It begins with a desire and ends with a classroom. If you love making a difference in the lives of children, teenagers or adults looking to make a change, you can find true fulfillment by becoming a teacher. To reach your goal, though, you’ll have to take specific steps that involve proper education and training. But once you’ve completed your journey you’ll be able to spend your days helping your students learn, grow and develop, both intellectually and personally -- and ready to set out on the road to success.
Determine Your Goals
The first step on your journey to becoming a teacher is to decide what level or subjects you want to teach. While there will always be time to make changes along the way, knowing if you want to teach at the elementary, secondary or college level will help you choose the best college path. If you have a general idea of what you want to do as a teacher, you’ll pick courses relevant to your subject or age level in the process as you work toward that education degree.
Select Your School
Teachers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree. If you are just beginning your higher learning, you will select your degree based on what you want to teach. To teach elementary school, you’ll focus on getting an elementary education degree, and for a secondary teaching job, you should major in the area of content you want to teach -- English, math, physical education, for instance. Select a college or university based on factors such as geography and your financial situation, your personal preferences and values, and the school’s reputation. Then, you are ready to get started.
Research Your State
While you’re getting your higher education, you’ll want to research the teacher certification process in your state of choice. Each state has different requirements for its teachers, so you’ll want to know exactly what you need before you graduate and start job searching. Seek help from your college careers office, professors or advisers who can help you take the appropriate steps to certification.
In most states, completing your journey the traditional way involves student teaching. Near the end of your coursework, you will be sent to work in a classroom to get hands-on experience under the direction and supervision of a veteran teacher. You’ll participate in lessons, build relationships with the students and learn your own strengths and weaknesses as an educator before you’re launched out on your own. During the process, you’ll also be supervised and evaluated through your college or university and graded for the completion of your degree.
Get Certified and Get Hired
Based on your state’s requirements, you’ll be required to get your teacher certification after you finish your education. Usually, that involves passing a test and background checks. Once you’re official and approved, the final step in your journey will be to get a job. Schools begin looking for teachers at the end of the school year, usually in late spring. Search for jobs online and make phone calls. Ask for leads from friends and relatives and use your networking skills. Depending on your geographical location, you may have to be willing to move in order to land a job, but keep making inroads in your desired area and ask to be kept informed regarding future openings.
There are alternative ways to become a teacher for those who are already in other professions but want to make a career change. From going back to school and getting another degree to receiving alternative licensure, each state offers programs that help working professionals get their certification with minimal time and effort. If you want to bypass the certification altogether, consider applying for a position at a private school, many of which hire uncertified teachers if they are qualified for the job.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.