How to Become A Teacher

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Teaching Career Overview

This article provides an overview of teaching careers and the requirements to become a teacher. In addition to an overview of job duties, salary levels, and employment prospects, this article discusses the career’s necessary skills, training, educational requirements, and licensing requirements. Additional information is provided, including a reference to schools offering the teaching and education degrees that are a key part of the process to become a teacher

One reason that so many people want to become a teacher is that the job may bring great satisfaction, as teachers at all levels play a pivotal role in the development of their students. In addition, teaching jobs may also offer flexibility, with most jobs providing substantial summer time vacations.

Job Duties

Teaching duties may vary according to the level of student being taught. Kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers must teach their students the basic skills that they need across a wide array of topics, such as math, English, science, history, and more. Students at these levels are also learning how to learn, and the teacher must help them develop good listening and study habits, as well as the proper ways to participate in class. In addition, these types of teacher must create an environment that is conducive to their students learning the basic social skills that they need.

Post-secondary teachers can be divided into two groups — those that teach at a degree granting institution (associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees), and those that teach vocational skills. Vocational teaching jobs tend to focus on specific skills development. The range of skills taught can vary greatly, as the teacher trains someone to become an ultrasound technician, a computer repair technician, an auto mechanic, a cosmetologist, a welder, or one of many other career-oriented specialties. Teachers at degree-granting institutions will likewise have their own specialty, but the overall educational experience at the insitution is oriented toward providing the student with a much broader education than that provided at a vocational school.

Job Skills

Teaching jobs may require a large number of different skills. A through knowledge of the subject matter is, of course, required. Knowing a subject well enough to teach it effectively requires a much deeper understanding than that required to use that knowledge one’s self. This includes a need to be able to see where a student may be stuck, which requires substantial additional insight.

In kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary schools, teachers must have a great deal of patience, as well as an understanding of the limitations of the knowledge of their students. Strong communications skill are likewise critical. The ability to motivate students and the ability to command the attention of the audience are also very important at these levels.

In post-secondary teaching jobs, excellent communication and motivational skills remain important. At these levels, however, an even more thorough knowledge of the subject matter becomes essential. A high level of professional or industry expertise becomes valuable at the college or post-secondary vocational level. In colleges and universities, many professors advance by publishing scholarly articles, and by proving their ability to bring research grants and funding into the school.

Training and Education Required

Teachers working in the United States as pre-school, kindergarten, elementary, middle, or secondary school teachers, in the public school system, require a license. The nature of the licensing requirements varies by state (and in the District of Columbia). A mimimum requirement in all states is to have a Bachelor’s degree. In addition, all teachers are required to complete a teacher training program, designed to ensure that the teachers have a good balance of skills to bring to the classroom.

In some states, alternative teacher licensing is possible as part of efforts designed to reduce the teacher training requirement. Alternative teacher licensing is used in those areas where there are severe teaching shortages, and the process is designed to bring in teachers that can bring in needed expertise in specific subject areas such as math and science. Some teachers complete their bachelor’s degree in a specialist subject and then do a graduate teacher training course, and others do their degree in education, allowing them to become licensed after their first degree.

Requirements for post-secondary teachers are quite different. At a minimum, a bachelor’s degree is required, but full-time positions at four year college or universities that are, or may become, tenured (instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and professor), are usually held by those with a doctoral degree. Lecturers are brought in on short term contracts, and their level of education may vary. Most jobs at two year colleges are held by people that have master’s degrees.

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Many different colleges and universities provide the training that may prepare you to become a teacher. A list of such institutions can be found on this page of college and universities offering Teaching Degrees and related training.


About 2/3 of pre-school teachers are employed in child day care centers. The great majority of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers work within the local government educational system. Most post-secondary teachers work within public and private 4 year colleges and universities, or within 2 year community colleges.


The job prospects for teachers are excellent for the next 10 years. Enrollment growth is expected to be only moderate, but the expected retirement of existing teachers will provide for excellent job prospects and promotion prospects through 2020.

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Disclaimer: Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific curriculum, and employment opportunities are not guaranteed. Not all programs lead to initial teacher certification.

Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific curriculum, and employment opportunities are not guaranteed.