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What Is Required to Become a Teacher?

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Becoming a teacher requires hard work and dedication, but beyond this it requires extensive education and the ability to obtain state-mandated credentials. The teaching profession in the public school system is regulated by the board of education in each individual state. Jobs for teachers are expected to increase by about 13 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Teachers made a median salary range of $47,100 to $51,180, as of May 2008.


Teachers in all 50 states must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in order to teach in public school classrooms. Teachers generally obtain a degree in education with an emphasis in their area of specialization such as elementary education, secondary education or special education. Secondary education teachers also specialize in a particular subject area like math, science or social studies. Some states like Texas only require teachers to obtain a bachelor's degree in a field related to the area they intend to teach and then obtain certification through a combination of experience and testing.


Teachers must also have experience before they take over the reins of the classroom. Most education degree programs have student-teaching experiences built into the curriculum. These generally take place during the last year or last three semesters of your undergraduate coursework. In states where students are not required to obtain an education degree, experience usually comes through the completion of a teacher education program, sometimes offered through colleges and universities and other times through the local board of education.

Certification and Licensing

Teachers have to be certified to teach in their area of specialization and licensed to practice teaching in their state. Certification usually comes in the form of testing that requires the teacher-candidate to take an exam or several exams covering their knowledge of teaching practice and of the specialty that they teach. For instance, a history teacher would take a social studies certification exam to receive an endorsement to teach history. Some states offer alternative certification for candidates who have a bachelor's degree but not in the education field. This allows the department of education department to attract other potentially talented teaching candidates without making them go back to school to obtain a bachelor's degree in education.

Personal Traits

Teachers need to have a number of different personal characteristics, some of which are obtained through education and some of which are not. Teachers need to have the ability to speak and listen well. They must also have good oral comprehension skills in order to understand questions and statements issued by students. Teachers typically need to be detail-oriented, have record-keeping skills and be ability create a schedule and meet deadlines. Teachers must also have the ability to collaborate and work with other teachers and administrators on various projects and committees.


Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.