WRITTEN BY JOANNA YORK • 3.5 min

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

teacher wearing a mask assisting students

If you ever wanted to be a teacher but have been turned off by the years of study required, this is your moment. 

Due to the teacher shortages in states around the US, schools are looking for new ways to add more teachers to their staff.  

This means that even if you already graduated or are well established in a different career, it’s not too late to change direction and become a teacher.

And jobs are now available in dream destinations like tropical Hawai’i or sun-drenched California, among many other beautiful locations.

Does any of this sound tempting? 

Here are the top 5 considerations to know if you want to become an emergency hire in states with teacher shortages:

  1. What is the situation in schools?
  2. What qualifications do I need to become an emergency hire?
  3. What is the TCP training process like?
  4. How quickly could I become a teacher?
  5. What are the future opportunities for TCP-qualified teachers?

1. What is the situation in schools?

The US teacher shortage is not new.

For years now many states have not had enough staff to fill their schools and have been experimenting with hiring teachers from overseas. 

But the lack of teachers has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The national shortfall is now around 900,000 teachers.

A 2021 study found that two-thirds of all schools in the US reported teacher shortages, the highest rates since 2015. These included schools in urban, suburban and rural districts, and across all grade levels and subjects. 

But there are some specialist positions that are particularly difficult for many schools to fill, such as special education and substitute teachers.

In this context, many schools are turning to emergency hires to fill their classrooms.

teacher sitting at a desk helping her students

2. What qualifications do I need to become an emergency hire?

Emergency teaching hires do not have to have a Bachelor’s degree in Education, which is the qualification schools typically ask for from fully qualified teachers.

In many cases, emergency hires also do not even have to be certified teachers but can be working towards becoming a teacher. 

Typically, applicants for emergency hire positions must be in a SATEP (State Approved Teacher Education Program) such as the Teacher Certification Program (TCP).

Beyond this, applicants must also apply for an emergency hire permit in the state they want to work in. 

But it’s still important to be mindful because the eligibility criteria for an emergency hire permit varies from state to state.

For example, to apply for an emergency hire permit in Hawai’i, you must hold a bachelor’s degree, clear a professional fitness check, pay the permit fee and be employed by the Hawai’i Department of Education of Charter School.

3. What is the TCP training process like?

Teacher certification programs vary from state to state.

Generally, it is open to people who have a bachelor’s degree, and to those who have the right to work in the US.

During the training, you will study core modules, which are completely online, and do a clinical placement in person.

By the end of the course, you will be qualified to teach either elementary education or a specific subject for secondary education.

Depending on the course you take you’ll be qualified to teach in a specific state with a teacher shortage, such as Arizona or Hawai’i.

man teaching a class of high school students

4. How quickly could I become a teacher with an alternative teacher certification program like TCP?

Typically, alternative teacher certification programs (including TCP) take around nine months, with six months of online study and three months spent in the classroom.

But as an emergency hire, you’ll have the opportunity to get in the classroom even quicker in some states as you do not have to complete the course before you apply for roles in schools.

In practice, this often means that you can be hired for the clinical placement portion of the program, meaning that instead of working as a pre-service teacher for three months you are contracted as an emergency hire.

In other words, you get paid for your placement! 

Alternative teacher certification programs are already significantly less expensive than doing a Bachelor’s in Education. 

Plus getting paid to work as part of your qualification is a great way to further reduce the costs.

5. What are the future opportunities for TCP-qualified teachers? 

Once you have completed your TCP core online coursework and your clinical placement you are free to apply for US teaching jobs!

You may be eligible to apply for jobs in any state, with or without teacher shortages, depending on the course you took.

But you will be eligible for exactly the same roles as teachers who completed bachelor’s degrees in education, and you’ll also have the same roles for career advancement once you find a teaching job.

One of the advantages of your job search will be that there are plenty of teaching roles available throughout the US, wherever you want to teach, and whatever kind of school you want to work in.

Be part of the solution!

The US teacher shortage is obviously worrying for schools and for students, who should all have access to high-quality education.

Alternative teacher certification programs offer a unique way for professionals and recent graduates from different fields to be part of the solution, by offering a streamlined route into teaching.

If you have ever been curious about getting into teaching but felt it is too late or have been put off by the thought of going back to school, now is your moment!

Find more information on enrolling in a TCP course here.