Teaching Through Time: A History of Teaching

While teachers have existed in many unstructured forms for many centuries, the formal distinction of teacher wasn’t prevalent until Colonial times. From the late 1700s to the early 19th century, most teachers were men who also happened to hold other jobs as well, such as farmer, inn keeper, and land surveyor, according to PBS.org. Most ambitious male teachers did not typically view their teaching careers as long-term pursuits; rather, they viewed them as mere stepping stones on their way up the ladder to careers in law or within the church.

When the 1820s hit, so too did the era of Common Schools. With this increased popularity of Horace Mann’s vision of more democratic, free, non-sectarian and universal schools, school houses began to pop up everywhere – with not enough teachers to handle the workload. Enter women in the workforce. While the very first female teachers were not that much more educated than their student counterparts, the younger women emerging into the workforce of teachers showed more and more promise. However, they were only paid a third of what men got for the same job.

Teachers attended Normal Schools to train them for the rigors of the Common Schools, with the first one being set up in Lexington, Massachusetts. Up until the 1880s, over-crowding was starting to become an issue, with 60 children crammed into one-room school houses. At the turn of the century, immigrants began arriving on the shores of the United States, and in turn went to school to assimilate to the American culture. Female teachers still made up the bulk of positions, but their conditions were deplorable, overcrowded, and often overseen with political fervor that continued to keep their salaries low with little flexibility in the classroom. Teachers began to come together and rebel, leading to the first unions. Their pensions, tenure and pay became slowly but steadily better as the decades progressed, although they were still underpaid compared with their male counterparts.

Until the middle of the 20th century, schools could be segregated according to race, but that ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1955. The period between the 1960s and 1980s was another one of upheaval, as teachers got more involved in civil rights issues as well as the Vietnam War and anti-poverty programs. There was a public perception that the country’s schools were failing, with the exposure of underpaid and under-qualified teachers. Since the 1990s, more reform and efforts have been poured into ensuring teachers are properly qualified and compensated for their efforts, although strife within the movement still remains during this so-called 21st Century Standards Movement. Many teachers – still a female-dominated field – continue to fight for their quality of work and ability to provide the best possible classroom experiences for their students in both public and private schools during this time of ongoing teacher certifications, lesson plans and accountability for adequate education for all across the board.

What are the Different Types of Teachers?

Teaching is just as diverse an occupation as, say, lawyers or doctors. There are several different subcategories of teaching that students may choose to pursue. From pre-K to college, there is a wide spectrum of specialties that teachers focus on, each with its own criteria, requirements, and education level.

As of 2013, there were 3.5 million full-time-equivalent (FTE) elementary and secondary school teachers, further broken down by 3.1 million public school teachers and 0.4 million private school teachers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Let’s take a look at each kind of teacher and what each one does.

Pre Kindergarten Teachers

Pre-K teachers educate children who are in their pre-school years, typically ages three to five. Through basic instruction in shapes, colors, social behaviors and beginning reading, children are taught how to function in the world outside their immediate families. Basic principles are instilled in the children through reading and writing, expanded vocabulary, creative arts, science, and social studies. Teachers often use games, music, art, movies, books, computers, and other tools to teach these important concepts and skills, according to StudentScholarships.org. Free and directed play is often a big part of the curriculum, as well as letter recognition, phonics, numbers, and awareness of nature and science.

Pre-K teachers often work within public and private schools, daycare centers and charitable organizations. Entry-level education requires at least an associate’s degree. The BLS says there were 441,000 preschool teachers in 2014. Organizations like the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) foster a diverse, dynamic early childhood profession in an effort to support all who educate young children up to the age of 8.

Elementary Teachers

Elementary teachers are responsible for the education of children from kindergarten through middle school. In some regions, elementary school goes right up to eighth grade, while in other regions it only goes up to grade 5 before being considered middle or junior high school. Most commonly, elementary school consists of the period from grade K through grade 8, although this can vary. Many teachers at this level belong to a local, state or national organization to keep up with standards in education, such as the National Education Association (NEA).

