How to Become a Teacher

How to Become a Teacher

The old adage, “Those who can’t do, teach.” is a load of crap. As a fourth generation teacher (my great-great-grandmother taught Arithmetic in the early part of the 20th century) I can promise you that a teacher does more work and earns greater rewards than any other occupation.

If you’re wondering how to become a teacher, follow these steps:

Forget everything you’ve heard. There have never been more routes to becoming a teacher than there are now. As the population increases and the demand for teachers grows, so do the methods of becoming a teacher. You used to have to go to a teacher’s college or normal school to learn how to become a teacher, but there are now alternative and emergency certifications and plain old bachelor’s degrees. Because every state has different requirements for earning a teacher’s certificate, your own means of becoming an educator may differ from the plan outlined below. But most people in America will find these baby steps useful in their pursuit of a career in education.

The Process of Becoming an Educator

The process of becoming a teacher can start in many ways. You can enroll in a certificate program at an accredited university (even some online programs offer teacher certification courses) or look for “alternative methods” for teacher certification. Both traditional and alternative teacher certification programs are designed in such a way that you can get your certification or degree while you work another job. It’s common for teacher’s certification courses to take place at night or on the weekends.

Once you finish your degree or certification program, you’ll have to pass a test (called Praxis) to determine your academic abilities, skill at education, and the extent of your knowledge in your area of certification. Once you pass the Praxis tests and complete your certification program, you can apply for the physical teaching certificate from the state in which you want to be certified. When you are granted your teaching certificate, you’re free to apply for teaching jobs wherever your teaching certificate is recognized.

How to Become a Teacher

How to Become a Teacher

Public schools require one of these certificates, but many private schools are willing to hire teachers without certification. The difference is often your pay rate — private schools often save money by paying teachers less than public schools, although this isn’t always the case. Even if you want to teach at a private school, a certificate could help you earn more money, get jobs more easily, and make your employer more comfortable with your abilities as a teacher.

Examples of Teacher Requirements by State

In California, the state that boasts the highest average teacher salaries in the country, there are several “incentive” programs to convince people to enroll in teacher certification courses. There’s no one answer to the question of “how to become a teacher in California” — in fact, California has been recognized for its teacher certification programs. BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) is a state-funded teacher induction program that helps newly credentialed teachers in finding and keeping work.

The state of Illinois (with a low cost of living and a relatively high compensation rate for its teachers) is one of a handful of states in the country that will honor just about any state’s teacher certificates. The state of Illinois is also one of just a few states that automatically recognizes people who have completed necessary coursework for teacher certification and automatically recommends the state grant them a license. Because of the low cost of living and the state’s willingness to recognize other state’s certificates, Illinois is one of the most “teacher friendly” states in the country.

Though the state of Mississippi has one of the lowest starting salaries in the country for teachers (less than $29,000), they are ranked number one in terms of giving raises, with teachers earning over an average 50% raise in the first ten years of their careers. Wondering how to become a teacher in Mississippi? Thanks to one of the country’s worst job performance records in the recent past, the state’s teacher certification requirements have gotten tougher in recent years. If you want to teach in Mississippi, you’d do well to earn a teaching certificate at the college level, and those prospective teachers with Master’s degrees will find it that much easier to get work.

Benefits of Teaching – It’s Not Just about the Money

Depending on what part of the country you teach in, the money alone could be enough to draw you toward a career in education. In California, for example, the average teacher’s salary is around $60,000, with an average of a 50% raise over ten years.

Some states compensate their teachers far less. South Dakota’s average teacher salary is almost half of California’s, at just $34,000.

Aside from salary, teacher’s unions across the country fight hard for their members, providing good pensions and health insurance benefits long after retirement.

There are more benefits to being a teacher than a paycheck. No joy in the world compares to seeing a student grasp a concept right in front of your eyes.

Once you’ve been a teacher for a few decades, you may find yourself teaching the children of your former students, or even the grandchildren. Seeing generations of a single family through their formative years is a benefit unto itself.

Don’t forget summer — unless you teach in a year round education district, teaching offers you a couple of months’ worth of built in vacation during your students’ summer break. But many teachers find themselves tutoring or working other jobs during their time off, either to make ends meet or keep themselves busy.

If you or someone you know wants to know how to become a teacher, take encouragement from the fact that educators will always have work. A teaching certificate is the perfect fall back option for any other career, any many people who burn out at other jobs find themselves gravitating towards a career as a teacher. If you’re looking for a career with rewards beyond your bank account, consider becoming a teacher.


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