What Are the Requirements for a Career in Teaching and Education?

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Written by: Sandy McGee

Teaching is a rewarding profession in which educators help students gain an appreciation for knowledge and develop new skills. To become an educator, you must first understand the profession’s requirements.

K-12 teachers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Teaching and education job requirements for public school also include a state-issued license.

Educators may also pursue careers other than teaching in elementary, middle, or high schools. With additional education or licensure, teachers can pursue careers as school counselors, librarians, instructional coordinators, and principals. These professionals generally make more money than high school teachers, who earned a median annual wage of $60,320 as of May 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Principals brought home an average annual salary of $95,310, while school librarians earned $59,050 per year.

High School Courses of Study

Aspiring teachers can prepare to meet teaching and education degree requirements while still in high school. Students can gain experience by tutoring, mentoring other students, or volunteering with local education foundations.

Once learners know the type of teaching they want to pursue, they can speak with a counselor and focus on specific classes in the content area they wish to teach, such as English or math.

Earning high grades and participating in extracurricular activities can help aspiring teachers earn admission into the top programs for teaching and education. Students can also take advanced placement courses and exams to test out of certain college courses.

College Courses of Study

Required teaching and education courses help students gain valuable attributes, including technological and classroom management skills. Relevant courses vary by grade level. For example, a child development course is vital for future elementary education teachers, but less important for future high school teachers.

Child Development

Child development courses focus on growth and development throughout each child’s life cycle. This course typically covers family structure, psychology, sociology, and cultural influences on a child. Aspiring teachers also study child developmental stages and how those stages impact a child’s future.

Foundations of Education

Providing an overview of education, this course introduces students to strategies for creating a supportive learning environment. This course typically covers law, history, current issues in education, and philosophy. Learners may also study the role of cultural diversity in education, curriculum and assessment, and education standards.

Student Assessment

This course explores techniques for designing and enforcing measures to determine successful student learning. Learners may study summative assessments — which use tests, quizzes, and other activities to assess learning — or formative assessments, which use rubrics, emails, and face-to-face feedback.

Classroom Management

Topics in the course include classroom preparation, discipline models, and student behavior. Future educators learn how to communicate expectations and how to create a positive learning environment. Students may also learn how to involve parents in a classroom.

Teaching With Technology

This course teaches students how to use technology in the classroom to enhance student learning and achievement. Common topics include learning management systems, blogs, email, interactive games, and online learning.

Graduate Degrees in Teaching and Education

A graduate degree in teaching and education can lead to a higher salary and job opportunities beyond teaching. Librarians, instructional coordinators, and principals all must earn master’s degrees. Nearly all states require school counselors to earn a graduate degree in school counseling or a related field. Some states require elementary and secondary teachers to earn a master’s degree after securing a job and receiving licensure.

Students can pursue doctoral degrees in education for top leadership positions in schools, such as school administrator or superintendent. While these roles only require a master’s degree, employers prefer candidates with doctoral degrees. According to PayScale, entry-level superintendents or administrators can earn six-figure salaries.

Many graduate schools require the GRE for admission into graduate or doctoral programs. The GRE tests students on analytical writing and quantitative and verbal reasoning.

Professional Licensure

To teach in a public school, educators must obtain licensure in a specific grade level. While requirements for licensure vary by state, educators must usually hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA, pass a background check, complete a student teaching program, and pass a subject-specific exam. The licensure process usually takes four years, starting from the first year of a teacher preparation program or undergraduate degree.

States usually offer reciprocity for teachers wishing to transfer their license from one state to another. Out-of-state teachers should check specific requirements in their new state.

Licensure candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree and a solid GPA
  • Completion of a teacher preparation program and supervised experience like student teaching
  • A clean background check
  • Passing scores on teaching licensure tests, which cover both general knowledge and your teaching subject area

Continuing Education

Continuing education helps educators improve teaching skills and learn about new research.

To maintain licenses, teachers need to complete professional development or continuing education credits. Continuing education requirements vary among states. A few states add extra conditions, such as California’s requirement to complete coursework and pass a test on the U.S. Constitution.

Some states require continuing education for license renewal. For example, public school teachers in Colorado must complete a combination of six credits of coursework and 90 hours of professional development every three years for renewal.

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