Because this is such a wide range of ages and abilities, elementary school teachers typically focus on one grade level. Many states, in fact, require teachers to be certified in one specific grade level. The curriculum is built around the fundamentals of math, science, social studies, language arts, music, art and reading, resulting in a well-rounded education through hands-on projects and classroom study, says Teach.com. There were 1.5 million kindergarten and elementary school teachers in this country as of 2014, according to recent BLS statistics.

Secondary and High School Teachers

Secondary school is typically known as the high school years, from grade 9 through 12. However, in some districts it is referred to as junior high. Still other districts consider middle school and junior high (grades 6 through 8) a part of primary school. For these purposes, we will refer to secondary school as high school. High school teachers expand on the basics and fundamentals taught in primary school, with more specialized focus within each discipline. For example, math branches out into algebra, trigonometry and calculus, while English may branch out into classic literature and creative writing.

The main purpose of high school is to prepare students for careers in a trade or to go on to college. High schools can be strictly academic in nature or they can be more hands-on in nature to prepare for a trade such as electrician, chef or machinist, through a vocational school setting. Typical entry-level education requires a bachelor’s degree, with the number of jobs at 961,600 in 2014, according to the BLS. High school educators often belong to organizations that promote improvements in student learning and educational practices such as the National High School Association.

Community College Teachers

Community college professors teach general-education classes or provide training for a specific career, with full-time professors responsible for teaching a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester with perhaps additional classes on the side or in the summer to contribute to overall salary, says the Houston Chronicle. Community colleges, also referred to as junior colleges, typically offer two-year programs for students to obtain their associate’s degree.

Community colleges first came on the scene in the early 20th century as a way of allowing young adults to pursue local and affordable college educations, according to Community College Review. Community college professors usually have to have at least a master’s degree, if not a Ph.D. Each state has its own community college association to which community college teachers can belong, such as the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges and Texas Community Colleges Teachers Association.

College Professors

Professors at colleges and universities teach a wide variety of courses that further a student’s education beyond the high school level and prepare them for careers in their given major. Typical areas of study range from accounting and criminal justice to journalism and marketing. University professors may also conduct research and publish papers and books in their field of study. They may teach lecture halls or smaller classrooms, often acting as student advisors and mentors for extracurricular clubs such as campus newspapers, media centers and yearbooks. Also known as postsecondary teachers, college professors may have a master’s degree or Ph.D. and work within public or private colleges or universities.

As of 2014, the BLS reports there were 1.3 million college professors in the United States. Many university professors belong to a formal organization to stay on top of their specialties, such as the American Association of University Professors.

How Can I Start a Career as a Teacher? 

Starting off on the road to becoming a teacher is an exciting time. You may wonder: is teaching a solid career choice? How do I know if it’s right for me? Where do I start? There are some ways you can explore your feelings about teaching and whether this career choice would be a good one for you.

Do You Like Helping Other People?

First off, you have to enjoy helping others, whether that involves young children or budding adults on their path to their chosen careers. Teachers help their students grow, learn and achieve through classroom instruction as well as hands-on projects, field trips and real-life scenarios. Perhaps you want to help pre-kindergarteners emerge into their educational life by introducing them to their first socialization experiences and basic learning of shapes, colors and letters. Or maybe you enjoy working with special needs children at the elementary level who need an extra helping hand with their studies or maintaining social bonds. Perhaps you’re looking to share your knowledge of your chosen specialty to high school students who are looking for guidance and inspiration for what they may want in a college.

The possibilities are endless, but one thing is for sure: you must love helping others, have a compassionate nature and display high levels of patience. When wondering if you should become a teacher, it’s important to realize that you will have to act as an advocate of the children you teach – as they all need a champion.

