What Qualifications Do I Need to Be a Teacher? & 5 Other FAQs on Your Mind

Female teacher smiling over classroomYou want your life to mean something, and part of that means making a living doing something for the greater good. That’s why you’re considering a career in education.

Maybe you had a teacher who made a difference in your life — one who went above and beyond to support and empower you. Or perhaps you could have used someone like that to help you through some tougher times. Either way, you want to be that teacher for the next generation of students — the one who inspires learning and growth on all levels.

Your passion is evident. But you know it takes more than that to become a teacher, and you still have questions about how to qualify yourself as a professional in the education field. You still have a handful of questions about the education field and the steps to get into it.

What qualifications do I need to be a teacher? What else do I need to do to lead a classroom? Would I be a good fit for the field? What can I expect in this position?

Keep reading to uncover the answers to these and other frequently asked questions about becoming a teacher. Once supplied with this information, you’ll be one step closer to changing lives in the classroom.

6 common questions about becoming a teacher

1. What qualifications do I need to be a teacher?

Qualifications to teach in the United States are vast and vary depending on where you work and what you teach. But generally speaking, teachers must possess a bachelor’s degree in education from an accredited program and institution.

Before acquiring your state-issued, professional teaching license, however, you’ll need to pass a background check, complete student teaching, and pass exams on basic skills and subject matter knowledge.

2. How do I obtain a teaching license?

Every state regulates its own teaching licenses. The requirements will vary depending on the state in which you intend to work. Requirements can also be affected by the subject and grade you wish to teach.

For example, a kindergarten teacher in Arizona will probably have a different set of licensure requirements than a high school special education teacher in Maine. To find the requirements in your area, visit the U.S. Department of Education website.

3. What degree do I need to become a teacher? Should I earn a master’s degree too?

Some states, such as Massachusetts and New York, require elementary and secondary teachers to earn a master’s degree within five years of employment. Elsewhere, teaching candidates typically need to possess a bachelor’s degree in education from an accredited college or university. However, many in the profession do opt to pursue graduate programs in education. Why?

Male teacher, with a student writingTeachers are passionate about dedicating their lives to guiding and influencing young minds, and that passion pushes them to develop into the best educators they can be. By going the extra mile to earn a master’s degree, teachers grow professionally, become effective leaders, open themselves up to more opportunities in education, and can even earn a higher salary in most school districts.

Teachers can also become specialists by concentrating their master’s degree in certain areas, such as special education, reading, or autism. Teachers can choose to obtain their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education before they begin their career, or they can enter the field with a bachelor’s and go back to earn their master’s while teaching.

4. What is a typical teaching salary? Will I be able to find a job?

The education field is projected to add 697,600 new jobs and grow at a steady rate of 8 percent through 2024. This is a slightly faster rate than the national average rate of 7 percent.

Earning potential in the education field ranges depending on the grade level, subject matter, geographic area, and educational attainment of the teacher. For the field as a whole, the median annual salary sits at $48,000, but as you’ll see below, this figure varies.

Clicking through to any of these occupations, you’ll see that the Bureau of Labor Statistics outlines these salaries across the US, highlighting their variances state by state. Some states have higher salaries and some states have lower. Higher salaries in education are typically found along the West Coast, the Northeast region, and some northern states.

5. Should I earn a teaching certification?

Teachers who have a few years’ worth of experience in the classroom can choose to go on to obtain a teaching certification. After three years at the head of a class and going through the rigorous certification process, teachers can obtain a National Board Certification.

Earning this credential allows teachers to demonstrate their prowess and mastery of the profession, going above and beyond the minimal licensure requirements to sharpen their teaching abilities. Some states provide incentives for teachers to obtain certification. Whether it be higher earnings, more professional opportunities or a mastery of the profession, obtaining this certification will help validate your dedication to the education field.

6. Will I truly enjoy being a teacher?

There are several perks to being a teacher. They enjoy high levels of job satisfaction, autonomy in the classroom, and a healthy work-life balance. They get to build their classroom curriculum and lesson plans around the type of learning environment they wish to lead. They enjoy summers off, spring and winter breaks, and regular hours throughout the school year, while continuing professional development and learning along the way. And above all else, teachers get to go home every day knowing their work is truly making a positive difference in their community and the world.Male teacher posed in a classroom

Perhaps the greatest satisfaction you’ll receive from a career in teaching is the impact you’ll have on a child. Being a teacher allows you to leave a legacy of meaningful, impactful work. Teachers arrive in the classroom every day, tackling the opportunity gap and its ramifications. In a world where ZIP codes tend to determine a child’s success more so than their talent, teachers work to close the gap between disadvantaged students and their peers.

Building personal relationships with your students and their families, learning about their interests, helping them achieve their goals, and then watching them go out and influence the world on their own — these are moments you can’t put a price tag on.

What are you waiting for?

Even though you feel so strongly about becoming a teacher, it’s OK to still have some questions. Now that you know more about what qualifications you need to become a teacher, what the job will entail, and what you can expect from a career in the classroom, it’s time to take the next step.

Check out the Wheelock College School of Education, Child Life & Family Studies web page to see all the teaching majors we offer — including special education, elementary education, and early childhood education — and to learn more about how we can help equip and empower you to become the teacher you were born to be.