How to Become a Teacher

Teaching is an excellent profession for many. With the great diversity of niches and an ongoing shortage of teachers, there is plenty of room for great newcomers to find work they love. Before becoming a teacher, however, you must meet the professional requirements placed on you by the system you want to join.

If you don’t research and verify the professional standard in your region and your stratum of education, you will soon find yourself at a dead end.


Since the expected qualifications differ from place to place and are highly dependent on the institution where you hope to teach, you will need to investigate the professional standard specific to your intended employment.

How to Become a Teacher

Most K-12 public schools will expect a combination of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university plus some form of professional training in education aimed at qualifying for a license or a certificate. To learn the expectations of your local school system, you should check with your state department of education or review requirements listed at sites like

Work Experience

Private schools will require their own set of qualifications. In many instances, a good private school will be far more interested in a combination of academic excellence and related work experience. Schools like Montessori schools have their training programs, and teachers must qualify through the appropriate training schools.

Other schools, though independent, will end up requiring double qualifications: a set to satisfy the school’s norms, and another set, often reflecting that of the region, that ensures that prospective parents won’t think the teachers under-qualified. Be sure to read job listings carefully and check all boilerplate on the school: hints can be found of the expectations the school expects you to meet, and which is, in turn, is trying to achieve.

The rules for the various levels of college teaching are different and can vary enormously depending on the school, the teaching position, and more. The rule of thumb is that one needs an MA in one’s field to teach at the junior college level, and a Ph.D. to teach at a four-year college or university.

Training can substitute a degree!

There are many auxiliary, non-tenure-track positions as aids, TA, and other support teachers that may evade this ruleset, however. Furthermore, there are some classes where on the job training and professional success can substitute for a degree.

This happens most often in the arts and in the trades, where apprenticeships, studio training, and direct trade experience are often the educational background some of the most exceptional professionals bring with them.

Teaching shortages

Other nonstandard ways into professional teaching can be found in places suffering severe teaching shortages, or with different expectations regarding qualifications. Districts in some regions will settle for a simple BA for a teacher and a high school degree for an aid.

Similarly, non-certified substitute teachers in some districts can be moved from temporary to permanent positions if their work is found satisfactory. Those with moderate skills in some foreign languages can find work in countries overseas desiring English language teachers.

If you want to teach K-12, do expect to need a BA, a post-graduate program in education, and to pass a certification test. This is the most conventional route to professional teaching. If you can, combine a strong background in a subject with graduate-level certification.

This leaves you with the most considerable flexibility and offers a school the dual advantage of a great subject teacher with the publicly expected certification. Here’s an interesting article on becoming a Law Clerk.