How to go back to school to become a teacher

August 31, 2021 | Kian Northcote

It was far more common for people to spend the bulk of their professional lives working in one career in the past.  

You went to school, you got a job, and you worked your way up the ladder. 

But in 2021 we’re less risk-averse and we are much more likely to seek out new opportunities or even work multiple roles simultaneously.

One reason for this is the shift to remote work, which has eliminated the daily commute for millions, granting us the freedom to focus on new career aspirations and the time to connect with people who can facilitate change. 

Meanwhile, young people, especially, are more engaged in social issues and are actively pursuing careers where they feel they can positively impact society. 

Education is one example. 

The chance to help shape our country’s future while also working in a role that offers job security, a stable salary and healthcare is an attractive proposition.

If you’re contemplating a career change and are curious about teaching, researching what education you need to become a teacher and how to get a teaching certificate might seem like a daunting prospect. 

There is so much information out there! 

But, the truth is, if you’re a college grad, becoming a fully licensed educator doesn’t require a trip back to college for the next three or four years of your life. 

You can do it in less than one. 

Continue reading to learn whether you’d make a great teacher and how you can become one without spending thousands of dollars more on school fees. 

Here’s what we’ll cover: 

  1. How to make a career change work to your advantage.
  2. What is an alternative teacher certification?
  3. How to decide if teaching is right for you.  
  4. Is it easy to find work as a licensed teacher?
  5. What other career options are there for teachers? 

1. How to make a career change work to your advantage.​

First, it’s important to clarify the difference between a change in jobs and a career change. 

A job change usually involves moving from one company to another but remaining in the same profession. 

For example, a teacher moving from one high school job to another would often be considered a job change. 

But a teacher moving into a completely different line of work by becoming a journalist would be viewed as a career change (more on that later). 

This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, though. 

Many teachers might consider moving from teaching high school to a role working in special-needs education a new career rather than a job change. 

The truth is, it’s now far more common for people to pivot into a new career, with recent studies revealing that 49% of people have changed careers at least once.

But isn’t “job hopping” frowned upon by employers?  

Not necessarily. 

If you play to your strengths, a diverse work history can help you stand out. 

Here are two things a career pivot can signify. 

You are adaptable.

Employers want people who can quickly adjust to a variety of situations. 

We are now operating in a more fluid work environment where our job duties can rapidly change. 

A diverse resume means you’re more likely to have existing skills that could prove invaluable to future employers. 

You like a challenge

A willingness to move into a different specialism says a lot about your character. 

It shows you are not intimidated by change and that you may well be someone who thrives on new challenges. 

A diverse work background can also indicate that you’re experienced in problem-solving across different industries. 

The desire for a new challenge works well in a teaching context because although a career in education is rewarding, it can also be tough. 

Let’s talk a bit more about how to get a teaching certificate in 2021.

2. What is an alternative teacher certification?

What education do you need to become a teacher?

Traditionally, getting certified to teach meant a trip back to school for three or four years. 

It didn’t even matter if you were already a college graduate. 

Now, thankfully, there are more options.

If you already hold a bachelor’s degree in any subject, you can enrol in an alternative certification course, like Klassroom’s teacher certification program (TCP). 

You’ll graduate with the same nationally recognized teaching licence, only in a lot less time and for a lot less expanse.   

It’s worth remembering the average cost of a four-year college degree in the U.S now exceeds more than $35,000 per year.

But alternative certification courses are far more affordable and offer flexible learning pathways. 

So, how does alternative certification work? 

These courses were initially created to help tackle our nationwide teacher shortage, and work by fast-tracking outstanding candidates into full-time teaching positions, nationwide. 

Many online certification programs, including Klassroom’s, are hybrid courses. 

This means the core modules are delivered online before participants complete a three-month placement in a working school, gaining invaluable practical experience. 

We’ve found that a lot of students enrolled in our TCP love how its emphasis on self-study allows them to remain in employment, learn at their own pace and still enjoy a healthy work-life balance. 

Do you already have teaching experience but lack full accreditation? 

Another advantage alternative certification programs have over more traditional routes is how their more streamlined approach cuts down on a lot of the bureaucracy you’ll encounter in a four-year degree course. 

