Nov 042013

Although I’ve wanted to be a teacher for a very long time, I wasn’t ever really drawn to the idea of being a classroom teacher. However, the president has been talking about becoming a more educated nation, which of course means we will need more teachers. Perhaps it’s time to consider classroom teaching after all.

I started looking for information on how to become a teacher. You know what I found? A lot of state by state breakdowns on getting a certification. Honestly, this frustrated me. Not knowing anything about being a teacher, I didn’t know where teacher certification fits in.

Maybe I’m being naive, but I can’t really be the only one out there who is confused by this as well.

What is teacher certification?

No matter where you want to teach, every school system has requirements they want their teachers to meet. When teachers meet these requirements, they can apply for certification.

Like a diploma or degree, a teaching certificate is evidence of having done all the preliminary work required to learn how to teach. However, also like a diploma or degree, it’s not the final step in becoming a teacher.

Why get certified?

If you want to teach in a classroom in a school in the United States, you will need some kind of certification. The exceptions to this are:

  1. Some private or parochial (religious) schools do not require their teachers to be certified.
  2. You may be able to get a substitute teacher position without a certificate. However, a certificate will certainly help.

Also, schools need to comply with the federal program: No Child Left Behind. Part of that program requires teachers to be highly qualified. One aspect of the “highly qualified” definition is teacher certification.

Ok, so certification is pretty much a given. No way around it if you want to be a classroom teacher. Well, then there must be a list somewhere of what you need right? Yes, but it’s state specific. See, it turns out that teacher certification is governed by state law, not federal law. At least that explains why my searches turned up state by state breakdowns.

BUT – don’t run off yet. When I went to look for information on my state, I quickly got overwhelmed. I was still trying to get a general idea of how to become a teacher and was already swimming in too much information. Through my research, I’ve been able to come up with a general list. If you are like me, and wondering just what you would be getting yourself into, the following information should provide a good overview of what you need.

The First Step To Getting Certified

It doesn’t matter where or at what level you want to teach, you’re going to need a Bachelor’s degree. A Master’s is even better.

From what I could find out, a Master’s isn’t required for certification most places, but even so, just about all school systems expect you to get one shortly after beginning to teach, if you don’t have one already.

But then other questions come to mind:

1. What major?
2. What if I already have a degree, but wasn’t planning on being a teacher when I earned it?
3. Would I have to go back to get a second degree? I went to college with a guy who was doing that. His first degree was in Political Science, but in order to take his career in the direction he wanted, he needed a (second) degree in Biology. Surely becoming a teacher wouldn’t require a second degree, would it?

These questions deserve an in depth review of their own. Please let me know in the comments if you would like to see an article about education requirements.

So, now you’ve got the education down, what next?

Student teacher experience. Also referred to as “Teacher Training”, “Teacher Education”, or “Teacher Preparation”, it all comes down to mandatory classroom experience.  Fortunately, this is built into getting your degree. There are also numerous programs specifically to help you get certified if for some reason (such as a career switcher) you didn’t do this part when you earned your degree originally.

Anything else?

Yes – one more general requirement. A test. This may be one specific to the state, or an exam called the Praxis Series™. From their website: The Praxis Series™ tests measure teacher candidates’ knowledge and skills.

At this point, it comes down to individual state requirements. Which raises the question:

Aare there major differences between the states in becoming a teacher?

The good news is that there aren’t major differences. You can wipe your brow now. However, there are important differences. One of these is that some states require a specific number of undergraduate credits in order to be certified. Following is a list of those that do:

  1. Alabama
  2. Connecticut
  3. District of Columbia
  4. Florida
  5. Idaho
  6. Illinois
  7. Iowa
  8. Kentucky
  9. Louisiana
  10. Missouri
  11. Montana
  12. Nevada
  13. New Jersey
  14. New Mexico
  15. New York
  16. North Carolina
  17. North Dakota
  18. Ohio
  19. Utah
  20. Virginia

As you can see, it really does matter which state you want to get your teaching certification in. In order to get the best information on getting certified in your state, you should go to the website for the department of education in your state.

So, now I know a little bit more about what’s involved in becoming a teacher. I have lots of work ahead of me if I decide to go this route. I hope the preceding information was helpful to you as well.

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