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How to Become a Teacher

teacher Credit: Shutterstock

There are a lot of diverse teaching opportunities. Whether you have a high school diploma or a master’s degree, an artistic flair or a head for mechanics, there is probably a teaching job out there that’s right for you.

Here’s some information to help you get started on the path toward becoming a teacher, including an overview of what the job really entails, where you can expect to work, how much money you might earn, and what qualifications you’ll need to get the job.

What teachers do

There are many different kinds of teaching occupations in the United States, but most of them entail similar duties and responsibilities. The primary job of any teacher is to facilitate students as they learn a particular set of skills or work through a curriculum. This means that teachers must build upon what students already know, teach them new concepts and skills, and prepare them for what they will learn next.

For example, the role of a kindergarten teacheris to build upon the basics of reading and math that children learn in preschool and prepare students for elementary school. A high school teacherhelps students learn skills that will be valuable to them in college and in the workplace.

Aside from actually instructing students in the classroom, teachers must also plan lessons based on a mandatory curriculum. Most states require students to take standardized tests, and so teachers must also cater their instruction toward helping students perform well on these exams. In addition to lesson planning, teachers are responsible for grading assignments and communicating with parents. Many also supervise students in extracurricular activities, such as sports teams or clubs.

Where teachers work

Most teachers in the United States work within the public school system or in private schools. The work environment for teachers varies greatly depending on what grade level they teach and in what location they are employed. A middle schoolteaching job in a suburban area, for example, might be quite different than a high school teaching job in a large city.

Depending on where you teach, you may have to deal with the stresses of large class sizes or insufficient teaching tools and technology. Some teachers report disrespectful behavior from students or parents, as well as issues regarding unmotivated students.

Most states have tenure laws for teachers in public schools, which means that after satisfactorily performing his or her job for a period of years, a teacher gains an added measure of job security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, many teachers also belonged to unions as of 2010.

Teachers typically work for 10 months during the school year, with a two-month break over the summer. Teachers work school hours when children are present, though most also put in time before and after school.

Teaching wages vary greatly depending on one’s level of education and what grade level one chooses to teach. Preschool teachers, for example, are required to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in some states, while in others they need only a high school diploma. Their average annual wage was $25,700 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Elementary, middle, and high school teachers are required to possess a bachelor’s degree as well as state certification to teach in the public school system and typically earn between $51,000 and $54,000 annually.

Becoming a teacher

The qualifications for becoming a teacher differ depending on what grade level you wish to teach and the kind of school you choose for employment. The public school system in the United States requires that all teachers possess at least a bachelor’s degree, and many require that teachers major in education or a content area, such as English or mathematics.

The public school system also requires teaching candidates to possess a teaching license or certificate, which is often obtained in conjunction with a bachelor’s degree. However, all states offer alternate routeteaching certification for prospective teachers who do not have a degree in education. Most teachers must pass certification tests in general teaching and particular subject areas, as well as complete a certain number of student teaching hours in order to obtain a license.

For more information on what the licensing requirements are for the state in which you want to teach, contact your state’s department of education.

Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth writes about innovative technologies and business trends. She has traveled throughout the Americas in her roles as student, English teacher, Spanish language interpreter and freelance writer. She graduated with a B.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University. You can follow her on Twitter @techEpalermo or .

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