What Degree Is Required to Become a Teacher?

Find out what it takes to become an elementary or secondary school teacher. Learn about your education options, and discover state licensure and certification requirements for teachers. Schools offering Teaching & Learning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How Do I Become a Teacher?

The degree you need to become a teacher depends on what kind of teacher you'd like to be and what level of education you've already completed. Every state has its own guidelines for teacher certification or licensure, but all states require it. You need at least a bachelor's degree in teaching, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but you might need to pursue a master's degree in some states. Secondary school teachers typically have to get a license to teach their particular subject. If you want to teach in a private school, you might not need a license, but you most often still need at least a bachelor's degree in teaching.

Many states offer alternative-licensing options for aspiring teachers who haven't taken the traditional educational path. If you're interested in teaching subjects such as math or science, or if you're willing to teach in urban or rural schools, you might be able to become a teacher under provisional licensure, says the BLS (www.bls.gov). You might also be able to fulfill licensure or certification requirements by taking only the courses you need to complete a teaching degree.

Required Education Bachelor's degree typically required; some states may require a master's degree
Certificate/Degree Levels Bachelor's and master's degrees; graduate and post-baccalaureate certificates
Learning Environments Traditional classroom and online degree programs are available, but limited
Certification/Licensure Requirement All states require teachers to be either certified or licensed to teach in public school; continuing education courses may be needed in order to maintain certification/licensure

What Degrees Are There?

You can earn bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, post-baccalaureate certificates and graduate certificates to become a teacher. Typically, teaching degree programs specialize in particular areas of teaching. For example, you can a bachelor's degree, a master's degree or a certificate in elementary or special education. If you're interested in teaching secondary school, you usually have to major in the subject you'd like to teach while also earning your teacher certification. You can earn degrees in special education at the bachelor's and master's degree levels, too.

Master's degree teaching programs are typically geared toward students who've already completed a bachelor's degree and would like to become a teacher. You take education courses and fulfill the experiential requirements to earn a teaching license. Regardless of the degree program you choose, you have to teach in a classroom under supervision.

Can I Earn a Degree Online?

There aren't many online degree programs for teachers. You can find limited online learning opportunities at both the bachelor's and master's degree levels. You still have to complete in-person teaching and observation experiences, which usually take place at a school near your home.

What Other Qualifications and Opportunities Might I Encounter?

Depending on your state, you might be required to pass an exam in the area you hope to teach. Additionally, the BLS says that some states are implementing performance-based standards for licensure. Continuing-education credits might be required to maintain your certification or license. You can earn voluntary national certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which could mean a higher salary and greater benefits.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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