Volunteer in a Classroom Setting to Gauge Your Interest in Teaching

A surefire way to find out if you’re teacher material is to volunteer in a classroom setting first. Whether you are a college student looking to log some hours for your courses or a parent of a student looking to find a second career as a teacher, it’s important to get into the classroom to see first-hand how everything works. Teachers deal with a lot during the day. In addition to teaching their lessons, they also have to balance proficiency testing, student safety, discipline issues and much more. Volunteers can help ease that burden by helping out with class parties, reading to the children, decorating the classroom, and assisting the teacher with the curriculum. Consult with the school’s PTO, contact the principal directly, talk to your guidance counselor or reach out to your child’s teacher about volunteering opportunities.

Your school district may even have websites dedicated to showcasing open volunteer opportunities within the school district, such as NYC’s ERIC and Boston Public Schools. These districts welcome volunteers of all ages to become classroom volunteers through support to students in grades K-12 in areas such as literacy, math, enrichment, standardized testing preparation and career education.

How to Make a Career Change to Become a Teacher

If you’re in your 30s, 40s or beyond and realize you made the wrong choice in your first career path, you may consider a second career as a teacher. Perhaps you already have a related background in childhood development and social services, or maybe you’re coming at this from an entirely different direction…pursuing a second career as a teacher can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Many older people have become disenfranchised with their professional lives and are tired of the rat race they find themselves in day to day. In fact, as many as 8.4 million Americans between the ages of 44 and 70 have launched so-called “encore careers,” which are essentially positions (like teaching) that combine income with personal meaning and social impact, according to US News and World Report.

According to Monster, 50,000 individuals turn to teaching every year via the alternative route certification program. In fact, each state has its own programs designed to assist career changers in their transition to teaching and pursuing alternate certification. When you land an interview for your first teaching job in your second career, resist the urge to downplay your previous work experience simply because it doesn’t directly involve classroom work. Instead, embrace and discuss transferable skills that you can connect from your old career to the new one. This can include any training programs you may have spearheaded or any adult literacy programs for non-English speakers you may have volunteered for. Highlight the strengths you can bring to the classroom, such as cooperative learning, and provide insight into why you opted to switch careers into teaching after all these years.

To get started, it’s wise to learn exactly where the shortages are and which jobs are available where you live. The U.S. Department of Education’s nationwide listing shows you where the jobs are in each state in the nation. Visit the Together We Teach site, which links you to the education departments in each state with more information on teacher certification requirements. To get certified in education, you’ll need to enroll in a college’s alternative certification program, which you can learn more about by visiting the National Association for Alternative Certification. There are some teaching jobs you can get that don’t require certification at all, such as tutoring, substitute teaching and support positions.

Teaching Scholarships

Pursuing a career in teaching, like any other profession, can be a costly venture. To become a high school teacher for example, you’ll need your bachelor’s degree in secondary education and teaching, which can cost about $32,000 annually for out-of-state students covering tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing and food, according to Career Igniter. Overall, the costs can range from $11,000 to close to $60,000 a year depending on the college and program you choose.

Where can I find scholarships?

Scholarships are one way to offset the high costs of education. There are several state and local teaching scholarships that provide financial assistance to those who apply and demonstrate need or proficiency. There are also college scholarships for minorities with funding packages that can complement grants and low-interest loans to cover college expenses. Scholarships, unlike loans, do not have to be paid back.

Do I Qualify for a Teaching Scholarship?

Each scholarship is different in the criteria they set forth. Some scholarships are available to anyone who wants to apply, while others are based on essay requirements, service requirements, grades, or minority status. A Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, for example, is a federal student grant that requires the aspiring teacher to take certain kinds of classes and perform a certain kind of job in order to keep the grant.

Another example is the Elementary and Secondary Teacher Education Scholarship sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution which provides multiple awards of $1,500 each to students who are 25 years of age and older and are at least in their sophomore year of college with a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Check out this listing of 2016 Teaching Scholarships from College Financial Aid Advice for a variety of scholarships you may qualify for. Other resources include Scholarships.com and Teach.org.

Undergraduate Teaching Programs

There are several factors that come into play when selecting an undergraduate degree and school for the teaching program of your choice, such as accreditation, acceptable majors, and curricula.

