In general, you should learn and study and develop yourself professionally as much as you can. If you are looking to complete a teacher preparation program, you should enroll in one that culminates in a Master's degree, because a Master's degree will enable you to earn a higher salary in most (but not all) districts. If you already have a professional license and are already teaching, then seeking a Master's degree is a closer call, but could be worth it if you can pursue one while full-time teaching (during nights and weekends). TEACH.org's National Search Tool for Teacher Preparation Programs will let you know which programs award Master's degrees and which do not.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Should I earn a Master's degree?
- How do I set my career up for success?
The most important thing you can do is turn yourself into the most effective teacher you can be. The more effective you are, the more you will enjoy your job every day and the more you can set yourself up for promotions, pay raises, extra income opportunities, and other benefits, and the more you will be able to go out and land any teaching job you set your sights on. The second most important thing you can do is choose your school employer wisely, since that will also effect your professional growth and effectiveness, your job satisfaction, and your future opportunities.
- How do I afford a teacher preparation program? What financial aid is available?
Teacher preparation programs range in price, so you can choose the one that fits your budget best. You can also access grants, scholarships, loans, and loan forgiveness programs.
- How do I choose a teacher preparation program that is right for me?
You should reflect on a series of questions about how to choose the right teacher preparation program and research various teacher preparation programs in our National Search Tool for Teacher Preparation Programs.
- What are the different types of teacher preparation programs?
There are three major types of teacher preparation programs, which you can learn more about in this article (link to About TPPs). There are also many variables that can determine the details and quality of a program, which you should consider.
- What are professional teaching certification requirements in my state?
Every state has it's own detailed requirements for certification. Generally, states require a combination of a Bachelor's degree and possibly a minimum number of units of college level coursework in the subject you plan to teach; completion of an accredited teacher preparation program; and passing state-required professional licensure exams.
- What steps do I need to take to become a teacher?
It depends on how sure you are you want to be a teacher (it's ok if you are not sure), what level of education you are at, what state you are in, and what subject you want to teach. By answering a few questions in this interactive tool, you can receive a customized roadmap of steps to take.
- If I get a degree in one subject but want to teach another, can I?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer depends on the state where you’re certified to teach. In all states, you’ll need to pass a content area assessment, like the subject-specific Praxis tests. So, at a minimum, you’ll need to be able to pass a rigorous test covering the content you want to teach.
In some states, you may also need specific undergraduate coursework in your teaching field. This means that if your degree is in a subject other than your teaching field, you may need to sign up for additional undergraduate courses while in your teacher preparation program, or you may need to take these courses before you’re eligible to apply to a program.
- How do I become the best teacher I can possibly be?
You will grow into the best teacher you can be through three stages of professional development: pre-service (before you start teaching), early service (your first two to three years), and advanced service (year four onwards). You can start right now by signing up for an early hands-on experience. Then, the most important step you can take in your career is to choose a high-quality pre-service teacher preparation program that sets you up for success. When you start officially as a teacher of record, just like with any intellectually-demanding high-skill job, you will continue to learn and grow on the job. The world of professional development and learning for teachers is deep and rich, and includes coaching from veterans, peer to peer learning, professional learning communities, conferences, and more. You can also train and seek to earn your National Board Certification, which is an advanced credential indicating you have become a master teacher.
- What kind of salary will I earn as a teacher?
On average, teachers earn more than the majority of other jobs in the workforce. But, you will not become financially rich as a teacher. One way to think about it is you will be "middle of the pack" or above. Every school district has a different salary pay schedule, and you can actively shape how much you will earn. This article lays out the basics of teacher compensation.
- How do I get my parents to support my decision to become a teacher?
Every parent wants "what's best" for their children. You want what's best too! So what happens if you disagree on what's best? You know your parents the best, so you will know what works with them, but here are some general tips and suggestions:
- Become informed yourself, so you will show your parents you've fully researched and thought about it. That's what you are doing here on this website. Talking to a current teacher will also impress your parents that you are really diligently informing yourself.
