most important questions you ask will have to do with what it is like to be a teacher. Teachers are required to handle many different types of situations, whether they involve classroom management and disciplinary matters, meetings with parents and administrators, or a multitude of other areas. The teachers that you talk to will be able to show you the human factor involved in becoming and being a teacher. Their input will be invaluable to you in making your decision as to what school you will attend, which program you will enter, and more.
Besides talking to teachers, talk to the schools that have programs that appeal to you. Visit the schools, as well. Find out everything you can about the education program that leads to the bachelor’s degree at that school. Most programs begin with a general curriculum, progressing into specialized education courses after the first year of study. See what specialized areas are offered at the schools you visit.
Also ask the school how it will prepare you for one of the most important steps to becoming a teacher — the teacher certification test. Advisors should be able to tell you what the test is like, what is covered in the test, what the pass rate is, and more. It’s up to you to ask. The more you know about how to become a teacher, the better your decisions about your career path and school choice will be.
Education Program Options
When you decide to go into education as a career and are considering colleges, you should look into what type of education programs they offer. You will probably have at least an inkling of which direction you want your education career to take, and the school that you choose should offer a solid program in that area.
- Alternative Certification
- Graduate Certificates
- Education Specialist (Ed.S.)
- Doctorate (Ed.D./Ph.D.)
- English Teaching
- History Teaching
- Math Teaching
- Science Teaching
- Early Childhood Education
- Special Education
- Gifted and Talented
- Instructional Technology
- School Administration
- School Counseling/Psychology
Before making a decision, it’s a good idea to examine all of the programs offered in the field of education. If you enjoy working with young children, early childhood education or kindergarten or elementary education may be the way you want to go. If you prefer to concentrate on one area of teaching, such as social studies or science, you’ll be happier with a secondary education program.
You may like working with children with disabilities, either physical or mental. Or you may want to go into school administration or be a school counselor or school psychologist. Instructional technology is attractive to many people now in the age of computers and the Internet. These areas all require specially designed education programs. Since not all colleges offer all programs, you should make sure that the college that you choose has the program that you want.
You might also want to check into the advanced degree education programs offered at your school. Many of the education specialties require a master’s degree or even a doctorate. Knowing that your college has a solid advanced degree program in education is also important.
Choosing the Right Education Program
After you decide that you want to enter the education field, you will want to give serious consideration not just to choosing the right school but also to choosing the right program. A career in education offers you a host of options. One option is to become a classroom teacher. If this is what you want to do, you’ll have to then decide what area of teaching is right for you; early childhood education, elementary or secondary education, and special education are only some of the choices. And there are still other decisions to be made. For instance, if you decide that you want to teach secondary school, you’ll have to decide which subject you want to teach.
Choosing the right program for you is an important step, whether it’s classroom teaching or the area of administration, school counseling, or school psychology. Each of these programs requires a specific plan. You’ll find that some schools are better qualified in a specific area. Some will offer advanced programs and some will not. So what are some things that you should consider when choosing the right program?
- If you want to teach in a particular state, you should look into whether the school that you are considering offers a program that is geared toward certification in that state. You don’t necessarily have to go to a college or university in the state in which you want to teach; most schools will prepare you to take a certification exam in any state. Also, many states have reciprocity agreements that allow you to teach in one state if you have a teacher’s certification from another. Talking to any school that you are considering about the certification process is an essential step in choosing the right program.
- Another important consideration when choosing a school for your education degree is the available curriculum. Does the school offer a large variety of courses in the area in which you want to study? Are the courses taught by a faculty with superior credentials? Does the school offer a solid student teaching program? These are just a few of the questions you’ll want to ask when choosing a program.
- Another possibility for your education is distance learning or online education. This is something to consider if you need some flexibility in scheduling. There are some good distance programs associated with established colleges and universities that also offer traditional classroom education, and there are also some good online programs. As with traditional schools, the most important thing is to do your research and ask all of the questions that are important to you and to your future in the education area that you’re interested in.
When considering a school, you must also think about cost, location, campus life, and, most importantly, whether you can fulfill the admission requirements of the school. Choosing the right school as well as the right program is not easy. You should research and talk to many schools. Give yourself many options and after careful consideration make your choice.