Another aspect to look into is the level of commitment to teaching undergraduates. US News and World Report says many colleges have a strong incentive to teaching undergraduates rather than focusing on conducting graduate-level research. A 2015 survey ranked schools receiving the most votes from top college administrators for putting a particular focus on undergraduate teaching. Princeton University in New Jersey got the top spot at number one for the national universities category, followed by Dartmouth College in Hanover NH, Brown University in Providence RI, College of William and Mary in Williamsburg VA, and Miami University in Oxford, OH.

Where Can I Find Accredited Teaching Schools?

While the U.S Department of Education is not responsible for accrediting educational institutions, the Secretary of Education is required by law to publish nationally recognized accrediting agencies deemed to be reliable authorities as to the quality of education or training offered. The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs is a result of available public data and is searchable by anyone looking to find accredited institutions in this country. Accrediting agencies create evaluation criteria and conduct necessary evaluations as to whether those criteria have been met. The goal is to ensure a high level of education by each school through meeting or exceeding acceptable quality levels. To learn more about accreditation, visit the U.S. Department of Education or NCATE for specific accredited teaching institutions in your particular state.

Teaching Degree and Certificate Programs

If you’d prefer to obtain your teaching degree and certificate (whether you’re looking to enhance an existing degree or simply to obtain certification in lieu of a degree), you have a wide variety of options. Certificate programs, offered at online schools, career training facilities and community colleges, help you learn specific career skills in line with becoming a teacher. The certificate program you choose will depend on which area of focus and grade level you desire. Most certificate programs last only a year, but the length of each program will depend on where you’re obtaining the certificate, such as an online school vs. campus. Each state has its own listings of certificate programs.

Keep in mind, there are several areas of focus you can decide on for your teaching and education degree, such as early childhood education, library science, special education, physical education, library science and educational technology.

What Types of Majors are Acceptable in Teaching Programs?

In the same vein, there are many majors that are acceptable within teaching programs. Again, the one you choose will align with your area of focus, as well as your personality and interests. Some examples of teaching majors include:

  • Teaching French as a Second or Foreign Language 
  • Kindergarten/Preschool Education and Teaching 
  • Teaching of Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injuries 
  • Teaching of Individuals with Speech or Language Impairments 
  • Adult and Continuing Education and Teaching 
  • Teaching of Individuals with Autism  

For example, those who decide to major in Child Development will take courses like Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Aspects of Human Development, Social and Personality Development, Infancy and Adolescence Development, and Experimental, Observational & Psychometric Methods. Those who major in Secondary Education will take courses like Classroom Technologies, Language and Literacy, Social and Philosophical Aspects of Education, Exploring Literature for Teens, Assessment Strategies, Arts Education, and Science for Secondary Teachers.

Curriculum for a Teaching Degree Program

Becoming a teacher means you have to stay on top of changing regulations in education, know how to individualize instruction, address Common Core State Standards and bring technology into the classroom to benefit students. The degree program you choose will include classes that directly pertain to your major as well as supporting courses that provide a well-rounded education and curricula that aligns with national standards.

Visit Your Schools of Choice

Once you have your list narrowed down to a few schools, visit each one and talk to current students and faculty members. This is the only way to truly know if the culture of the college agrees with you. According to a survey of first-year college students on Fox Business, the top five factors that influenced their decision on whether to attend their college were:

  • Academic reputation (63.8 percent) 
  • Employment rate of alumni (55.9 percent) 
  • Financial assistance (45.6 percent) 
  • Cost of attending (43.3 percent) 
  • Touring the campus in person (41.8 percent)  

Get the formal tour from school administrators to get a feel for the campus layout and courses offered in your particular teaching major. However, it’s even more important to go off on your own to check out bulletin boards, have lunch in the campus cafes, chat with current students about their experiences, sit in on a classroom with permission, and ask professors probing questions about the classes they teach afterwards.

