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How do you become a teacher?

I've always been interested in becoming a teacher (maybe math? or English?) but I've never understood how. I've had "student teachers" in classrooms. I've heard from several teachers that you just go to college, get a degree, and get a job. Others, like my step-mom, have had to spend 7+ years going through different programs to get their credentials. Could you please simplify it a bit? #career #teaching #teacher #college-major #higher-education

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Michelle’s Answer

Hi Morgan,


Great question! I am not certain what route your stepmother did that took her 7+ years. Was she attending school on a part-time basis perhaps, or did she start attending a community college and then transfer her credits over to a 4 year school? In general, if you would like to become a teacher you will need to complete a bachelor's degree, which is 4 years, however depending upon how many classes you take each semester, it could take a bit longer. Usually you will decide which grade level you would like to teach and then you will choose a subject area to teach such as math, history, English, art etc. A portion of your degree program will include "student teaching". This is when you will go to a school and assist another teacher (an experienced teacher) in teaching their class. This will be a great part of your learning experience as you will be able to apply what you have learned in college in the classroom and you will receive feedback and guidance from the experienced teacher.


We always need more great teachers! So best of luck to you!

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Rachel’s Answer

It really depends what type of teacher you would like to be. However the main pathways are generally the same and the options vary but go along the same lines.


  1. You need to graduate high school.
  2. You need to attend a college/university and earn a four- year B.A. degree. You will want to get a bachelors degree in the subject-matter that you want to teach, this makes certification in your state and subject-area feasible. You may opt to minor or double-major in education. You do not need to have a bachelors in education to be a teacher. I would suggest getting a bachelors degree in the subject you would like to teach. (for example: I am an English teacher, I majored in English literature and now have a bachelors in English).
  3. Once you graduate college with your bachelors degree you have a few options:

A. Go directly to Graduate school and obtain your masters in the area of teaching/education you want to teach (ie. Masters of Education, Masters of Teaching, Masters of Secondary English, Masters of Teaching in Secondary English, Masters of Teaching in Elementary, Masters of Special Education etc.). You may also opt to get a masters degree in the subject-are you wish to teach. However, while in graduate school you must obtain a masters degree in some variation of teaching/education. So you will have either a MAT (Masters of Teaching) or MED (Masters of Education). Most graduate schools have one of the two programs and offer a variation depending on the subject (ie. Masters of Teaching in Secondary English or Masters of Education in Secondary English). This option is ussually a fifth year pathway that allows you to student teach at a school while earning your masters degree.

B. You can apply to an Alternative Route to Certification (if you state has options/offers this). This would look like a program like TeachForAmerica, AmeriCorps TutorCorps, or other Teacher Residency Programs (ie. KIPP Teaching Fellows, MATCH Schools, or charter schools that offer Teacher Resident positions. Look up the options in your state or the options available if state is not a boundary for you. During the year or two-year commitment of these programs you would typically also have classes or being earning a masters degree. This option is for teachers who want to start working directly after they graduate college. Some programs lead to Certification in your state and others lead to BOTH Certification and a Masters Degree. The ARC programs lead to 90 day certifications, which then lead to Initial Educator Certification OR Resident Teacher Certification (ALL are pathways to FULL certification in your state).


  1. Regardless of which route you take you will need to take the certification exams in your state. MOST states, including CT (which is the information I know because it is my state) require the PRAXIS exams. You will need to research certification requirements within your own state for more information. However, while you are earning your masters (or after you have earned your bachelors) you will want to also prepare for and take the PRAXIS Core (which can be waived if your SAT/ACT scores are high enough) and the PRAXIS II which cannot be waived and MUST be passed for certification.
  2. Once you have obtained your Bachelors degree AND Masters degree AND Passed your state certification exams AND done some form of students teaching (whether that is during college or in a residency program) you can then:
  3. Go to your state board of education website and complete your certification information.
  4. Then, you can APPLY as a LEAD teacher in the area you are certified.

MOST pathways take 4-6 years. You will be able to start your first year of teaching as a lead teacher generally in year 5 or 6.

This professional recommends the following next steps:

  • Earn a bachelors degree in the subject area you would like to teach in AND or a bachelors in Education.
  • Decide if you want to do a teaching Residency program like Teach For America or if you would like to go straight to graduate school to earn your masters degree.
  • Apply to Graduate schools and Teaching Residency programs. During your senior year of college.
  • Begin your first year of grad school or teaching residency.
  • Earn your Masters degree in Education or Teaching, in the area you would like to teach in.


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