For those who aim to teach kindergarten through twelfth grade, a teaching degree is most often a key credential to attain in order to reach that goal. This article provides an overview of teaching degrees.
There are several roads that one can take to become licensed to teach in those schools in which a teaching license is necessary - usually all public elementary and secondary schools. The usual approach is to obtain a teaching degree through an accredited teacher training program and then be licensed or certified by your state education department. Other paths to licensure may include peer certification, individual evaluation, becoming certified through interstate reciprocity if you already have a teaching license in another state, national board certification, or other alternative ways of demonstrating competency.
Teaching degree programs can be undergraduate programs, master’s degree programs, or a fifth year program after a B.A. The fifth-year program is often used by students who plan to teach secondary school and who have completed their bachelor’s degree in the subject area that they plan to teach. Teaching degrees are offered through four-year colleges and universities, and online. Teaching degrees are specifically focused towards obtaining particular license credentials in one or more particular subject areas, teaching one or more particular types of pupils, etc.
Before deciding which teacher preparation program to enroll in to obtain a teaching degree, it’s a good idea to check your state’s certification process and determine what kind of certification you want so that you can do the necessary preparation. The types of decisions you need to make may include the following. Note that other states will have different ways of categorizing, but this is based on New York State.
- the certificate area: for example, classroom teacher, foreign language teacher, and career and technical teacher are separate in New York State
- the grade level(s): this will be divided into ranges. In New York State the categories are early childhood for birth to grade 2; childhood for grades 1 - 6; middle childhood for grades 5 - 9; adolescent for grades 7 - 12; and all grades for pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Other states will have other names.
- the subject area(s) you wish to teach: for example, math, English, students with disabilities (yes, NY groups these).
For the section called subject area, this usually refers to an academic discipline when speaking of secondary school or teachers other than the student’s main classroom teacher in elementary school. Choices might include Biology, Business and Marketing, Chemistry, Dance, Earth Science, English, Family and Consumer Science, Health, Mathematics, Music, Physical Education, Physics, Technology Education, Theatre, and Visual Arts. In addition, for elementary school, the subject area refers to the level or type of student taught, and choices might include Blind and Visually Impaired, Childhood Education, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Early Childhood Education, English to Speakers of Other Languages, Middle Childhood Education, Special Education, and Speech and Language Disabilities.
At University of Vermont, for example, the teaching degrees offered include:
- Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in:
- Teacher Education: Art Education (PreK-12)
- Teacher Education: Early Childhood Education (Birth-Gr3)
- Teacher Education: Early Childhood Special Education (Age 3-6)
- Teacher Education: Elementary Education (K-6)
- Teacher Education: Middle Level Education (5-9)
- Teacher Education: Music Education (PreK-12)
- Teacher Education: Physical Education (Pre K-12)
- Teacher Education: Secondary Education (7-12)
- Fifth-Year Postbaccalaureate Certificate
- Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) in Curriculum and Instruction
- Master of Education (M.Ed.) in:
- Curriculum and Instruction
- Educational Studies
- Reading and Language Arts
- Special Education
Before you enroll in any institution seeking a teaching degree, even if you’ve checked that the program is accredited and that the degree is accepted by your state department of education, it’s a good idea to speak to a school counselor about your career goals.