If you’re considering a career in teaching, it’s important to get the right credentials. The most basic qualification you need, in terms of a degree, is a bachelor’s degree. Without a four-year degree you are ineligible for pretty much any teaching position–other than that of a classroom aide. (This is true even with alternative teacher certification and experience-based licensure).
Exactly which four-year teaching degree you need to be a teacher? Well, that depends a lot on the grade and subject you want to teach. The first option would be to get a bachelor’s degree in education. This will allow you to teach elementary school upon graduation. But there are other options. In theory, any bachelor’s degree will work as a prerequisite for post-baccalaureate teacher certification.
How Do I Get a License Through Post-Baccalaureate Work?
Elementary education has the most flexible degree requirements. As you probably guessed, first you need to get a bachelor’s degree in something! Then, you can earn your post-baccalaureate teacher certification by taking a set of additional classes after graduation. Post-bac coursework is not as long or time consuming as a full bachelor’s degree, so that’s the good news!
There are undeniable advantages to getting an elementary education degree as your initial degree if you want to teach elementary school. With an initial bachelor’s in elementary education, you can get licensed in just four years. Conversely, getting a full, unrelated bachelor’s followed by post-bac courses would take about five or six years before becoming licensed.
Teaching Middle or High School
Now, if you want to teach a specific subject in middle or high school, your bachelor’s needs to be more focused. You’ll need a degree that is highly relevant to the specific subject area you’ll be teaching. A certain number of course credits in your subject area are required before you can get licensed. While this number varies depending on the license and the state, the number of credits you need is significant.
So if you’re looking to get licensed as a science teacher, you’ll likely need a degree in the sciences. And if you want to get licensed to teach high school psychology, you’ll need a degree with a lot of psychology classes. This could include things like social work, criminal justice, counseling, or psychology itself.
Options for Certification
Not Completed Your Bachelor’s Yet?
As with elementary education, there is the option to add a post-baccalaureate teaching certificate to any subject area degree. But again, getting certified during your undergraduate studies is the fastest option.
So if your initial degree isn’t complete yet, talk to your academic advisor! Ask about adding a minor in education with a mix of courses that allows teaching certification by your expected graduation date.
If You’ve Completed a Bachelor’s Already, Consider a Master’s Degree
If your degree is already complete, a Masters in Education can sometimes be a good alternative. Masters degrees tend to take just one semester longer than post-bac! And they actually lead to a full additional degree, not to mention higher entry-level pay. Of course, what degree you need to be a teacher depends a little bit on the budget of your prospective employers. Masters-degree holders sometimes find themselves priced out of cash-conscious school districts.
I hope that this article helped clear up any confusion you had about paths to certification. If you have any further questions, feel free to comment below.