Ask questions such as:

  • What goes on in a typical class? With some classes very small at 10-20 students and others taking place in lecture halls with hundreds of kids, find out what your typical class will look and feel like. What is the dynamic between students and instructors? Is there a collaborative approach? What are the instructors’ office hours if you need extra help? 
  • What academic and other resources are available to you? Find out what you can do on the side to help yourself succeed. For instance, learn about academic advising, student teaching opportunities in nearby elementary schools, internships, and on-campus career readiness centers. Make sure the college supports your needs as a teacher, whether you’re looking to become a college professor yourself at a prestigious university or you want to teach pre-kindergarten within your local school system. 
  • Why did you choose this particular school? Ask current students what they love about the school and maybe what they would change. Keep in mind your formal tour guide will give you only the benefits and perks of the college. By asking a student, you’re getting an unbiased insider’s perspective which may offer a more honest well-rounded view of the school.  

Another demographic you won’t want to miss in your interviews is a former student of the school. This will give you the full-circle view of what their experience was like while at school, but also how the college prepared them for real-life teaching experiences. Ask questions like: how long did it take you to get a job within your field? Are you making the income you set out to make? Was your school a positive addition to your resume that attracted potential employers?

Doing your research before enrolling at a college for your associate’s, bachelor’s or teaching certificate will ensure the most positive and rewarding experience possible.

Testing Requirements for Teachers

In addition to completing courses in your given major, you must take and pass a test in order to officially become a teacher. Testing requirements vary by state, with each one offering its own website under the Department of Education, including Indiana, Ohio, Georgia and Nevada.

Each state requires you to complete a general teaching certification exam, like the Praxis test, along with a content-specific test for the subjects you intend on teaching. You can check on state certification requirements to find out exactly what you need to complete, from testing to licensing to certifications. The Praxis series tests are a major part of the certification process that may be required both by your state and professional licensing organizations. Learn about the test itself, upcoming dates, centers near you and test prep resources here. Each state has different rules on how you can qualify for certification.

For instance, in Kentucky, prospective teachers need to complete an approved educator preparation program, pass the Praxis series, and submit the proper certification forms and fees. In Arkansas, students must complete an approved program at an Arkansas institution or a regionally or nationally accredited institution, submit an official transcript with evidence of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree at minimum to the Office of Professional Licensure, and take the Praxis test series.

The Praxis Series tests are designed to measure the knowledge and skills of teacher candidates, with the results used to grant licensing and certification. The two main elements of the Praxis series are:

Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (Core), which measuresskills in reading, writing and mathematics as part of a comprehensive assessment. 

Praxis Subject Assessments (formerly known as the Praxis II tests), which measure subject-specific content knowledge, along with general and subject-specific teaching skills.  

Resources are available online on how best to prepare for the tests, via the Praxis Core Overview and Praxis Subject Assessments Overview.

Elementary Teacher Certifications

Certifications are tailored to specific grade levels for prospective teachers. Those wishing to become elementary school teachers need to complete special certifications. Elementary education certification entails the foundational subjects children need to learn to progress throughout the elementary years, from basic math and science to English and history. The American Board’s Elementary Education program, for example, includes candidate services, exams, online coursework, and practice tests. The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence offers the requirements for certification for elementary school teachers, including:

  • Obtaining a Bachelor’s degree or higher 
  • Submitting an official college or university transcript 
  • Passing the national background check 
  • Passing the Professional Teaching Knowledge exam and the ABCTE Elementary Education exam  

Special Education Teacher Certifications

Special education requires its own set of certifications than traditional teachers. The requirements across the country are fairly standard, with special education teachers required to have:

  • At least a bachelor’s degree 
  • Focus in special education 
  • Higher degree in behavioral and psychological areas  

However, because each state may have different requirements, application guidelines and licensure information, like Illinois and Mississippi, it’s important to check with your state department of education. The No Child Left Behind Act mandates high standards must be met by special education teachers that go above and beyond traditional teachers, with a focus on working with students who suffer from learning and physical difficulties.

