How to Change Careers to Become a Teacher

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Changing careers to become a teacher is an often challenging but rewarding transition to make. Teachers trained through alternative certification programs, the necessary programs to become a teacher without university training, make up a large part of the teaching force. The requirements for this type of teacher will vary slightly by state or school system, though the basic steps to becoming a certified teacher remain the same.

Check certification requirements listed on the board of education website for your state. To find your state’s site, visit, the national site. Each state has different requirements for changing careers to become a certified teacher, so it is important to be aware of those requirements and make a checklist for yourself of what information you have available and what information you need to gather, especially concerning alternative certification programs available in your state and what tests you will need to complete before beginning work as a teacher.

Decide which school systems you would like to apply to, and make a list of the requirements for alternatively certified teachers, a term that refers to people changing careers to become a teacher. Each school system will require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, a certification exam, a background check, college transcripts and an application for a teaching position. Some school systems also require that you have a minimum of three letters of recommendation from former co-workers, bosses, college professors or someone in the school system in order to give them an idea of your character. You are required to turn in a certified background check from the local law enforcement and official transcripts from all colleges and universities that you have attended with each application to each school system, so make sure to have several official copies.

Earn your certification. There are two options for people changing careers to become certified teachers: getting a degree and a local “boot camp." If you are still in college or have a bachelor’s degree, a university program could be good. University programs allow you to work in the school system while you are gaining your teaching certification. In addition, you could also be earning a master's degree. University programs usually last at least two years with intensive schooling, hands-on training, mentoring and student teaching. A sometimes faster solution, especially for someone already with a college degree, is to participate in a local or regional alternative certification program, usually offered in conjunction with the school system to which you are applying. Depending on the rules of the school system, the school that hires you may pay for part or all of the costs of alternative certification if you obtain your certification through its program. You will not earn an additional degree by participating in these programs. You will earn your basic teaching certification, which allows you to teach at any school in the state in which you certify. These training sessions take place during your first and sometimes second years of teaching and are concentrated “boot camp” sessions where you take in a lot of information very quickly. Acceptance into an alternative certification program is essential to being offered a teaching job by a school system. Very often, these programs will work around your work schedule, allowing you to change careers and begin teaching while you are earning your certification.

Once you have been accepted into a certification program, you will have to take a series of two to three certification tests to prove your competency. The first test is a basic skills test, which some applicants can exempt with ACT or SAT scores. The second test is taking usually sometime during your first year of teaching and is in your specific area of expertise. If a third test is required, it is a cumulative exam for your certification program. The types of test vary by state. More information can be found at When you have completed the first test and are entered into an alternative certification program, you can begin working in a school system under a provisional teaching certificate, allowing you to successfully change careers to become a full-time teacher while completing your training.


Begin the application process in January before the August in which you want to teach. Attend the regional job fairs held by school systems in the spring. Mentor with a teacher in the school system to which you are applying. Speak with a school administrator, and tour the school with her to express your interest as your apply.