How Do You Become a Teacher?

TeacherCollege students who are looking to become a teacher would be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed as they peruse the requirements and start to understand the complex nature of state and federal standards. Though it seems as if it has never been more complex to become a teacher, the truth is that there is actually a logical process for entering the profession. With the right combination of education, certification, and mentoring, all aspiring teachers will find it easy to navigate the potential “red tape” and obtain an initial teaching license for their desired content area or grade level.

Start with an Undergraduate Education Program

The first step to becoming a teacher is to choose the right college major. The field is generally broken down into either elementary or secondary education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers who pursue elementary education will typically graduate with a certification spanning kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms. This covers most of elementary school and the first half of middle school in most school districts. As an elementary education major, students will master and teach all major subject areas. Students who want to teach a specific subject should choose secondary education as their major, giving them the eventual certification needed to lead classrooms in seventh grade through twelfth grade. Secondary education majors will also need to pick a content area, like math, reading, or science.

Gain the Right Academic Credentials While in the Program

Choosing a major is only the beginning. Students must make sure they live up to a state’s high standards for certification while they pursue their classes on-campus. Most states require teachers to graduate with no less than a 3.0 cumulative GPA. Any GPA below this threshold will disqualify a graduate from pursuing certification to teach their chosen subject area or grade level.

Another requirement for teachers is to pass the PRAXIS-I exam during their second or third year of enrollment. This exam will give teachers the certification they need to begin a student teaching placement during their final year of the undergraduate program. Failure to pass this exam will cause teachers to miss out on student etching until they can achieve a proficient score.

After student teaching, teachers will once again sit for a PRAXIS examination. This time, the exam is the PRAXIS-II certification exam. Teachers will be tested on their specific content area, at the secondary level, or on a broad array of content areas if they aspire to teach at the elementary level. Every state has set its own passing PRAXIS score, and teachers must meet or exceed that score in order to become fully certified.

Graduate and Apply for Full Certification

Teachers must file for full teacher certification after they receive their diploma, or after their transcripts show conferral of a degree. Typically, most schools with a teacher preparation program will file for the students’ certification on their behalf after graduation, with the certification arriving by mail within a month or two. Be sure to check with the school about its policies in this area.

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Maintaining a Certification Takes Work

Becoming a teacher is often described as the “easy part” of this profession. The hard part involves leading a classroom, supporting students, and managing the typical responsibilities of lesson planning, disciplining, parent conference scheduling, and much more. Furthermore, students must maintain their certification by pursuing either a Master of Science in Education degree or professional development courses throughout their tenure as a certified educator. For this reason, it’s important to remember that to become a teacher, a student must want to continually learn and grow throughout their time at the head of a classroom.

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