Secondary Education Teacher Certifications

In order to become certified to teach secondary education grade levels, which can span from grades 6 through 12 or more commonly 9 through 12, students must earn at least a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a passing grade in a certification exam like Praxis I, CBEST or WEST-B. Some states have their own version of certification exams, including Alabama. Check with your state on the exact requirements for certification. For example, Arizona requires a completed application, the appropriate fee ($60 as of 2016), a bachelor’s or advanced degree, a photocopy of your Arizona Department of Public Safety Identity Verified Prints fingerprint card, a passing score on the Professional Knowledge Secondary Exam and a passing score on the Subject Knowledge Secondary Education Exam.

Many students decide to extend their education and pursue a master’s degree in secondary education. Passing the certification exam is a must if they haven’t done so already, plus they may have to collect continuing education credits every few years through attendance at professional development seminars.

How to Get Involved with Student Teaching 

Student teaching is an ideal way to get your feet wet and learn the ins and outs of the classroom. Many students opt to do this while attending college. They may get paid for their services or they may do it for credit or volunteer work as part of an internship. Other times, student teaching involves full-time work after you have completed the core requirements for your degree as part of college-supervised, instructional classroom experience. Also known as field experience, this is usually a required component of your overall training to become a teacher. Essentially, you shadow your assigned teacher throughout the day.

As a student teacher, you will work alongside the teacher, providing assistance in grading papers, helping students with their classwork, organizing the classroom, and bringing them to and from lunch and recess. You can also accompany your teacher to any PTO meetings, staff meeting and workshops to gain a better understanding of what they do each day. The purpose of student teaching is to help you refine and practice your teaching skills in a real-time environment with real students and real issues. Just like becoming a doctor or lawyer, you must immerse yourself in your chosen field to assess the challenges and rewards that come with being a teacher.

Most internships span a period of two to three months. The school and grade level you are placed in will depend on several factors, including previous internship placements, your major, and your personal interests. Before beginning work, you will have to undergo a criminal background check and possibly fingerprint clearance, which varies by state. The California Education Code, for example, requires all individuals seeking certificates and permits from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing obtain fingerprint clearance from the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Each state has its own forms and applications to fill out to become a student teacher within the public school system. The State University of New York, for example, offers student teaching applications on its website. The McKay School of Education in Houston, TX, offers the Aldine Student Teaching Program for college students who want to live on campus while performing their internships. For student teaching positions at the elementary level, seek out your state’s department of education website, which should list individual cities and their corresponding school systems, like this one for Virginia.

Where Can I Find Opportunities?

Resources for finding student teaching positions include job boards online, like Monster, Indeed, and student teacher-specific job sites, as well as school-specific websites and message boards. Attend school board meetings in your town, call the principals at your desired schools, or explore a connection you may have made with a teacher in the past. PTO meetings are another great resource that will put you in touch with parents and teachers who have the experience with the school and its policies.

State Requirements for Student Teaching Certification 

State requirements for student teaching certification are listed on the U.S. Department of Education website. Simply choose your state from the drop-down menu and you will find state-by-state listings of the requirements for both student teachers and teachers, whether you plan to specialize in adult ed, arts, child care, higher ed, humanities, libraries, special ed, tech-prep, or vocational rehabilitation.

For example, Arizona lists the name, address, email and phone number of where to go to find certifications requirements in that state, from the State Higher Education Agency to the Special Education Agency. Likewise, Florida lists its State Adult Education Agency and State Higher Education Agency among others. Clicking on the FLDOE link provided will bring you to pages like Educator Certification and Certificate Lookup.

State Teaching Requirements

Student teaching is often a requirement in order for someone to officially become a teacher. At Long Island University in New York, for example, if you want to be certified to teach in New York State, you have to engage in student teaching full time for one semester, typically in the last semester. LIU has affiliations with 65 school districts and community centers, placing more than 250 students each semester in student teaching positions to obtain hands-on learning and teaching experiences from preschool to K-12. At Liberty University, student teachers are required to engage in one full semester, or 15 weeks, with candidates seeking DUAL endorsement required to serve in two 7 ½-week student teaching placements while registering for two student teaching courses.

