Becoming a Teacher with a Bachelor's Degree: Programs & Certification

Oct 20, 2021

Most teachers need to earn a bachelor's degree and obtain state certification to teach. Here we discuss how to be a teacher, including how to get a teaching certificate if you already have a bachelor's degree in a subject besides education.

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Can You Teach with a Bachelor's Degree?

You can become a teacher with a bachelor's degree. Even though many teachers also acquire a master's degree, a bachelor's degree in teaching or education can be enough to fulfill the education requirements for becoming a teacher. After college, a teacher certification is needed to teach in public schools, and the rules about which exact certifications are necessary varies by state. Even a bachelor's degree in a non-education field can be used to become a teacher, but in this case alternative teaching certification is also needed. Some states also may require teachers to earn a master's degree within a certain period of time after becoming a teacher.

Most commonly, aspiring teachers will pursue a bachelor's degree program in education. These programs are usually offered as Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), or Bachelor of Education (Bed) degrees. Students are also usually able to specialize in a range of grades, such as elementary school or secondary school, and/or in particular subjects, such as art, music, or English for secondary school. Special education teachers also need a bachelor's degree, usually in special education.

becoming a teacher with a bachelor

Bachelor's Degree Program Options in Education

There are many bachelor's degree options for future educators. Those enrolled at colleges or universities that offer classes and programs in education and pedagogy can often choose majors such as those seen in the following list:

  • Early childhood education
  • Special education
  • Secondary education
  • Agricultural education
  • Physical education
  • Educational management
  • Educational psychology
  • English as a second language

Bachelor's degree programs in education can have a variety of focuses, from psychology to special education to subject-specific teaching. Regardless of the exact specialization of a education degree, these programs often include courses in topics such as:

  • Classroom engagement
  • Educational assessment
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Instructional planning
  • Developmental psychology
  • American education

The majority of bachelor degree in teaching programs also practically show how to teach with a bachelor's degree. These programs often include hands-on learning experiences in a classroom, which can be in the form of student observation of a current teacher or student teaching under the supervision of a professor or another educator. This experience is important not only because it provides students with the opportunity to put into practice what has been learned in the classroom, but also because it provides teaching experience, a key requirement for many state certifications (discussed more below). These hands-on experiences also allow students to practice classroom management, lesson planning, communication, and engagement, which are important skills for teachers.

Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, one of the top universities in the United States, offers a number of majors from which college students can choose to promote future careers in education. Majors in early childhood and elementary education, special education, educational studies and secondary education all prepare students for becoming certified teachers upon graduation, ready to go to work in U.S. public schools. Each of these programs includes intense coursework in topics such as child development and cultural diversity as well as many hours of fieldwork, during which students apply the knowledge they've learned in the classroom.

How to Get Teacher Certification After College

All states require public school teachers, including special education teachers, to hold a state teaching license, but the requirements for licensure may vary amongst states. Since requisites vary among different states, one might wonder how to get teacher certification after college. Most states require teachers to have a bachelor's degree, pass a background check, complete student teaching and pass an exam. The differences between states usually occur in the kinds of exams teachers are required to take for licensure. For example, aspiring teachers in Ohio must take the OAE and subject tests, while aspiring teachers in Illinois can take the edTPA and subject tests.

As mentioned before, those wondering how to teach with a bachelor's degree should know that you need to have teaching experience in order to become licensed in most states. If this experience has not been acquired during the bachelor's program, some states offer supervised practicums which can provide young teachers the experience they need to be certified.

There are several different teacher preparation programs available to help students prepare for certification. Once students have earned their license, they may need to participate in professional development to maintain it.

Non-Education Bachelor's Degree and Alternative Certification

Some students may wonder how to get a teaching certificate if you already have a bachelor's degree in a field outside of education. For example, a student with a biology or chemistry degree may be interested in teaching high school science. Of course, one could get a master's degree in education, but what about if you want to teach with only a bachelor's degree? All 50 states offer alternative routes to becoming a certified teacher for students in this particular situation.

There are some states that may allow students to begin teaching under a supervised teacher and earning certification after meeting all the program requirements. Other states may require students to complete an alternative teacher certification program through a college in order to take required education courses.

A few of these alternative certification programs may allow students to begin teaching while taking courses, while others may be non-degree programs that result in teacher certification for specific grade levels. Some programs may be completed in as little as one year and may offer a variety of endorsements in areas like:

  • Elementary education
  • Secondary education
  • Science
  • History
  • Math
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