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Fastest Way to Become a Teacher

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Alternative certification programs, doubling up college classes and being a vocational teacher are just a few of the ways you can get started in your teaching career more quickly than attending college to complete a four- or five-year-long teacher education bachelor’s degree. Find the option that suits your career goals and your background to get started.

Complete an alternative certification program if you already have a bachelor’s degree in a subject taught in the kindergarten through grade 12 public or private school system. These programs usually take about a year to complete and, in some cases, you can work as a teacher while you complete the program. Each state’s rules and alternative certification programs are different, so contact your state’s department of education to learn about the options available to you.

Take extra classes during summer and winter breaks, maybe complete a semester or more of classes in winter short terms (five days a week for a few hours for about three weeks) and summer terms. Doing this over the course of two or three years could enable you to graduate early from your teacher education program.

If you are still in high school, take dual-credit courses from your local college that give you high school and college credit, or take advanced placement classes and tests to get credit for college courses.

Another option for high school students and those who have graduated is to test out of subjects like math and English by taking the CLEP (College Level Exam Program) tests. More than 30 of these tests are available and offered by colleges. Each college’s policies differ as to how many exams you can take and get credit for, so talk to your college’s office of admissions before you take the CLEP tests.

Take the CLEP tests at any college testing center and use the results to get credit at another college. Make sure the college you want to attend accepts CLEP exams before you register for them, however.

Work in a private school, which often hires non-certified teachers. You need to have extensive work or life experience in the area you teach, and a college degree may be required as well.

Check with vocational schools to see if they will hire you. If you are an experienced diesel mechanic, for example, a vocational school may hire you to teach mechanic students.

If you have an advanced degree in a particular area, many community colleges will hire you to teach in the area of your degree, even without any teaching certification.

Join Teach for America, a program that sends experienced professionals and college graduates into high-need classrooms across the country. In 2010, more than 4,500 Teach for America teachers were working in schools in the United States. They earn a salary typical for new teachers in the area in which they teach, and have health insurance and retirement benefits.

Teach preschool at a day care facility. You teach 3- to 5-year-olds about the world around them, pre-reading and math skills, and even science and art. It is not necessary at every preschool to have experience with children, although it is helpful. Start out as a teacher's aide to learn the ropes.