What is Teacher Certification and Where Do You Get It?

Various Roads Available To Achieving Teaching License

The requirements for teaching in the United States varies, state to state. So do the avenues to reach a goal of becoming a Certified Teacher.

For the United States, if you want to work in Elementary, Middle School, High School, or even in the primary Kindergarten and first three grades, you must have a teaching license. The requirements and nature of items required to teach is variable, depending on the state that you wish to teach in.

A minimum in all states for a regular teacher certification is to have a bachelor's degree.

All teachers that are looking to complete regular teacher certification are also required to complete a training program for teachers. Such programs are designed to help teachers achieve a good skill balance and to provide for professionalism and excellence in the teaching career.

In some areas, states have teaching positions available using a process called alternative teacher licensure. It is used in areas where there are teaching shortages of a severe or urgent nature, and it is designed to bring in teachers that can show much needed expert skills in a specific area.

This is especially true in the math and science areas.

Sometimes a teacher will complete their degree in a specialist area or subject, and then do an additional degree or graduate teaching course to allow them direct access into the classroom. Others have their basic degree in education itself and become licensed after their first four-year degree. Most teachers continue on and complete their Masters Degree eventually, simply being a teacher means that you will continue to be a lifelong learner and at times will have to continue structured learning of your own outside of your job.

For those people who wish to become instructors at the Post Secondary level things are different. Teaching at the University or College level requires at a minimum a four year bachelor's degree, but instructors at four year colleges or universities often have a masters or doctorate degree.

Positions at post secondary facilities such as these that may have or eventually work toward tenure, such as professor, associate professor, assistant professor, or instructor, normally require these types of advance degrees.

People with master's degrees most often hold jobs at community colleges and two-year colleges, though sometimes in some areas simply having a four-year degree is enough.

The career choice of Teaching can take many paths. Jobs in the Teaching sector are forecast to grow. Available jobs varies by market as shown:

Level of Job Numbers of Job Available in 2002
High School 1,120,000
Middle School 600,000
Elementary School 1,550,000
Kindergarten 170,000
Pre-School 425,000
Special Needs 430,000
--- ---  
Post-Secondary 1,700,000

Prospects for teachers are excellent forecast for the next ten years. Growth and enrollment is expected to be average or moderate for schools, but retirement of existing teachers will allow for wonderful prospects for new teachers and promotion through the year 2012.

Here are some steps you can take toward getting established as a teacher:

-Become a substitute teacher. This is good if you already have some amount of college credit hours. If you possess a degree already, it might be possible for you to get accredited while teaching in school with teacher shortages.

-Find out the different teaching certificate and credential programs at your local college or university. Don't look past degrees online, but investigate everything you can about becoming a teacher, ask lots of questions, become informed.

-Look for after hours work with children. Coaching, camp counseling, teaching an after school class with a community center are good examples. If you are in college, volunteer in a classroom on an ongoing basis, and be sure and keep records and document your work.

-Be aware that to be a teacher there are various tests and class experience required, and also consider student teaching. Often one year of student teaching is required and expected.

-Look for membership in the teaching association and in your specific area of expertise. An example is the NSTA, or National Science Teachers Association.

-Talk to administrators or teachers at your local school. Investigate the possibilities, and the options in your local area. Often there are programs available to you at your local school that many people do not realize, whether it's to volunteer, sub teach, or perhaps become a teacher immediately if a critical shortage exists.

-Become familiar with the local education career centers. Often they can be found at the local Campus or college near you, or in the local job or vocational service center. You can find free and timely advice from such sources, and can connect you up with school districts in your area with openings or forecasted job shortages.

If you have a four-year degree, look for specific one-year masters degree programs open to some people. This can help you meet your goal of certification faster

There are other things to be aware of. But the best advice is to research completely what is needed before you start.

If you want to teach at the Junior HS or High School level, be aware that most states require a certain level of hours of study in the subject. For example to become a history teacher, in a specific state, you may have to have at least fifteen credit hours in approved history courses to teach Junior High, or Thirty hours to teach in High school.

Amount of credit hours of study for different subject vary, as do the number. As a general rule teaching at the high school level at most states requires normally twice as many credit hours of coursework in the subject you wish to teach in than Junior High school.

Most of all don't be shy. Ask questions, visit schools, and learn what is needed in YOUR area to become a certified teacher.

And if you are serious, don't quit. The need for qualified and skilled teachers is forecast to only grow, and you can be a part of it.