- Be clear on what is important to you in a career - what your values are. Ask your parents - what do they think is important in a career? If they have concerns about teaching, ask what they are. Listen.
- There is a very good chance that your parents have your best interest at heart, but might have misperceptions about teaching. You could present them with facts and information from this website.
We are considering putting together a toolkit that you can use with your parents. Would that be helpful? If so, contact us.
- How much standardized testing will I face?
It varies by state and district, but generally speaking, your students will need to take at least one standardized exam at the end of the year and sometimes, there are one to two other end-of-year assessments in certain grades.
- What can I do to determine whether teaching is really a good fit for me?
Learn as much as you can through the articles and videos on this website which help you explore the ins and outs, the facts and fictions of teaching, and it's also a great idea to talk to a current teacher. You might want to start by using this interactive tool that enables you to tell us more about yourself and then get customized advice about how to proceed.
- How much autonomy will I have?
Teachers generally have a great deal of autonomy, more so than most jobs that college graduates find right out of college. You are entrusted with huge responsibility on Day One and you have the opportunity to design your classroom culture and design your lesson and unit plans. Every school varies in terms of the degree of autonomy teachers have, so when you are interviewing for jobs, this is a good question to ask the principal and teachers at the schools you are considering.
- Do I have what it takes to be a good teacher?
There is no single formula for what it takes to be a good teacher; studies have shown that all personality types - from introverted to extraverted - can be a good teacher.
That said, teaching is a fascinating and complex profession, and, like any profession, it takes dedication to develop the skills and to do it well. Therefore, good teachers need to have the passion, drive, and curiosity to do their job well and better themselves, the critical thinking skills and creaitivity to design great lessons and solve the interesting puzzles that come your way, and the leadership potential to lead other people to work hard and succeed.
- How are schools changing and innovating? How is the job of teaching changing?
Schools are changing rapidly to meet the needs of learners in the 21st century. Our student population is more diverse, our world is globalizing, technology and jobs are changing. Teachers are innovating to develop new curriculum, new teaching tools and techniques, and new ways for organizing and structuring the school-day. Check out Education Reimagined to delve into these topics.
- Students seem hard to manage. Will I be able to do it?
Everyone wonders about how they will be able to manage and motivate students. If you think that you may not be ready to do it right now, you are correct, but you will be able to do it with proper training and preparation. Managing students requires knowledge of effective techniques, which you will learn in your teacher preparation program, and it requires leadership skills, which you will develop. For instance, every leader needs to earn trust and credibility, and you will learn how to earn trust from your students. Every leader also needs strong communication techniques, and learning these techniques will help you manage your classroom. Not only will your initial teacher training enable you with with the techniques and opportunities to practice, but you will continue to develop on the job and learn from your colleagues. Teachers have incredible professional solidarity and help each other learn the core tenets of the craft.
- Will I like teaching?
Many people find teaching to be the most fulfilling, rewarding job they could have. Researchers on career/job satisfaction find that people most thrive in jobs with autonomy, mastery, and purpose - which you will find in abundance in teaching. But, of course, teaching is not for everyone. If you want a job that is both creative and analytical, if you want a job that you can feel truly passionate about, if you have drive and curiosity to challenge yourself and grow, and if you have worked with children before and enjoy it, then these are great signs that you might be drawn to teaching.
To delve deeper into whether you would like teaching, you can read more about what the job is like. You may also want to schedule an appointment for a one-on-one conversation with a current educator. You can also try teaching out by doing a summer internship or an extracurricular activity. You could also take an introductory course at your college campus.
- What is the teaching like on a day-to-day basis?
Great question! Teaching is a complex act, which means that you both do a wide variety of things throughout your day and year, and also that the things you do can be quite sophisticated. Read more about nineteen practices c that are inherent in the work of teaching. Beyond that, the best way to learn more about teaching on a day-to-day basis is to sign up for the Talk to a Teacher program, where you get to have a one-on-one conversation with a current educator.