from Susan Good | retired educator | https://retirededucator.org
Few things are more fulfilling than enriching the lives of children and young adults, and one of the most practical ways to do that is to become a teacher — where you help students learn everything from math and science to music and language arts. Of course, becoming a teacher is not easy, and much of your path will depend on where you live and what your goals are. To help you get started on your journey, here is some general advice for how you can prepare for becoming a teacher.
What Level of Education Is Needed?
There are two basic pathways to becoming a teacher: the traditional path and the non-traditional. Most people choose the former, which involves earning a college degree in education, while the non-traditional route is any path you take that doesn’t involve an education degree. For instance, if you have a degree in business or some other field of study that’s unrelated to your teaching goals, you can still become a teacher. Teacher preparation programs and/or other training programs are typically required for the non-traditional path.
Most public schools and many private schools require you to have a bachelor’s degree, along with passing certification tests and fulfilling a preparation program. You should be able to find a job at an elementary school, middle school, or high school if you have a bachelor’s degree in education. Moreover, many high schools look for candidates who have earned a double-major degree. So if you want to teach high school, you might do well to major in both education and whatever subject you plan to teach.
If your goal is to teach college, you should plan to pursue at least a master’s degree. Not only will it help you learn the skills you need to be a great teacher, but it will also improve your chances of landing your preferred teaching job and qualifying for salary increases.
What Will You Teach?
Choosing what grade/level you will teach is important when it comes to positioning yourself for a successful career, as well as determining what path of education to take. What are you passionate about? If you love teaching primary skills to small children, kindergarten could be the perfect grade. If you love teaching children but would like them to be a little more self-sufficient, then going up to elementary-level grades might be a good fit.
Do you have a passion for a particular subject? Teaching middle school or high school could be the way to go. A lot of teachers find that middle school provides the opportunity to teach kids who are old enough to use their independence yet still impressionable enough to make it clear you’re making a difference in their lives.
High school, on the other hand, will allow you more freedom to dig deep into a particular subject. If you want to teach more advanced topics, you might consider pursuing a career in university teaching. This not only will allow you the most room for exploring your field of passion in detail, but it will also offer the best pay.
How Do You Land Your First Job?
Assuming you’ve earned the appropriate degree and have passed all necessary certification programs, it’s essential to create an online portfolio. This portfolio should include anything that presents your qualifications as a teacher, such as certifications, licenses, your philosophy statement, student teaching recommendations, and sample curriculums.
Start looking at job postings in your district in early spring, and prepare for each interview thoroughly. Furthermore, don’t rule out online teaching jobs, as they can provide a great opportunity to use your skills and advance your teaching career.
If you’re looking for a fulfilling career, you can’t do much better than teaching. Remember to start preparing now to determine what level of education you need to obtain, what grade level and subjects you will teach, and how you will get your first teaching job. You're in for some challenges, but they will all prove well worth it as you realize how you're making a real difference in your students’ lives.
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