What Skills Are Needed to Be a Teacher?

Do you want to be an educator? Do you wonder what it takes to develop young minds? Whether you're interested in teaching elementary-level, high school or college students, there are some common skills you'll need to become a teacher. Schools offering Teaching & Learning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Teacher Defined

Teachers are educators who instruct students on specific lessons and subjects in school. As a teacher, you might work in an elementary school, secondary school, community college, university, technical school or vocational institution. To earn a degree, individuals typically choose a level of education to focus on and a subject to teach, like mathematics or English.

Important Facts About Teaching

Elementary School Teacher Secondary School Teacher Postsecondary Teacher
Salary (2014) $56,830$59,330$74,040
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 6%6%13%
Continuing Education Often required for maintaining teaching licensure Often required for maintaining teaching licensure Often required for maintaining teaching licensure
Work Environment Public schools, private schools, charter schools, vocational schools Public schools, private schools, charter schools, vocational schools Public schools, private schools

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Necessary Education

Your major and required areas of study are usually dependent on what education level and subject you're interested in teaching. If you want to work at the elementary or secondary level, you'll likely need a bachelor's degree that includes training in education. You could major in a subject of interest, such as English or chemistry, but you'll also need instruction and training in education. Some undergraduate programs incorporate an extra year to provide this training; otherwise, you can enroll in a postbaccalaureate certificate or master's degree program.

If you'd like to teach at the postsecondary level, you'll usually be required to obtain at least a graduate degree in your subject area. Full-time teaching positions at universities often require a doctorate.

Work Skills

To be a successful teacher, clear communication skills are essential. Students must be able to thoroughly understand what you're teaching them. Additionally, possessing a trustworthy and confident attitude is needed if you're going to inspire and work with your students. Organization is a skill that can help you properly manage the lesson plans, assignments, quizzes and projects that you employ in your classroom.

Many of the skills you'll need as a teacher can be gained through formal training and student teaching. For example, teaching degree programs usually help you learn about teaching methods and how to prepare lesson plans. If you want to teach a specific subject, your college degree program could help you to become knowledgeable in that subject, so you can then pass that knowledge to your students. Student teaching lets you learn what it's like in a real classroom. You can learn how to work with different types of students and how to deal with the demands that might be placed on you in a classroom.


If you're working in a private school or at the postsecondary level, licensing is not required, unless your employer deems it necessary. Teachers at public elementary, middle and high schools, however, are typically required to be licensed. Licensing is handled by each state, and requirements usually include holding a bachelor's degree, completing a teacher training program and having experience teaching as a student teacher.

If you want to teach a particular discipline, like music or art, a specific license or endorsement on your teacher certification may be needed. Some states also require background checks. You might need to complete regular continuing education as well, in order to keep your teaching license valid.

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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