WRITTEN BY joanna york • 3 min

Joanna York is a freelance journalist and writer. In 2019 she was shortlisted for The Guardian’s Hugo Young Award.

It's never too late to become a teacher.

Wondering how to become a teacher later on in life? 

A  third of educators in the US were once in your shoes and are now teachers, so you’re in good company. 

Among those were people who always wanted to teach or needed a change of pace and a different work schedule.

If any of these reasons sound familiar to you, you’re in luck because teaching is a profession that welcomes people with prior life experience.

Becoming a teacher later in life is possible. We’re here to tell you how. 

Let’s get started by exploring a few common questions:

  • Am I too old to become a teacher?
  • What are the pros and cons of switching into teaching?
  • Is it easy to find a teaching job?
  • How do I switch into teaching?
  • How long will it take to become a teacher?

Am I too old to become a teacher?

Older teachers can be the best teachers. You have a lot more wisdom to share and a wealth of experience.

No! Think back on your teachers when you were at school. Were they all the same age? Of course not! 

Having teachers from different backgrounds, including age groups, can be a real advantage for schools and students.

As a later-in-life teacher, you’ll bring a wealth of experience to your role as an educator. 

This can help you base your classroom in real-world logic, find unique solutions, and help students who want to understand things your experience can shed light on.

When it comes to classroom management, your age can even be an advantage. 

No one’s saying you won’t have to learn any classroom management techniques, but coming to teaching later in life can give you a natural authority that garners respect.

You’ll also find that your previous professional (or life!) experience will mean you’re already well-practiced in some of the skills that you’ll need in the classroom. 

Managing, mentoring, listening, observing and inspiring others are just a few of the things teachers do daily. 

Which of these can you do already?

To be a good teacher, you need to be dedicated, up for a challenge and ready to face a steep learning curve in the first few years in your new profession.

What are the pros and cons of switching into teaching?

First up, the pros:

  • You’ll be working in a role where you add tangible value every day. 
  • You’ll give back to your students and learn from them too.  
  • You’ll be part of a school community. 
  • You’ll learn new skills all the time. 
  • And you’ll get to work with people. The bonds that you’ll create with your students and your colleagues will be genuinely unique.

And now for the one con: 

Teaching is not an easy way to wind down your career. 

To be a good teacher, you need to be dedicated, up for a challenge and ready to face a steep learning curve in the first few years in your new profession.

You’ll also need to be willing to start from scratch. 

If you love to learn, this might not be a big drawback. But it can be hard to switch from a career where you are comfortable and experienced into one where you’re still learning, and bound to make a few mistakes on the way. 

Luckily, there are some accelerated teaching pathways, so starting over shouldn’t take you too long. The bulk of your training can be done in as little as nine months.

Is it easy to find a teaching job?

One of the major pros of moving into teaching is that there are always jobs available

What’s the best part? 

It’s pretty much a recession-proof career move.

The US is currently experiencing a teacher shortage in many subjects and age groups, which means educators are in high demand in all states. 

And becoming a teacher also gives you a ticket for round the world travel. There are positions open for English-speaking teachers all over the world. 

So, if you’re thinking of becoming a teacher, think carefully about where you can bring value and find fulfillment. 

Ask yourself: 

  • What age group do you want to work with? 
  • What subject would you like to teach? 
  • What kind of school do you want to work in? 
  • And where?

Because, whatever your age, the ball is in your court.

It isn't hard to switch into teaching late in life. There are many certification options that can help you fast-track your licensure like Alternative Teacher Certification programs.

How do I switch into teaching?

To teach in the American school system, you’ll need to become a licensed teacher.

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Get a bachelor’s in Education
  2. Get an alternative teaching certification

If you already have a Bachelor’s degree (in any subject), alternative teaching certification provides the fastest route to becoming a teacher.

Many states offer self-paced, online alternative teaching certifications. This means that most of your studies can be done from home (or anywhere else you want) at a time and pace that suits you. 

A portion of the certification will also occur in a real school, giving you valuable classroom experience.

It’s that simple – you can become a certified teacher online!

Studying this way is cheaper and less time-consuming than going back to university to do a Bachelor’s degree in Education. 

It’s also a flexible method of study that fits in around other responsibilities. Perfect for people who already have a job or family commitments.

How long will it take to become a teacher?

If you decide to go back to university and do a bachelor’s degree in education, it will take over three years to become a teacher.

If you decide to use your existing degree to become a teacher and sign up for an alternative teaching certification course, you could be in the classroom in less than a year.

Alternative teaching certifications include online learning modules, written coursework and a 12-week (450 hours) teaching placement. 

In the online modules, you’ll learn about key teaching methodologies and classroom strategies that will help you manage your classroom. 

A teaching placement allows you to put these theories into practice and gain experience in a classroom setting. 

All together, alternative teaching certification takes a minimum of nine months to complete. 

However, as they are self-paced, you can take longer than nine months to complete the course if you want to.

Once you have completed your alternative teaching certification, that’s it! You’re ready to start applying for a teaching job you’ll love.

You have so much to offer the world. Let your experience as an older teacher shine.

Sounds great! Where do I begin?

If you have no teaching experience, why not try volunteering in a classroom? 

If you feel ready to start your career change now, then it’s time to start researching alternative teaching certifications

Tip: Make sure you find one that is accredited in the state you want to work in or look for one that is valid throughout the US.

Wherever you are in your journey to becoming a teacher, don’t let your age be a factor. 

Students and schools need all kinds of teachers. Your experience will most likely be an asset: part of what makes your teaching and your classroom uniquely valuable to your school community.

In short, it’s never too late to teach!