For example, If you’ve already acquired a lot of the knowledge you need to be a successful teacher, why would you want to go back and start from the very beginning via a foundation year?  

Alternative certification should allow you to hone your existing skills, gain useful new expertise, and hopefully graduate in less than 12 months.

3. How to decide if teaching is right for you.

Yes, it’s a little cliched, but the phrase “teaching is more than a job” has some substance to it. 

Essentially, a teacher’s role is to ensure that important concepts are passed on from one generation to another.

Commendable but clear-cut, right? 

However, to achieve that goal, most teachers wear several different hats. They’re also custodians, mentors, role models, leaders, organizers and influencers.  

Being a great teacher is a juggling act that requires a lot of flexibility, but many educators will tell you the pay-off is huge because of the enormous satisfaction they take from their work. 

People with diverse work histories often know where their strengths and weaknesses lie, making it easier to work out whether they are well-suited to a teaching career.

If you don’t have that experience to fall back on, it can be more problematic. 

Here are three things you must consider:  

  1. Do you get along with young people? This goes beyond being “the cool uncle or aunt” who spends time with young people on your terms. You’ll be spending a lot of time with children, so this is something you need to think about.  
  2. Are you community-focused? Teachers are expected to form strong links with their local communities and tend to be very involved with different initiatives and a wide variety of stakeholders. You need good people skills
  3. Are you dedicated? Teachers work hard because they want to make a difference. But it can involve long hours, and if you prefer set routines and the stability of a 9 to 5 job, you’ll probably find both hard to come by in this profession.  

Another great option is to find work as a teaching assistant. Often, a high school diploma will be enough to land you a teaching assistant position, and it’s a great way to learn for yourself whether teaching is a viable career choice.

4. Is it easy to find work as a licensed teacher?

If there’s one profession that’s never going to vanish or become completely automated, it’s teaching. 

There’s a huge variety of opportunities for licenced teachers, both online and in-person.

Although the job market for educators is flourishing, there are ways you can maximize your chances of a successful job search. 

It’s a good idea to research which state you want to teach in once you’re fully licensed because the exact requirements can differ wildly, potentially impacting your career plans. 

If relocation is likely part of your job search strategy, you should read this detailed post on a little thing called teaching licence reciprocity. It’s worth familiarizing yourself with this policy if you’re planning to move out of state. 

But what are some more general strategies for finding a great teaching job? 

Although job boards are always the first port of call for many teachers, it’s also worth Googling Department of Education websites in specific regions. 

You’ll often find that some schools only want to advertise locally, and if you know where you want to live and teach, this can be a useful strategy. 

As an aside, don’t forget to check school websites for vacancies. 

Some schools still prefer to keep their recruitment 100% in-house, which makes their websites worth investigating.

5. What other career options are there for teachers?

So, you find the idea of getting a full teaching licence appealing, but you’re also thinking strategically about where else a teaching career could take you? 

Time spent in the classroom will equip you with loads of transferable skills that’ll make a career switch a whole lot easier if you decide to try your hand at something else. 

Here are three alternative careers for licensed teachers: 

Curriculum Designer: There’s a massive demand for curriculum designers, as schools are always looking to find new ways to create more engaging content. Your experience in planning lessons, coupled with your intrinsic understanding of what makes a strong curriculum, would make you an excellent fit for this role. 

Online Writer: Grading and proof-reading student papers, writing reports, developing lesson plans; teachers need sharp editing and writing skills, which makes them strong candidates for various writing roles. And if you have a particular teaching specialization, you could land a job with a trade publication. 

School Counsellor: Our children’s mental health has been under the microscope throughout the pandemic, leading to renewed calls for more investment in better mental health services. Your experience as a classroom teacher could be invaluable, helping students overcome social and emotional problems while also using your teaching background to help children explore possible career pathways.

A teaching licence gives you options.

Teachers will always be in demand, even during this period of economic change, when so many industries are either having to reinvent themselves for the virtual world or are simply becoming obsolete. 

Meanwhile, alternative certification providers continue to strengthen because they’ve made retraining as a teacher more affordable and more practical.

By offering a pared-back experience that focuses solely on what teachers really need to know, participants can graduate with a full teaching license and get started in their new careers in less than a year. 

Contact us today and take the first steps in your new teaching career.

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