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Didn't Major in Education? No Problem. How to Become a Teacher Anyway

Apr 18, 2013 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 1 Comments

No Child Left Behind laws require teachers to meet what’s called a “Highly Qualified Teacher” standard. That standard is complicated and varies from state to state. However, every state requires teachers to hold a Bachelor’s degree. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be in education.

If you didn’t major in education, you can still teach in public schools. The method you use will vary depending on your state and the type of teaching you want to do. Here’s a guide.

Teach at the high school level

In some types of teaching—such as elementary education—most employers expect a Bachelor’s degree in that type of education. But you don’t need a Bachelor’s degree in education to teach in a high school. You usually need a Bachelor’s in the subject you plan to teach instead—as well as appropriate certifications and passing scores on licensing exams for public school teachers.

See Also: Online Teaching Degree Programs

Look into alternative certification

While No Child Left Behind has stringent requirements for public school teachers, the way it’s implemented varies state by state. Some states allow alternative certification programs for prospective teachers who didn’t major in education. These often involve classes in education, passing an exam, and a student teaching period; but you may be able to take as many as five years to finish the program after you’re hired. Some school districts will even pay your tuition. 

See Also: Online Teaching Certifications

Look into fast-track programs

In some school districts and states, you will not be able to teach until you’re certified—and that requires taking education classes before teaching. But even then, some universities partner with public schools to provide a fast-track certification program that will get you certified and in the classroom faster. Do some research at local schools in your area that have teacher certification programs.

See Also: Master's Degree in Education

Consider teaching at private schools

Private schools don’t operate under the same rules for teacher hiring that public schools must comply with. They are permitted to hire teachers who aren’t licensed and who don’t hold a degree in their area of instruction, although many private schools require at least a Bachelor’s degree and some teaching experience. But if you don’t hold an education degree or a degree in the subject you want to teach—and you don’t want to go back to school—this might be the best option.

Consider vocational education

If you plan on teaching a vocational craft or skill, you don’t necessarily need college coursework from a traditional or accredited online college. You may need only state licensure or certification in the trade you’re teaching. The exception is if you also teach one of the core subjects as defined by the NCLB: English, reading, language arts, math, science, foreign languages, government and civics, economics, geography, history, or the arts. If that’s the case, you’ll need to meet NCLB requirements for those subjects.

Start by substitute teaching


Substitute teachers can build valuable experience without having to meet all the hurdles to teaching thrown up by NCLB—and some substitutes get to teach on a long-term basis for full-time teachers on maternity leave or with a long-term illness or injury. This experience can make you a stronger candidate for positions where alternative certification may be available, and where your certification might be paid for.

If you didn’t major in education, you still have plenty of options for becoming a teacher. Some school districts and states run work-to-classroom programs helping professionals in other areas make a transition to teaching—and many offer alternative certification programs, especially in high-needs school districts and for people teaching in-demand subjects. In addition, some teaching specialties—like high school—don’t require a Bachelor’s in education. Every state is different, so do some research into the requirements for your state and school district—and hopefully you’ll be able to make a smooth transition to teaching.



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