How Do I Become a Teacher in the U.S.? | A How-To Guide

By Kristen Cole

happy new teacher at the front of the classroom

Teaching is a noble profession that allows you to have a positive impact and leave a legacy of learning with students.

Whether you are from another country, want to change careers, or desire to go back to school for education, there are plenty of opportunities to teach across the United States.

How to become a teacher is a large idea, but with some direction, you can earn your teaching license and be in the classroom in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Teacher

To become a teacher in the United States, you can use a traditional route or an alternative route. In the traditional route, you need five things.

Requirements for Eligibility

A bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree is essential to teaching. You may decide that in the traditional route of attending a university to get a bachelor’s degree in education with a focus in a particular subject area, like math, science, history, or English.

If you earned your bachelor’s degree in something other than education, that is also acceptable. Many states now have a Transition to Teaching program.

Through this type of program, you can have a degree in business, agriculture, or engineering and earn a teaching certificate. Sometimes you can even earn it while working in the classroom.

A completion of a state-approved teacher education program

You can go through a university teacher education program or something a little more nontraditional if you are entering the classroom at a later life stage or while you are working in a teaching position at a school.

Most schools also require some type of student teaching experience. Although with the teacher shortages in the United States, many schools are accepting a mentored teaching experience.

Mentored teaching involves working at a school with pay while meeting with a mentor at your university or teacher education program who checks in frequently. You would probably also have a mentor at the school in which you are working for more immediate help.

Adequate score on teacher certification exam

As far as teacher certification exams go, most states accept the Praxis test. Some states, like Michigan, have their own exams that they prefer new teachers to take.

The greatness of the Praxis test is that it is accepted by most states, so if you decide to move, you may not have to take another test.

Some states have reciprocity with other states. For example, if you were licensed but wanted to find a new job, you would be able to start looking for work immediately.

There are eight states that offer complete reciprocity. Many others have additional requirements, like courses or assessments, to become fully licensed in the new state.

Background check

This might sound like an obvious concern, but all schools require a successful background regardless of how you want to be involved in the school.

When you get offered a position, this is something that your employer will request. You don’t need to have one done on your own before applying for jobs.

Satisfactory score on the subject area test of your choosing

Whether you want to teach math, business, or agriculture, there is a subject-area test for you to take and pass in order to teach.

While the Praxis exam will cover general knowledge of teaching, you will need to take a subject area exam as well, especially if you want to teach middle school or high school. These tests will depend on your specialty and will assess your knowledge of that subject more in-depth.

How do I get a teaching license in the U.S.?

Regardless of where you are coming from, whether it be from the corporate world or another country, you will need a teaching license in order to become a teacher. 

Each state has its own teaching requirements, so make sure you research the requirements for your state or the state you plan to live in.

Once again, you will need to complete a teacher certification program. This can be done through a local university or online.

In fact, Klassroom has a nationally accredited Teacher Certification Program where you can receive 1-on-1 assistance in achieving your goal of finding a teaching job.

These programs exist to help you better understand how your students will think and how to problem-solve each day in your new classroom. Teacher certification programs help with non-subject area concepts.

What is the fastest way to become a teacher?

You can become a certified teacher in about a year.

Programs like Teachers of Tomorrow and Teach for America work with people like you to help you get your teaching license quickly so that you can make an impact in the classroom sooner than later.

Some states allow you to get an emergency license or temporary license with proof that you are completing or intend to complete a teacher certification program. This means that you could get a job right now in the classroom while you are earning your teaching certificate.

What types of teachers are in demand?

You may be wondering what types of teachers are in demand at the moment. While there will always be a need to teachers in the core subject areas of math and English, there is also a need for special education teachers.

Special education teachers are in demand as more and more students are diagnosed with different learning disorders like dyslexia, anxiety, and even autism.

Another area of fast-growing opportunity is STEM. This stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. This is a great opportunity for you if you don’t have a traditional education degree or want to become a teacher from the corporate world.

These courses include business, information technology, biochemistry, and agriculture, just to name a few.

The last area of high interest is English as a Second Language (ESL). The United States is filled with a plethora of students who have moved from other countries. ESL teachers help bridge the gap between languages and learning.

How do I become an online teacher?

A final option for teaching is teaching online. With the pandemic in 2020, the demand for these types of teachers has grown aggressively.

Many middle and high school students especially have begun to take courses online. Some take online courses exclusively, while others take them in addition to attending school during the day.

Online teaching has similar requirements in that it still requires a teaching license, but you need a little more expertise in computer skills and teaching virtually.

What about you? What subject do you hope to teach? What questions do you still have about becoming a teacher? Leave a comment below to share your dreams and your concerns. We love teachers, and we want to help you achieve your dream of becoming one!

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