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I want to be a teacher. What should I major in?

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John’s Answer

In order to teach preschool, a student must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. For a student to become a K-12 teacher in a public school, they must first earn a bachelor's degree and receive state certification. To receive a teacher's license, an individual must complete an approved teaching program and then pass a state licensure exam. The teaching license will either qualify the instructor to teach a range of grades or specific subject. Teachers in private schools are not usually required to be certified or licensed but most hold at least a bachelor's degree. Those who wish to be professors at colleges typically need to earn a doctoral degree. According to the Bureau of U.S. Labor Statistics (BLS), preschool teachers would experience a 7% job growth from 2018-2028. Elementary teachers would have a 3% job growth during the same period, while postsecondary teachers would have 11% job growth. The median salary as of July 2020 was $33,500 for preschool teachers, $59,000 for elementary teachers and $76,500 for high school teachers.

There are a variety of scholarships available to students interested in becoming a teacher. The first step for receiving financial assistance for your studies is to complete the Federal Aid form, known as the FAFSA. It requires income data and is the gateway to both aid from state and federal governments as well as specific institutional scholarships.
• TEACH Grant – This is a federal grant that requires students to agree to teach a minimum of four (4) years in high-risk public-school districts; if not, the Grant reverts to an unsubsidized Stafford loan. The maximum award is $4000 per academic year, and applicants have to score in the 75th percentile on their college admission, maintain a 3.25 GPA and show financial need.
• STEM Teacher Graduate Scholarships – These scholarships are for licensed teachers and graduate students interested in obtaining a graduate-level degree in education and teaching K-12 science, technology, engineering, and math. They offer a maximum award of $2500 per academic year. A minimum 3.0 GPA is required, and applicants need an undergrad or graduate degree in a STEM major and be enrolled in a graduate teaching program.

Preschool teacher requirements vary by state, employer, and the source of funding for the program. A few programs require only a high school diploma or associate's degree, but most require a bachelor's degree in child development or early childhood education. Some programs may require a national Child Development Association (CDA) credential. Teachers who teach in pre-kindergarten programs in public schools must be licensed in early childhood education.

Public school elementary teachers must possess a bachelor's degree in elementary education. An elementary license allows a teacher to teach kindergarten through sixth grade in most states. A future teacher must also complete a supervised practicum or student teaching internship. Some states also require a teacher to earn a master's degree within a specified time after beginning teaching. Since elementary teachers instruct in all subjects, they take classes in math, reading, science, and social studies methods.

A public middle school teacher must have a bachelor's degree in childhood education and complete a student teaching internship. A middle school license usually allows the teacher to teach grades five through eight. Most middle school teachers must have a certain number of credit hours in the subject area they wish to teach. This subject area may be indicated as an endorsement on their teaching certificate. Areas of endorsement include language arts, math, science, physical education, foreign language, and special education.

A public high school teacher needs a bachelor's degree in the subject they are going to teach, as well as having completed a program of study in secondary education. A secondary school teaching license qualifies teachers to teach up through grade 12 but may include some middle school grades. Some high schools may look for teachers with master's degrees. High schools hire teachers in core academic areas and the fine & applied arts.

Professors at a four-year university or college usually need a doctoral degree in the subject they will be teaching. Universities and colleges sometimes hire teachers with a master's degree for part-time positions. Community colleges typically require a master's degree for most full-time positions. Vocational and technical colleges require a bachelor's degree in the subject of instruction.

Teaching is a vital and admirable career. As such, it comes with quite a bit of responsibility, both in practice and in preparation. Every state has specific requirements for teachers, and additional qualifications for public school K-12 teachers. Educational requirements for teachers can vary from an undergraduate degree and certification for public school teachers to a doctorate for college and university teachers.

Hope this was Helpful Hayley

John recommends the following next steps:

Earn an undergraduate degree – You'll need a degree with a specialization in education, and depending on the level you want to teach, you'll need to earn a significant number of college credits in the subject area you want to teach. Many schools require minimum GPA and SAT scores for acceptance into any education program.
Participate in supervised teaching – You'll be required to complete supervised practicum/clinical requirements during and after earning your degree. The school you complete this practical training in needs to be approved by your university, and you'll have to provide reports and assessments on your progress.
Obtain a state teaching license – Each state has specific teaching licensure requirements, and it's important to know the exact details before beginning your degree program. States preclude candidates who can't pass a criminal background check or those who don't have the requisite GPA.

Nice Job , this a very deep insight. OMOTOLANI ALABI

Thank You Omotolani. “Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller John Frick

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Gloria’s Answer

Hi Hayley.

You would have to determine who you want to teach and at what level. If you are talking about public education, the best majors are around Education or Secondary Education, especially in grades below 8th. The benefit of these majors is that they often include interning as a teacher in public education. This is often the easiest route into public education.

Do you know what subject you might want to teach? If so, you may benefit from taking a degree that focuses on that subject. For example, if you want to be an English teacher, you may want a degree in English or Literature. You should think about the subjects that you took in high school. What was your favorite? What were your best subjects? Of course, this method makes you very knowledgeable in the subject without the option of an internship.

I would recommend that you consider becoming a teacher in the private sector. I am in Learning and Development with my company. The instructors have experience across a broad spectrum of subjects. However, it is important that you have good facilitation skills. The business major that I took included some corporate training types classes that you could take to fulfill the major.

Good luck on your career journey.

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Ramona’s Answer

Great question, Hayley. In addition to the great advice already given, becoming a teacher is also something you can choose to do after you have begun another career. Teachers that have worked in other fields can provide a different perspective in the classroom. I have a family member who pursued a degree in Computer Science, worked for 15 years in that field, then spent a year to gain their teachers certificate in math due to the need in their community for math teachers. Teachers are much needed, so don't feel if you take another path to start your career, you can't return to teaching.

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Julietta’s Answer


You would want to major in education. In addition, there are many topics of study you could minor in or choose to compliment your education degree path. Depending on what subject you will want to teach, that's where you should gear your classes towards.

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Lisa’s Answer

Typically school's have an education program and you would need to decide if you have a specific subject you would like to teach but there are many majors related to teaching and education. A lot of times you have to decide if you want to teach younger or older students.

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Estelle’s Answer

Most teachers begin their careers by obtaining a bachelor's degree in Education.

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Bryce’s Answer

Hi Hayley,

Since you are looking to be a teacher, the most common route to take is to major in education. Education majors are usually broken up into early childhood education (pre-k to 2nd), elementary education (k-5/6), and secondary education (6-12). For secondary there will be specific subject areas you can concentrate like biology, chemistry, math, social science, and so on. Majoring in education means you will most likely have all needed requirements straight out of college to get your teaching certificate. Although majoring in education is not the only route. In most states you can have a bachelors degree in anything and still become a teacher. In this case though after graduation or while on your way to completing your degree you will have to take certificate test. Education majors still have to take these test, but a lot of times they have deadlines within their major to take them.