Qualifications to Become a Teacher

Looking for Better Job Security? Consider Becoming a Teacher

By Thea Nyberg

With the current economy causing many people to consider a job transition, teaching positions are more popular than ever. “Education is one of a handful of sectors that has actually added jobs in this recession.” says Cheryl Palmer, a career expert and president of Call to Career. “Even in hard times, I don't think anyone wants to scrimp on education.”

Stable and considered “recession proof” by many, jobs in education can be an excellent second career for those with a bachelor’s degree. “Teaching is a fallback profession for many people. When other jobs are hard to come by, many professionals start to look at teaching,” explains Palmer.

Qualifications to Become a Teacher

There are several routes for becoming a teacher. The traditional path includes a bachelor’s degree from a teaching training program and a state-issued license. In addition, teachers must complete a certain number of education credits and hours. A license is required in all 50 states for public school teachers and licensing requirements can vary from state to state.

Other Paths to Become a Teacher

Off the beaten path are alternative certification programs, which are aimed at people who already have a bachelor’s degree. These programs can take from a few months to three years to complete and are designed to ease shortages of teachers in high-demand subjects or districts that are experiencing a shortage of teachers.
Emily Feistritzer, president and CEO of the National Center for Alternative Certification, explains that these programs not only meet demand for teachers but also the training needs of individuals who already have a bachelor's degree and want to teach. “[Alternative programs] are efficient means of getting the right people in teaching jobs where demand is greatest. The typical program gets one into the classroom as a teacher of record (salary with benefits) early in the program, working with a mentor teacher,” she says.

There has been a huge increase in the number of people entering teaching through alternate routes in the last decade. “There are about 600 [alternative] programs throughout the country, producing about one-third of all new teachers hired,” says Feistritzer, “In the 2007-08 school year, 62,000 teachers were certified through alternate routes.”

Teaching Jobs in Demand

“The greatest need is for bilingual teachers, special education teachers, math and science teachers,” says Palmer. Regionally, the west and the south have the greatest need for educators, but throughout the U.S., demand is the highest in rural areas and inner cities. Despite the economic downturn, many states are experiencing teacher shortages. To learn more about which states have a need for teachers, Palmer recommends visiting the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Teacher?

Online classes, tutoring and ESL (English as a Second Language) instruction are becoming alternatives to in-the-classroom teaching and often require less schooling. Alysia Bartley, academic coordinator for TalktoCanada, an international English training company, has seen a “huge boost this past year in teachers looking to work online. There is a very large demand for business ESL training.” Online ESL teaching has many benefits, including one-on-one instruction with students, no need for lesson plan preparation and very little marking.

John Hooi, founder of Tutor Doctor, which provides in-home tutoring to students, has found that a flexible schedule and one-on-one interaction with students are among the many perks of tutoring. “Tutors can have rest assurance they are helping kids on a ‘one-to-one’ basis as oppose to ‘one-to-many’ basis. Many tutors believe this is the best ratio for the best results,” he notes.

Getting Ahead as a Teacher

Obtaining a master’s degree and national certification typically will lead to an increased salary and additional benefits for teachers. With long summer vacations, many teachers can also earn extra income by tutoring, teaching summer school or obtaining a seasonal job. Coaching and extracurricular activity instruction can also often boost pay. To get ahead and noticed in the field, Palmer suggests teachers obtain in-depth knowledge of their subject matter, establish good relationships with parents and be a great team player.

Stability and Outlook for Teachers

One main benefit to being a teacher is job stability, says Palmer, who explains that unions, such as the National Education Association, help to provide protection for educators.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), jobs in education will continue to grow, especially in high-demand subject areas and in less desirable school districts. “The teaching profession is here to stay because there will always be students to teach,” predicts Palmer. “As long as babies are being born, there will always be students in the pipeline who need education.”
Based in Seattle, Thea Nyberg is a freelance writer and editor.

Based in Seattle, Thea Nyberg is a freelance writer and editor.

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