How to Become an Educator

Educators typically work in elementary schools, secondary schools, and higher education institutions in public and private settings. They can be childcare workers, instructional coordinators, and school counselors, among other roles. They specialize in knowledge and education depending on the grade levels and areas taught.

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Requirements for Educators

Usually, a bachelor’s degree and licensure are minimum requirements to teach at elementary and secondary schools. For positions at the secondary level, applicants most likely need subject-specific majors in the areas they want to teach. For post-secondary teaching positions, a license may not be needed, but often an advanced degree, whether a master’s degree or Ph.D., is required.

Some teaching jobs may require that you have prior teaching experience in the form of substitute teaching or actual teaching experience. A background check and a common test to show professional knowledge and subject comprehension may be required.1

Post-Secondary Teaching

A master’s degree is generally needed for post-secondary teaching. Added requirements depend on the subject taught, institution, position, and responsibilities. In particular, tenured positions require a doctoral degree in an area of expertise.

Those serving as adjunct professors who hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees are often hired to teach if they also have additional relevant professional work experience in the field. Junior colleges routinely employ educators with master’s degrees for full-time positions.

Additional certifications may be necessary. For example, if teaching at a technical or vocational school, an instructor may need to hold a certification or licensure in a particular trade.2

Common Teacher Education Classes

Prospective teachers traditionally take courses in the history and philosophies of education, child development, learning theory, curriculum development, assessment, and teaching methods among other required courses approved by the respective State Departments of Education. Classes dealing with differentiated teaching methods and cultural competence in working with students of diverse backgrounds are key components of today’s education training institutions. General education courses are also taken to cover basic competencies in reading, math, computer science, and fine arts.

In order to receive certification in the area of their choice, prospective educators will need to complete a student teaching placement or an internship, which usually lasts for one semester. During this time, they are meant to develop skills in teaching, classroom management, and lesson planning. Plus, a college/university mentor is assigned to the student teacher for feedback. If a prospective educator is seeking more than one certification, they will need to take on multiple placements or internships.3


There are many specializations to consider based on personal interests and strengths. For example, you may want to teach:

Usually, these specializations require specific, additional coursework at the undergraduate and/or graduate levels. You will receive additional certifications that qualify you to teach students in those specified areas. Depending on Ashburn, you may need to take a certain number of credits or educational units to keep your licenses current if you were not awarded life licenses.4

Example of Comprehensive Testing for Teacher Eligibility

A Praxis test is one of a series of teacher certification exams administered in the U.S. The Educational Testing Service writes the Praxis test that is required to be passed at various levels of teacher training. Today, at least half of the states in the U.S. require the Praxis test.

The Praxis test consists of two levels of testing. Praxis I, the first part or the core, is a test of reading, math, and writing skills. Praxis II tests knowledge in a subject area that the educator wants to teach. As such, this level is taken before licensure. Some subjects require subsequent exams, which varies from state to state.5

Job Outlook for Educators

In 2017, 3,652,000 full-time public and private teachers were in the workforce in the United States.

Since student enrollment is expected to increase, teachers will be needed to meet the demand. As a result, employment in education is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2026.6

The skills that teachers possess are in high-demand and transferable to many other occupations. These include positions in:

Educator salaries vary according to the positions, responsibilities, and geographical locations across the country.8

Added Responsibilities for Teachers on the Typical Teaching Job

Teachers don’t work just eight hours, five days a week with summers off. They have many additional responsibilities, such as:

Teachers may be assigned lunch, recess, bus, and homeroom duties. They supervise clubs, coach sports, teach summer programs, offer parent classes, and help design professional development. Plus, during the summer, they are taking coursework to renew their licenses and planning for the next school year.9