Career Information for a Degree or Certification in Teaching

Nov 08, 2021

A degree or certificate in teaching is the ideal foundation for a career as a teacher. Teachers are typically required to be certified or licensed and choose to specialize in an age range and teach children in elementary, middle, or high school. Private schools are not bound by the certification requirements of the state, and it may be possible to begin a teaching career in a private school without being certified or licensed.

Essential Information

Though requirements for teachers vary between states, a teaching certification or license is usually earned after earning a bachelor's degree. Teachers may earn a degree in education or degree in another relevant area such as English or math. This latter group most often move on to partake in an accredited teaching program. No matter the route, almost all states require a teaching candidate to pass a standardized teaching competency exam that tests subject-specific knowledge and teaching best practices.

Career Elementary School Teacher Middle School Teacher High School Teacher
Required Education Bachelor's degree in elementary education; some states also require a bachelor's in a specific content area Bachelor's degree in elementary education or a specific content area, depending on the state Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Certification or licensure Certification or licensure Certification or licensure
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 4% 4% 4%
Median Salary (2020)* $60,940 $60,810 $62,870

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Your path to becoming a teacher will largely depend on what grade level you wish to teach, which subject, and requirements for teachers in your state. Those who wish to teach disabled or disadvantaged children, as well as those who speak another language, are more likely to be considered desirable candidates.

Job Duties

In order to qualify for teaching positions, aspiring educators must earn a degree and certification for their chosen grade level. Though teaching methods vary by institution, age, subject and learning requirements, teachers share some common duties including:

  • Evaluating student performance
  • Encouraging and disciplining students
  • Assessing learning methods
  • Designing lesson plans
  • Lecturing on and demonstrating material
  • Grading papers and issuing report cards
  • Counseling students and their parents
  • Utilizing technology in the classroom
  • Learning new education methods

Career Outlook & Salary Information

During the decade from 2029-2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for elementary, middle and high school teachers should increase by 4%, which is as fast as average.

Teachers who have special skills such as teaching English as a second language, as well as those who are willing to teach in underserved rural areas, should have solid job prospects, the BLS reported. Reports of strong job opportunities could draw students into the profession, but increase the competition for positions as well.

Teachers can earn a wide range of incomes depending on the school, location and grade level of students they instruct. BLS reports that as of May 2020 the median annual salary was $60,940 for elementary school teachers, $60,810 for middle school teachers, and $62,870 for high school teachers.

Degree and Certification Information

There are several ways potential teachers can earn a degree and qualify for certification. Bachelor's degree programs in teaching are available at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. These programs typically include coursework in educational theory and childhood development. Students also participate in in-classroom observation and teaching experiences working with real students and working teachers. Those who have already earned a bachelor's degree in any subject can pursue master's degrees in teaching that give them the educational instruction and practice teaching experience required to qualify for state certification. Secondary school teachers can often specialize in a particular subject area.

Every state requires public school teachers to be certified in order to work, but private schools aren't bound by these regulations. In most cases, teachers can earn certification to teach a certain age group, such as kindergarten, elementary, middle or secondary school students. In order to gain certification, teachers must usually past a competency exam and fulfill educational and practice teaching requirements. Continuing education is often required to maintain certification.

Although it may be possible to begin a teaching career without being certified, teachers who are certified or licensed will have more job opportunities when entering their career field. Some teachers may also choose to focus on a specialized area, such as teaching English as a second language, or working with student with disabilities. Teaching jobs are expected to grow steadily through 2029, and median salaries for teachers were between $60,000 and $63,000 in 2020.

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