Perhaps because the field of education is so broad and expansive, it is often difficult to determine how to enter the field. Different states have different requirements and opportunities, and most people can’t deliver a perfectly clear answer about how to jumpstart a career in education. Through this series of frequently asked questions, we will do our best to answer some questions and clarify your path!
Q: What are some subject areas that teachers might concentrate in?
Teachers typically hone their knowledge through bachelor’s programs, master’s programs, certificate programs, and on-the-job experience.
Some areas of knowledge-concentration include math, literature, social studies, natural sciences, exercise science, art, music, and numerous others. Most teachers gain this type of concentrated knowledge in educational programs.
Teachers may also concentrate their studies in a particular area of education such as special education, ESL, library media, or technical instruction.
Within most concentrations, teachers can gain more and more nuanced knowledge through rigorous study and experience.
Q: How much could a teacher potentially earn?
What teachers earn depends on where they live, what they teach, and how much education and experience they have. However, we can give you a general sense of what teachers earn based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of May, 2012:
- Kindergarten teachers earned a median annual wage of $50,120[i]
- Elementary school teachers earned a median annual wage of $53,400[i]
- Middle school teachers earned a median annual wage of $53,430[ii]
- High school teachers earned a median annual wage of $55,050[iii]
- Postsecondary teachers earned a median annual wage of $68,970[iv]
Q: Can you use your undergraduate degree to pursue a teacher career in a concentrated subject?
Yes! Some teachers earn a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than teaching and then teach that subject in the classroom. To pursue potential career opportunities as a teacher, professionals with a bachelor’s degree in something other than teaching might choose to earn a master’s degree in teaching. In addition, they need to earn a teaching license and complete student teaching or a practicum; they might also pursue alternative routes to becoming a teacher[v].
Keep in mind that different states and schools have different requirements for teachers. You should consult the department of education in your state to determine what education and certification you need in order to teach your specialized subject. You might also consider pursuing an alternative licensure program if you’re not ready to pursue a graduate degree at this time.
Q: What are my options for jumpstarting a career in teaching a concentrated subject?
Your options depend upon where you live and what you want to teach. Most commonly, however, professionals with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than teaching might take three steps to become a teacher:
- They determine whether or not their concentrated knowledge falls into a subject category that is useful in the educational system. If it is, they determine whether or not they need any additional education to earn the credentials required to teach their subject in schools in their state (a political science major, for example, may have to take a few history courses to teach social studies).
- They pursue a master’s degree in teaching, apply for an alternative teaching program, or find another program that provides the education required by the state to earn a teacher certification. Through master’s programs, professionals complete coursework, student-teach or complete a practicum, and write and defend a final research project or thesis. Professionals engage in a distinct course of study in alternative programs, the structures of which vary by state and program.
- They earn a teaching license through the state in which they plan to teach. The examination for a teaching license tests professionals’ proficiency of knowledge in their subject, their teaching methodologies, and their abilities to teach according to state standards.
Q: Can teachers in concentrated subjects work with students at all grade levels?
Yes, so long as they have the education and certification appropriate to do so. In graduate, alternative, and licensure programs, students typically focus their studies in a particular grade-level.
Q: What types of degrees may be available for people interested in earning a graduate degree in teacher education?
People interested in graduate-level education in teacher education typically might pursue one of the following degrees:
- An EdD: this is a doctorate program that helps prepares educators for more practical applications and administrative or leadership roles in education.
- A PhD: this is a doctorate program that helps prepares educators for more theoretical applications and researcher and teaching roles in education.
- A Master of Arts in teaching: this is a graduate degree that enhances teachers’ knowledge of many aspects of teaching and the broader field of education.
- A Master’s of Education (M.Ed): this is a graduate degree that helps prepares educators for more administrative roles in the field of education.
- A Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction: this is a graduate degree that allows for a rigorous and in-depth study of designing, implementing, and assessing curricula. It may enhance teaching careers and help prepare educators for careers in curriculum development.
[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-5 | bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm#tab-5 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm#tab-5 | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-5 | [v] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm#tab-4