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A Guide To Becoming A Teacher: Online Certifications To Get A Teaching Degree

May 27, 2007 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law has changed the landscape of online teacher certification.  Today’s teachers must be “highly qualified” as defined by the law.  To be a teacher, you need a bachelor’s degree, plus full state certification in the subject you teach.  The process varies from state to state, but for many aspiring teachers, the path to the classroom looks like this: 

 Step One: Get A Bachelor’s Degree.

A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years to complete.  Many schools offer a bachelor’s in education; however, it’s not required to have a B.A. in education to be a teacher.   Many future teachers major in the subject they eventually teach in, while others get a degree in a different subject.   In most cases, it doesn’t matter what your bachelor’s degree is in, as long as you have one.

Step Two: Take the Praxis I.

Teacher and Student

It takes determination to be a teacher, but the job is worth it. 



The Praxis I examinations are an important part of the certification process.  The Praxis is the state-level test that ultimately grants your certification, and it consists of two parts.  The Praxis I, or Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST), evaluates candidates on basic reading, writing, and math skills.  In most cases, aspiring teachers must pass the Praxis I before starting a certification program. 

Step Three: Get Certified.

After you get your bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to be state-certified.   The process varies from state to state, but it often takes one or two years of education classes to get certified.  The courses are education-focused, so if your bachelor’s is in a subject other than education, you won’t miss out on training for the classroom.  

Step Four: Take the Praxis II. 

The Praxis II covers the subject you’ll be teaching.  In most states, you must pass a Praxis II examination for every subject you teach before entering the classroom.  However, in some high-needs districts and subjects, teachers may be allowed extra time to take the Praxis II in concurrence with classroom work.  The content of the test—and the score required to pass—can vary from state to state.

Teacher certification standards have become tougher since NCLB, and can deter some people from entering the profession.  “The requirements can be particularly difficult for adult and non-traditional learners,” says Richard Kline, a biology teacher in Pennsylvania.  “Many of these students juggle a full-time job and a full course load.”

Students who decide to pursue teaching after getting a bachelor’s degree must go back to school for their certification.  However, if you know you want to teach before getting a bachelor’s degree, you can meet the requirements in less time by getting an education degree that includes certification.  On this track, you can get a bachelor’s degree and pass state certification requirements as much as two years faster.

Online degree programs are another option for non-traditional students.  Online learning makes it possible for students to overcome schedule conflicts and geographical boundaries to continue their education.  Many colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in education online, as well as certification courses for those who already have a degree. 

There are many misconceptions about online degrees.  One of them is that studying online is isolating.  The impression is that online students do most of their work alone without faculty guidance or peer support, and they don’t have the same access to college resources that offline students have.  This contributes to the false belief that an online course load is less rigorous and challenging than an offline program.

To combat this, many colleges design their online courses to facilitate as much interaction as possible.   The University of Phoenix, for example, is one of the country’s oldest and most recognized online universities.  It runs classes with a small student-to-teacher ratio, teacher-led instruction, and required participation in online discussions.  It also provides easy access to faculty and the university’s online library.

For many students, an online university offers the best of both worlds: the interaction with faculty, access to resources, and supportive community of an offline school, paired with the greater flexibility of a distance-learning program.

“I got my online bachelor’s degree through a traditional college, but I got my certification online,” says Ed Santilli, a math teacher in Philadelphia.  “The online courses made it possible for me to work and get my certification at the same time.” 

It’s true that NCLB has made the requirements for teacher certification more stringent.  But with the flexibility offered by online universities, it’s possible for aspiring teachers to meet those requirements without sacrificing work and family obligations.   It takes determination to be a teacher, but the job is worth it.


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