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Become a Teacher

This article explains what one has to do to become a teacher. There are four main ways to become a teacher. Read this article to learn about these four ways as well as types of certification, certification in different states, and what reciprocity is.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there were 3,954,000 preschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school teacher in the United States in 2006, and projected that 4,443,000 would be employed in 2016. That means that besides the replacement of retiring teachers, 479,000 additional teachers will be needed. So if you think you might want to become a teacher, read on to find out the steps you’d need to take to fill one of those slots.

Four Main Ways to Become a Teacher

Not everyone knows that there’s more than one route to take to become a teacher. If you want to become a teacher in a public school, you will need to have a teaching license. To accomplish this, most elementary teachers

  • complete a bachelor’s degree in an approved teacher education program.

But aspiring secondary teachers may take a different route; they may:

  • do a bachelor’s degree in a subject area that you wish to teach, and earn a master’s degree in an approved teacher education program.

But even this doesn’t complete the options. Alternatives are offered by many states - often with the purpose of attracting successful professionals - for becoming a teacher without requiring a return to college. Qualified people, and those who could fill especially difficult to fill positions are encouraged to:

  • enter an alternative licensing program, which may, for example, rely upon peer review.

You may find useful information at the National Center for Alternative Certification at:

And the final way to become a teacher is to

  • be hired to teach by a private school or institution of higher education, none of which are bound to the public school licensing requirements. This may potentially lead to state licensure, depending on the state.

Some states will consider internship programs or experience in the Peace Corps as qualifications for teaching licenses. Information for your state can be obtained by choosing the appropriate link on the Education World website here:

Types of Certification

Certificates generally indicate experience, instructional levels, and subject endorsements, and this is something you should be aware of so you can properly plan as you work to become a teacher. Teachers typically begin with an initial/entry level certificate and, when they have gained sufficient experience, are awarded a professional certificate, to show their experience in the profession.

Instructional levels will have slightly different names, but in general refer to children of pre-school age, elementary age children, middle school children, high school students, secondary students of all ages, or all children in Kindergarten through high school. The subject endorsements indicate the type of teacher (for example, classroom, school nurse, administrator), as well as specific subject qualifications, such as Latin, Computer Science, or Driver Education.

Certification in Different States

To compare the requirements for becoming a teacher by different means in different states, you can use the National Center for Alternative Certification’s handy charts, available here:
The Center categorizes the ways of acquiring alternative certification into eleven different categories, which you can also find at:

Though there are differences, common licensure requirements for standard licensure generally include:

  • a bachelor’s degree
  • completion of an approved teacher training program
  • a specific number of credits in education in general and in their subject specialties (if any) in particular
  • a practicum (supervised teaching)
  • a minimum grade point average (GPA)
  • a competency test

There are also requirements to renew licenses, such as more coursework, completing a master’s degree, and hours of experience in the classroom.


According to the National Council for Teacher Education (NCATE), twenty states have some kind of reciprocity agreement in place so that if you become a teacher in one state, you can transfer your teaching license to another of them. The states NCATE identified in July, 2008 were:

Alabama                Arizona                Delaware                Florida
Illinois                    Indiana               Iowa                      Kentucky
Maine                    Maryland             Massachusetts         Michgan
Mississippi               Missouri               Nevada                  Ohio
Rhode Island          South Carolina      South Dakota         Tennessee


Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition: Teachers -

Education World: State Certification Requirements -

National Center for Alternative Certification -

National Council for Teacher Education (NCATE) -