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Can People Without a College Degree Get Jobs Teaching Electives?

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The requirements for getting a job teaching an elective usually do not differ from a job teaching a core subject area. In both cases, most school districts require state certification to teach, which usually requires a four-year degree. However, you don't need to have a degree in education or even a degree in your chosen subject area to teach an elective in many school districts. Elective teaching also offers alternatives to traditional certified teaching positions.

Requirements From Your State Board of Education

Most states require that certified teachers complete a four-year college degree. Depending upon the certification requirements in your state, however, your degree need not be specific to education, or specific to the elective in which you wish to teach. Consulting the State Board of Education in your state identifies the requirements for teacher certification specific to your location, or the location to which you're moving. If you have a four-year degree, you typically only must pass the certification test for your subject area. If you have extensive experience in this elective concentration, study sample exams to prepare for the certification test.

Alternative Certification

Most states offer the option of using alternative certification programs to obtain teacher certification. These programs cut out the step of completing a semester of student teaching. They are especially helpful for elective teachers, who may have studied their subject area extensively, but have not studied areas such as classroom management and parent interaction. These programs are usually privately operated, and charge a set fee to help you obtain state certification. They will offer classroom instruction and basic teaching skills before awarding you a probationary certificate, with which you can get a job teaching an elective at a sponsoring school. The benefit to this program is that you can be earning full-time teaching pay and benefits while completing your standard certification.

Highly Qualified Teachers

Many of the best school districts have a requirement that all teachers, even those teaching electives, be highly qualified in their subject area. To be considered highly qualified, a teacher must have a four-year degree in their chosen subject area, prove competency in their subject area through testing and have a full teaching certificate from the state. Many districts, however, will hire teachers for electives and core subject areas even if they are not considered highly qualified. These districts often include at-risk campuses and schools in low-income areas.

Other Options for Teaching Electives

Even though the requirements for getting a job teaching electives can seem daunting, many alternatives to traditional teaching jobs are available. Private schools often hire consultants to teach electives based on real-world experience in their field rather than attaining a college degree. In addition, many private schools and small schools have elective clubs that meet after school rather than during the school day that are run by community members without traditional certification. Another program offered in some states allows teachers to take a role as a private tutor for a session during the student's elective class, and be paid by the student for a weekly lesson. Many teachers without a formal degree are able to make a full-time living in one of these ways.


Megan Eyden has been an educator, trainer and teaching mentor for eight years. Her articles and reviews on the arts have been published in journals and bulletins in Texas. Eyden also works as a performance coach, clinician, contest judge, vocal soloist and accompanist.

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