Not everyone with a teaching credential works in the classroom. In fact, because many graduates of teacher licensing programs complete major course work in other areas, would-be or have-been teachers can keep their teaching licenses current while pursuing other related career opportunities. A teaching certification is a more versatile credential than one might expect.
How to earn a teaching degree
The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the organization responsible for establishing accreditation standards for teacher preparation programs, describes several education paths to what it calls "initial teacher preparation," which is different from continuing education for teachers and other educators. Many states require teachers to attend an NCATE-accredited teacher training program, which includes "programs at baccalaureate or post-baccalaureate levels that prepare candidates for the first license to teach," which can be four- or five-year online education degree programs, fifth-year post-baccalaureate programs and master's degree programs that lead to licensure. In some states where pre-K licensure is required, a two-year associate degree may meet state requirements.
By National Education Association (NEA) standards, a teacher license program should teach academic subject-related material, pedagogy and child development and require teachers to participate in a supervised student teaching or internship program. Typically, any person needs at least a bachelor's degree in order to qualify for K-12 teacher licensure.
Who makes a good teacher?
Taken from a list provided by University of Wisconsin-Eu Claire career services, potential teachers should:
- Encourage positivity and have the ability to make the most of difficult situations
- Listen empathetically and communicate clearly and effectively
- Use time efficiently and approach planning in an organized and systematic way
Alternative careers to teaching
Being a teacher means being flexible. Some teachers may need breaks from the classroom, some may lose their jobs due to budget cuts and some may find out that the classroom is simply not a good fit. These careers require some of the same skills and qualities as teaching:
- Educational administration
- School counselor
- Corporate training and development
- Curriculum writer and developer
Secondary school teachers may also pursue careers related to their major coursework subjects (e.g., an English teacher may become an editor, publisher, journalist or writer).
Online teacher license options
Some schools have accredited online teacher license programs that result in a teaching license. These programs may require an in-the-classroom teaching experience that can last anywhere from 12-20 weeks or up to a year. In "Virtual Assessment of and Reflection of Student Teaching," Karen Swan of Kent State University shared the results of a new model of student teaching specifically for distance learning. The model used video, conference calls and an online course management system. Swan concluded that student teaching model "balances the reality of students' lives" and allows students to keep jobs within their own communities while earning a teaching license.
Teaching licensure at a glance
- Work environment: Teaching licenses are primarily for K-12 education
- Salaries: The average annual salary range of K-12 teachers is $54,330-55,990, according to the BLS.
- Alternative careers to teaching: Education administration, curriculum developer, corporate training
- Qualities of licensed teachers: Patient, positive, organized, dependable