Choosing a college
It is that time of year. College acceptances are starting to roll in. Deadlines for committing are getting nearer and it is time to choose a college. If you know you want to be a teacher, this should impact your college choice.
You will want to go to a school that has a quality education program. Most undergraduate institutions offer education degrees and certification. Many allow students to get a teaching degree along with a traditional major or minor. Some, the University of Virginia for example, allow education students to get both a bachelor’s and a master’s in five years, instead of the six it would take to do them separately. Not paying the extra year of tuition and beginning to earn a salary a year earlier is a huge benefit of the five year programs.
If you plan on becoming a teacher you will want that master’s degree. Most states require a master’s degree either at the time of hiring or within a short number of years thereafter. It was part of the “Highly Qualified Teacher” portion of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002. The Every Student Succeeds Act, which passed under Obama in 2015, gives states more freedom over who they deem highly qualified, but still go get the masters. You do not want to be bogged down with master’s level course work after a full day of teaching.
Your first year of teaching you’ll barely be able to remember your own name at the end of the day, let alone be able spend three attentive hours in a lecture or posting to a Blackboard forum. People do it, but I don’t recommended it. If you want to keep your sanity, plan on focusing on only one thing your first year of teaching and that is teaching (If possible avoid other major life changes as well like moving, getting married, or having/adopting a baby). Life will be much easier once you have that master’s degree under your belt and your salary will be higher too. Most districts pay an additional thousand or so for the master’s, not a tremendous amount, but it adds up over the years.
Ask yourself these three questions to help guide you in your college decision:
1: How competitive is the market for teachers where you want to teach when you graduate?
If the area in which you hope to teach has a teacher shortage and you want to get into the classroom the quickest and least expensive way possible, then starting out at a community college and transferring to four year school is a great option. Another option is an online degree. Online degrees can be expensive per credit, but staying home with mom and dad while earning that degree can save you tons.
If the job market is tight or you want to teach a low demand subject like history or English, then your college credentials will matter more. You’re going to need a bigger name college on that resume to be competitive.
2: How much money and time do you have to devote to your education?
Similar to question #1, a teaching degree is a teaching degree no matter where you get it from or how much money you spend on it. A first year teacher who graduated from Yale and a first year teacher who graduated from a local university’s night school will make the same amount of money if they are teaching in the same district, but if the two teachers are out for the same job who do you think is more likely to get it? I fully believe that teachers should get the best education within their means. The better educated our teachers are, the better educated our students will be. But just because you can’t afford a top tier school shouldn’t deter you from pursuing your dream of teaching.
3: Where do I want to teach when I graduate?
If it’s possible to go to a university that feeds student teachers out into the district where you want to teach you’re almost a shoe in. Having a whole semester of face-time in the schools will put you above the rest when it comes to hiring time (as long as you’re good).
Are you a real go-getter? You want to be the best teacher who ever stepped foot into a classroom? Do you have dreams about Dead Poet’s Society and Freedom Writers? Let’s be honest, me too.
The 2020 US News and World Report ranks Harvard the number one education school in the country, followed by University of Pennsylvania. Stanford, University of California Los Angeles, and University of Wisconsin- Madison tied for third.
Want to check out other programs and rankings? The Princeton Review also has an impressive website full of pertinent information.