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How Long Does It Take to Become a Teacher?

Perhaps it was a favorite teacher or a need to change pace in a current career. Whatever the reason, becoming a teacher is incredibly noble and often rewarding, although it can seem daunting initially. First, how long does it take to become a teacher? While it may take time, each step of the process to become a teacher is there to ensure a new teacher is successful in the classroom.

Teaching in Kindergarten and Elementary School

Over the next 10 years, there is a projected need to fill over 100,000 teaching positions in kindergarten and elementary schools. It is a promising market for potential teachers interested in teaching basic concepts, such as math and language, to young students. Every state requires that public kindergarten and elementary school teachers have a four-year bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and some states require that a teacher a major in a specific content area.

Before a teacher can teach independently, they must complete a practicum or work experience program to gain the experience and mentorship needed to present information and work with young students effectively. At American University (AU), the bachelor of arts in elementary education offers practicum experience to help undergraduates apply what they have learned in classrooms of their own.

Teachers that are planning to work in the public school system after graduation, will need to be licensed or certified in the grade level in which they will be teaching. In addition to having a bachelor’s degree and student-teaching experience, a teacher will have to take a general teaching and subject matter test to demonstrate their knowledge of education and the subject they wish to teach. It’s important a teacher prepares for this examination process, as it can impact how long it takes to become a teacher if they do not pass on the first try.

Teachers are required to maintain their licenses as long as they are teaching. If a teacher wishes to move to another state, the teacher may need to acquire another license and take an additional test based on the specific state’s rules, which could also impact how long it takes to become a teacher.

Teaching in High School

Becoming a high school teacher follows the same path as a kindergarten or elementary school teacher, although the primary teaching focus is for preparing students for life after graduation and for college. High school teachers are required to complete a bachelor’s degree in the subject they want to teach, such as science or language, with additional teaching credentials. Students interested in teaching grades 7 through 12, AU offers an excellent double-major program for secondary education with practicum experience included as part of the program.

Licensing for public schools, as with kindergarten and elementary teachers, requires teaching experience before being hired as a teacher. There will also be a general teaching and subject matter test to prove a teacher’s knowledge of working in a classroom and teaching a particular subject.

As a teacher prepares to enter the workforce, they must check with the state authorities to understand which qualifications are needed to teach, as some schools may look for additional education, such as a master’s degree, which may affect how long it takes to become a teacher. If a teacher has decided to pursue a teaching position in a private school, licensing and certifications may not be required.

A Teacher’s Salary

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers earn the following median annual salaries, which are more than the median amount for all occupations:

  • Kindergarten and elementary school teachers: $56,900
  • High school teachers: $59,170

In general, teachers in a private school system earn less than teachers in public schools. When considering how long it takes to become a teacher, new graduates may seek to teach in private schools, as they only require a bachelor’s degree in the subject of choice and do not require a state-issued license. This could shorten the path to becoming a teacher and entering the workforce. Which school system to work in is a big decision and should be thought through carefully, but regardless of which path a teacher chooses, the potential rewards are worth the wait.

Why Should You Become a Teacher?

A two-month break for summer, a couple of weeks off for the holiday season, opportunities for tenure—there are many incentives to become a teacher. Many teachers, however, will say that the perks and compensation aren’t the reason they love their jobs.

The opportunity to share knowledge can also be appealing for people who are looking for a new career. Teachers that have previously worked in social services, the military, health care or business can bring real-life knowledge and experience to the classroom. This experience can offer a unique perspective for students who are looking for concrete answers to the question, “Why do we need to know this?” For new second career teachers, skills such as managing people, public speaking, and planning projects can be transferred to teaching which can make the transition to working in a classroom much easier.

Teachers create an inspiring environment for students. Students will walk through the classroom door each day with aspirations and difficulties, but by sharing knowledge and celebrating successes, it can be an indescribable experience for a teacher.

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