How to Become a Teacher: Turning Your Undergraduate Degree into a Career in Teaching

Teaching is an attractive field. It invites creative thinkers and innovative actors to pay attention, and it beckons them to careers built on distinguished goals and noble dreams. It begs of them to contribute to students, improve society, and bask in summers off. Granted, it gives these gifts only after hours and hours of really hard work, but its gifts might be some of the most rewarding in the world.

Are you someone who hears this seductive call of teaching?  

If you do, you may be concerned that it has arrived many years too late. Perhaps you’ve already earned your bachelor’s degree, and your career already has a path. Yet you notice the call is ceaseless, and you know have to respond.

This can evoke concern and confusion for many people, and you might be asking yourself questions like: how can I possibly leave my career for something I know nothing about? What if I refuse to earn another bachelor’s degree but really want to be a teacher? What if I don’t want to start all over in my career? What if I love my field of knowledge and expertise, and I don’t want to walk away from them? What is a confused person like me to do?  

This concern and confusion can ignite the desire to ignore your intuition and stick to what you know. If you really want to be a teacher, there are, believe or not, amazing options that might potentially help you pursue a career in teaching.

This article outlines some of those options. It provides information on how you could pursue a new career in teaching, and it emphasizes the possibility of teaching what you already know.    

How to Become a Teacher When Your Current Bachelor’s Degree Has Other Plans

Let’s say your bachelor’s degree is in something you really love. Perhaps you studied art, music, or dance. Maybe you majored in mathematics, a natural science, or a social science. Or maybe you devoted yourself to English, writing, or language. All of these subjects are ones you might be able to translate into a potential career in teaching, and your existing knowledge in these areas might help you develop skills that make you an effective teacher.  

To pursue a career as a teacher, your next step might be to consider earning a master’s degree in teacher education. By finding your perfect program and working closely with an advisor and your teachers, you might develop skills that may help you learn how to effectively teach the subject you already know.

Most graduate programs in teacher education focus not on the content of curricula (social studies or English, for example), but instead on how to be effective in the classroom. This means you may be able to learn much of what you need to know about teaching in your graduate program.

In graduate programs in education, you might explore topics such as:

  • The basics of how to develop, incorporate, and assess curricula;
  • How to incorporate effective teaching pedagogies and methodologies in the classroom;
  • How to assess students’ work and improve students’ outcomes;
  • How to study and apply or address educational theories and issues;
  • How to conduct research and affect change in the field of education.  

Along with a master’s degree or other educational teaching credential, you’ll need to earn your teaching license and take any courses necessary to round-out your knowledge in the subject you plan to teach[i]. You can do both with the guidance of an advisor in your program. At the end of this process, you’ll be well on your way to being able to pursue potential career opportunities in the field of teaching.  

Alternative Routes for Becoming a Teacher

In many states throughout the country, quality teachers are in demand[ii]. This has prompted many states alternative educational routes for people to become teachers[i].

Through alternative routes, you typically complete a teacher-preparation program, earn a teaching license, and find opportunities to pursue potential career opportunities to serve as a teacher in an under served school or subject. However, the structure of alternative programs vary greatly by state and organization.

In most cases, states and organizations create alternative programs in response to need. In impoverished or rural areas, for example, some schools need quality, passionate teachers as soon as possible. Other schools, however, need knowledgeable teachers for specific subjects.  

It’s important to note that while alternative programs can be of high quality, they may not provide the same graduate-level inquiry as master’s programs do. Alternative programs are designed to help prepare you for entry into a field. Conversely, graduate degrees are designed to engage you in a rigorous study of some of the dynamics and underpinnings of education. This makes alternative programs more practical and graduate programs more academic (though they too have practical elements).

No matter your path, your potential career in education awaits. Best of luck to you!

Master's Degree Programs for Teachers


References:

[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm#tab-4 | [ii] bls.gov/oes/current/oes252031.htm

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