What degrees do I need?
Paths to teacherdom
The traditional path is either a bachelor’s or master’s Degree paired with a teaching certificate. Perhaps a Master’s in Teaching or a Master’s in Education.
Another option is to follow a state’s “Career Switcher” plan and go into teaching cold turkey. My heart goes out to you.
Personally, I was a Post Graduate Master’s in Teaching. That means I did not get certified to teach during college, and, therefore, got both my Master’s and my Teaching Certificate in graduate school.
Both of my parents were teachers and after listening to all their griping for 18 years I said I’d never go into education, hence the lack of the teaching degree in undergrad. Then I started subbing. What can I say; I found my home and had to eat my words. Worth it.
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.
Not on-board for the traditional route? Look for schools near you that offer an Education Certification. Community colleges and online programs often offer certification. A teacher who was hired in special education at my previous school got her master’s from The University of Phoenix. People interested in teaching “high need” areas such as math or special education may even be given a temporary “Provisional License” to get them into the classroom faster.
Go ahead and get the master’s
If you plan on becoming a teacher and don’t yet have a master’s degree, plan on getting one ASAP. Two more years living on Ramen Noodles will be worth it. 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 (ESSA which we will discuss in more depth later) which passed 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 after a full day of classes, 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 two for the master’s, not a tremendous amount, but it adds up over the years.
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