How to Become a Teacher: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you’re feeling inspired to become a teacher, then you are certainly not alone. Whether you’re just beginning your education journey or are considering teaching as a second career, pursuing a career as an educator is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling paths you can take.
There are many benefits to being a teacher, including flexibility, deep relationships with your peers, career advancement opportunities, and the opportunity to work in a role that allows you to be creative.
Perhaps most rewarding of all, however, is the chance to shape young minds and help your students learn, develop, and explore the world around them.
Are You Feeling Called to Pursue a Teaching Career?
If you’re feeling called to become a teacher, then you are probably wondering what steps you need to take to get in front of students in your own classroom. While the process may vary depending on your level of experience, program of interest, location, and other factors, you can expect that the road to becoming a teacher looks something like this.
Step 1: Earn a Teaching Degree
Being a teacher requires a degree from an accredited program.But what if you have an undergraduate degree in a field other than education?
That’s where the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree comes in.
As long as you have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program, the MAT can help you become a teacher without going back to take lots of undergraduate courses in education.
For example, if you want to be a science teacher, and you have a degree in Biology or Physics and can pass a qualifying exam in that content, you can take the education classes you need to become a teacher while also getting your Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT). If you complete an education-focused master’s degree, then you’ll enjoy more career advancement opportunities and a higher earning potential.
So, which teaching degree is right for you?
Finding the Right Teaching Program for You
Each degree has its own benefits. That one that’s right for you depends on your prior level of teaching experience and education.In addition to determining which degree you want to pursue, it’s also important to find the school that will help you get there. To know which school is the best fit for your needs and career goals, you should ask yourself questions like:
- What modality are you looking for (in-person, remote, hybrid)?
- How important is flexibility for you? Will classes on nights and weekends fit your schedule?
- How rigorous are the application requirements?
- What level of support do you need from the faculty?
- What kind of job placement support does the program offer to help put you in a teaching role when you graduate?
We go into greater detail on the differences between these degrees in our digital eBook, The Career Changer's Guide to Becoming a Teacher.
Financing Your Degree
Choosing your degree program is one thing, but paying for it can be another. Furthering your education can be a substantial financial investment, but one that is worth it.
What’s more, there are many forms of financial aid available to help lower your tuition and bring down these costs. As you prepare, you should work with your admissions counselor to explore all financial aid options available to you.
Most schools also have counselors who work with you to understand what financial aid packages may be available to you.
Step 2: Participate in Student Teaching
One of the best aspects of learning how to become a teacher is that you’ll get to apply what you’ve been taught in a real classroom environment. Most schools even include student teaching opportunities that are built directly into the program as a graduation requirement.
Why is this important?
With student teaching, you’ll be able to observe and learn from experienced teachers who will share their wisdom and insights. Over the course of the school year, you’ll take on progressive responsibility and start leading classroom instruction.
Teachers in training love student teaching because it’s a chance to practice some of the skills that they’ve been learning, such as classroom management, building lesson plans, and student evaluation.
Step 3: Pass the Teacher Certification Test
To begin your teaching career, you first need to pass a standardized test to obtain your teaching license. This certification exam will test your knowledge in your course of study and key teaching principles and is a requirement in most states to become a teacher.
The tests may vary by state, subject, and grade. Taking a certification exam to become a high school science teacher in Arizona will certainly look different from someone taking an exam to teach elementary education in Maine, for example.
In these exams, you’ll demonstrate your understanding of what it means to be a successful teacher, including building lesson plans, evaluating students, managing conflict resolution, and helping students understand the material. You’ll also have to show that you have a strong foundation of knowledge in your area of focus, such as mathematics or language arts.
Depending on your state of residence and which school you’re applying to work at, you may also need to acquire additional certifications or meet other requirements.
The MAT Program at Southern
The flexible program is offered online to help you earn your degree without putting the rest of your life on hold. And, unlike most programs that offer flexible schedules, we don’t require weekend classes.
Upon graduating, our students enter a highly in-demand field with the confidence and experience needed to begin their teaching careers.
Learn more about Southern’s MAT program.
If you have questions about earning your MAT, schedule an appointment and we’ll show you the way!