Student teaching is considered to be the culmination of all undergraduate courses of study, preparing students for the rigors of the academic classroom as a teacher. Requirements to become a student teacher in most states entail:

  • Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in education. 
  • Student teacher training while completing necessary coursework through consultation with an advisor. You can find teacher education programs affiliated with schools in your area to provide placement. 
  • Filling out an application to become a student teacher. 
  • Undergoing criminal background checks and possible fingerprinting. 
  • Meeting with a teacher-mentor prior to beginning student teaching opportunity.  

What are Teacher Endorsements?

Endorsements are official statements that identify the specific subjects or grade levels that a professional is allowed to teach. After completing the course work, teachers can be recommended for additional endorsements to their license, such as Special Education or Consulting Teacher. In general, an endorsement is a statement that appears on your license that showcases the grade levels and subjects you as a teacher are authorized to provide instruction on. Typically, applying for an endorsement involves submitting an application online and paying the application fee (varies by school but $100 is an average cost). These courses bolster your initial teaching certificate and are considered valuable extras to have.

Each school or college has its own requirements and processes for endorsements. For example, Mississippi State University offers listings of required coursework from the Department of Instructional Systems and Workforce Development for supplemental endorsements involving anything from Business Technology and Business Management to Information and Communication Technology.

As another example, the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners offers links to teacher endorsements such as general education, special education, middle school, counselor, and coach. Some endorsements are for specific teaching levels like those offered by the University of Washington. Ashland University offers endorsements for gifted intervention specialists, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Middle Childhood Generalist. As you can see, each school has its own teacher endorsements with links that explain where you can take each course, as well as course numbers and titles.

How to Get a Job as a Teacher

The ease of obtaining employment as a teacher will depend on the area of the country you live in, the number of job openings, the state of the economy, and your area of specialty. If you are flexible and willing to move to communities where teaching jobs abound, there are a few things you should look for. Look for regions where there are:

  • Teacher shortages 
  • Higher quality of lie 
  • Low cost of living

To locate these so-called “hot spots,” says Monster, be on the lookout for economic growth trends and population booms, as well as areas that don’t have an excess of teacher colleges (this can lead to a less competitive job market). Here are the top five hot spots for teaching this year:

  1. Nevada/Las Vegas: The state is having a hard time finding enough teachers to fill classrooms due to exponential growth in its cities and schools, particularly the Clark County school district.
  2. Florida: Although this state previously suffered from congested class sizes, recent passed legislation is requiring class sizes be decreased drastically. This means more teachers will be required to provide coverage.
  3. North Carolina: Thanks to a strong economy and growing population, North Carolina as a whole is a great place to teach – especially the Raleigh-Durham area.
  4. Georgia: Atlanta and Savannah in particular are booming.
  5. Arizona: More qualified teachers are needed in the bustling cities of Phoenix and Tempe.

On the other end of the spectrum, so-called “cold” or dying markets for teaching include those regions where failing manufacturing industries are giving way to huge losses in the population, such as Upstate New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey.

Finding a job requires perseverance and research. Here are some tips on how to find employment as a teacher, according to the National Education Association.

Put your portfolio together. You’ll want to showcase your skills during interviews, and you’ll need more than a resume to pull that off – particularly if you’re just starting out. Gather up all your transcripts, certifications, results from tests like Praxis, any recommendations you may have, student teaching work, lesson plans that are unique to your style, and a mission statement about your personal teaching philosophy. 

Be proactive in your search. Stay focused and committed each day. This means each day, you should be doing something towards reaching your employment goals whether that involves adding to your portfolio or resume, submitting resumes, or networking.  

Where Can I Find Out Schools that are Hiring?

