Teaching and education – degrees, certifications and careers
Teachers play a crucial role in children’s lives, helping them navigate the educational and interpersonal challenges of each grade level. The best educators aim not only to instruct but also engage and inspire. The positive influence of a cherished teacher can reverberate for decades. In fact, according to a 2012 survey, 98% of Americans believe a good teacher can alter the course of a student’s life.
Teaching is a rewarding and in-demand profession, but some may be discouraged by the relatively low pay. Teachers earn approximately $9,000 less per year than the average bachelor’s degree holder, mainly as a result of issues such as government underfunding. However, the work teachers do is uniquely important and fulfilling.
Types of teachers
Students at every age level have different educational needs, requiring specialized teachers. The main types of teachers are:
- early childhood
- middle school and high school
- special education
Levels of education degrees
The different levels of education degrees are pursued for specific purposes.
- An associate degree in education is the path to early education, teaching assistant, and tutoring roles.
- A bachelor’s degree in education is the main route to becoming a teacher or the initial step towards teaching administration.
- A master’s degree in education can qualify you for leadership and administrative roles. If you have a bachelor’s in a field other than education but wish to pursue teaching, a master’s in education with an embedded teacher prep program is a good choice.
- Doctoral degrees in education are pursued by those interested in teaching at the postsecondary level or advanced educational research.
Types of education degrees
There is a variety of teaching and education degrees available. Your degree choice will depend on your specific interests and career aspirations.
Early childhood education
If you want to work with early learners, a variety of degree and career options are available. Each path has its own educational and professional requirements, and each can be highly rewarding thanks to the potential to positively influence the lives of small children.
Elementary teachers create safe, stimulating, and fun learning environments for children ages 5-12. A degree in elementary education prepares you for teaching children a variety of subjects at different grade levels.
Secondary school teachers focus on grades 7 through 12. They interact daily with adolescents and young adults transitioning from childhood through puberty and into adulthood. As such, they need excellent active listening and relationship building skills to support learners at these pivotal stages.
Professionals trained in this field apply learning accommodations in the form of tools and strategies to help bring out the best in their students while honoring their special needs. They partner with parents, advocates, and administrators to help students masters the social, emotional, and physical skills required to thrive.
If you are inspired to teach at a community college, work in a government agency or continuation school, or help adults learn English – there are many rewarding career opportunities following the completion of a 2-year master’s degree in adult education.
English as a second language
English as a second language (ESL) programs are designed to assist individuals develop reading, wiring, and verbal fluency in English. Teachers, curriculum designers, and tutors are all critical in supporting and educating English learners.
Child development (CHDV)
CHDV programs prepare you for careers in a variety of settings working with infants, young children, and their families. CHDV focuses on developmentally appropriate teaching practices and other key topics in early care.
Curriculum and instruction
A graduate or doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction can open up many career opportunities for developing and implementing curriculum and instructional practices. The knowledge and skills attained in these graduate programs can prepare you for leadership roles in education, government, or corporate settings.
Organizational change and leadership
These programs teach students how to become leaders who can problem solve, advocate for policy, commit themselves to social justice, and influence scholarly research to improve the science behind education and leadership.
Reading and literacy
Reading and literary programs teach the foundations of developing literacy in your students, including multilingual education in literacy. Programs focus on reading instruction and can lead to roles as a Certified Literacy Teacher (CLT) following completion of the KPEERI exam.
Certifications needed to work in education
Aspiring teachers, educational administrators, and superintendents are required to pass additional certification to be considered for employment. Teachers can become certified immediately upon completing their undergraduate program, but leadership roles may require several years of teaching experience first.
To become a certified elementary or secondary school teacher, you will need to complete teacher prep in addition to your undergraduate or master’s program. Teacher prep mandates supervised classroom teaching experience. Only after completing teacher prep are you eligible to take the state licensing or certification exam. Some students opt for alternative teaching certification to fulfill their state’s teaching requirements.
To become a certified teacher, you need:
a bachelor’s degree
3+ years of student teaching experience
a passing score on state certification exam
a background check
School administrators and superintendents follow a similar procedure but both roles require a master’s in education. School superintendents additionally need supervisory experience and principal certification.
Best graduate in education programs by state
Job outlook for teachers
The teaching profession has one of the lowest unemployment rates of all jobs. This could be why education is one of the most popular graduate-level programs of study in the U.S. today.
Teachers at the kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school levels can expect a growth rate of 7–8% in the next decade. Depending on your state, some teachers are in more demand than others, which can be a factor in job security and salaries.
Should I be teacher?
Teaching at the preschool, elementary, and secondary levels can be rewarding and offers an excellent job outlook. As a teacher, you are in a unique position to equip a future generation with knowledge and noncognitive skills like integrity and motivation. Are you up to the challenge? If so, visit our career pages to learn more.
The NEA provides information for teachers regarding salaries and benefits, workplace inclusivity, and provides members with access to a resource library. They advocate for educators, communities, families and children to ensure the availability of quality educational programs and policies.
This government website provides information on financial aid, student loans, laws, and guidance. They also provide data about education-related research for users to learn current information about policies and procedures related to education.
With 3 million members the Association of American Educators is the largest professional organization in the United States that is committed to education. AAE works from preschool to graduate programs at the university level ensuring teachers are prepared to teach in public schools.
The AASA promotes equal access to education for all students, creates a network of educational leaders, and advocates for children to ensure their educational needs are met.