I am interested in learning more about American University's School of Education!

By providing my information and clicking the "Learn More" button, I consent to be contacted via telephone (including a cell phone, if provided), email, and text message.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Teacher without an Undergraduate Degree in Education

For people who grow up knowing that they want to be teachers—or, at least, arrive at that certainty around the time they graduate from high school—the path to getting certified usually starts with an undergraduate degree in education.

But for people who come to this vocational realization after earning an undergraduate degree—in a field other than education—that path looks a little different. Some people hit a wall of frustration after realizing that teaching is their calling after earning a bachelor’s degree in a different field, since many graduate programs in teaching, as well as licensure and certification programs, require that future teachers’ undergraduate degrees be in the educational field. But this frustration needn’t linger for long.

Future teachers who find themselves in this situation can consider pursuing graduate degrees, many of which offer an education in teaching in a short time frame and leave graduates ready to successfully pass their state licensure exams.

In other words, great teachers shouldn’t be excluded from making a difference in the field because of the constraints their undergraduate degrees might initially seem to impose.

Read on for a step-by-step guide that explains how to become a teacher without an undergraduate degree in education.

1. Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

All 50 states require that anyone teaching kindergarten through 12th grade have a bachelor’s degree, so if you haven’t completed this degree yet, getting there should be your first step.

But, we reiterate, it doesn’t have to be in the field of education, regardless of what you may have heard.

2. Apply for Your Master of Arts in Teaching

While a master’s degree is not necessary in most places to become a teacher (if you have a bachelor’s degree in education, it’s possible to start your career with just a certificate or license on top of that), a postsecondary degree brings major benefits no matter where you are or what you want to teach. For one thing, many public schools encourage their teachers to earn master’s degrees. A master’s also typically opens up additional professional opportunities and tends to come with higher pay.

American University offers its master of arts in teaching degree (both on campus and online) for students with no background or preparation in education who intend to earn licensure in one of four areas: early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education (English, social studies, math, biology, chemistry, and physics), or English for speakers of other languages (K-12).
Once you’ve decided to earn your master’s in teaching, you need to prepare for the application process. Applicants to AU must take the Praxis Core exams and show that they have earned a satisfactory score or better. Applicants must also submit a statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, and a résumé.

3. Apply What You Learn in Student-Teaching Settings

Hands-on experience is a crucial part of a good teaching program. States mandate that new teachers have logged several hours of student teaching before they consider them for licensure.

American University requires students in both the on-campus and online MAT programs to obtain over 600 hours of hands-on classroom experience to graduate. We work closely with online students to find collaborative student-teaching experiences in partnership with high-quality teachers in locations near their homes.

4. After Graduating, Earn Your Teaching License or Certificate

To teach in public schools in any given state, you must be licensed or certified in that state. Many private schools also require state certification.

After completing AU’s MAT program, you will be eligible for licensure. (Keep in mind that granting teaching licenses is a state responsibility; it is not a process offered by any university.) AU’s MAT program is approved through the District of Columbia, which means that you should start by earning your licensure there. This process involves passing the Praxis Core and Praxis II and completing an application that includes a background check.

Good news: DC is a partner in a reciprocity agreement with the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). This means that if you plan to pursue licensure to teach outside of DC, you can take advantage of the fact that the certification you earn in DC offers you reciprocal certification in over 40 states.

5. It’s Time to Go Out and Find a Job! (Don’t Forget to Take Advantage of Your Alumni Network)

When it comes time to find your dream teaching job, it’s a huge advantage to have an alumni network spread across the country. This extensive network means you can easily gain firsthand insight into many different teaching jobs and school systems. When you graduate from AU, you become part of a diverse network of talented students from all over the United States and more than 150 countries.

To learn more about American University’s online education programs, click here.

Additional Resources


Learn to Make a Difference