  • View state affiliate job openings at the NEA, which provides state by state links for education association contact information. 
  • Check Twitter for job feeds or send job announcements. 
  • Visit city or state teaching job websites to find recent openings and postings, like NSW Department of Education and Boston Public Schools
  • “Like” school districts on your Facebook page and get updates on job openings. 
  • Become a substitute teacher while you conduct your search. This will allow you to make some money while waiting, plus it’s a valuable chance to network with fellow teachers, PTO members, principals, administrators and other educators. 
  • Zero in on areas of teacher shortages around the country with information provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Learn about the areas where teachers are in demand, and how those trends have changed over the last 20 years. 
  • Make yourself more attractive to school districts by specializing in shortage areas. For example, pair up your area of certification with a dual specialty such as math and science instead of just one. Check out NEA Academy for discounted professional development courses or graduate credits. 
  • Bookmark job search sites and visit them every day – better yet, sign up for alerts so you don’t have to do as much work. Good resources include the U.S. Department of Education’s teaching job site and Teachers-Teachers.com for open positions within this country or TeachAway for overseas teaching positions. 
  • Prepare for your interviews because you’ll be going on a lot. Nervous, fidgety or unprepared applicants will send up a red flag to a principal, school board or hiring committee on their ability to handle a busy classroom and provide calm leadership on a daily basis. Know the school district inside and out so you can readily answer specific questions pertaining to differentiated instruction, lesson planning, technology, classroom management and standardized testing. 
  • Browse tips at the Teachers Support Network, attend PTO meetings at your desired schools, check in with the principal regularly, and go to school board meetings. 
  • Time your job search well. Many school districts post job openings in the spring for fall jobs. Getting your applications in early will maximize your chances of being seen and hopefully snagging one of those precious few jobs before the summer hits.

How Much Does a Teacher Make?

The salary you command will depend greatly on the type of teacher you are, which grades you teach, your level of education and which area of the country you live in. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn $53,760 per year, with the number of jobs in 2014 at $1.5 million. States with the highest employment level in this category include Texas, California, New York, Florida and Illinois. Top-paying states for elementary school teachers are New York at $74,830, followed by Alaska, Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts at $69,890.

High school teachers, according to the BLS, make an average of $56,310 a year, with the number of jobs in 2014 at 961,000. States with the highest annual mean wage include New York at $76,680, followed by New Jersey, California, Alaska and Massachusetts at $71,000. The metro areas with the highest level of unemployment include NY-NJ, Chicago-Joliet, and LA. This is due to the fact that these areas are more highly concentrated, tend to have large public school systems (some in fact that are overcrowded and congested), and have larger overall populations.

Special education teachers make about $55,980 per year, with the number of jobs in 2014 totaling 450,700, according to recent BLS stats. The highest paid states for special education teachers for kindergarten and elementary schools are ranked from Connecticut at #1 with $70,720, followed by New York, Rhode Island, Alaska and California at $66,830. New York also tops the list for middle school special education teachers and secondary special education teachers, while Illinois claims the top spot for preschool special education teachers at $78,450.

This data by the National Center for Education Statistics shows a map of how much the average teacher in each state gets paid annually, with Massachusetts and New York commanding some of the highest salaries across the nation. The lowest paid states include Georgia, Arizona, Maine and North Carolina. The BLS reports the following states as some of the lowest wage earners, making between $33,000 and $47,000 per year:

  • Idaho 
  • Montana 
  • Kansas 
  • Oklahoma 
  • Mississippi 
  • South Dakota

Many factors will affect your salary as a teacher and your bargaining power in a job interview. Those factors include:

  • Your experience level 
  • Area of the country in which you teach 
  • Public school vs. private school 
  • Level of education, i.e., bachelor’s vs. master’s 
  • Particular school system 
  • Job openings and availability 
  • Specialty 
  • Job outlook in your region  

To research your state’s average wages for teachers, consult with the school board in your area, network with other teachers, talk to your guidance counselor, and visit salary estimator websites.

Professional Teaching Organizations 

In order to remain privy to the latest developments in the education field, teachers find it helpful to belong to professional teaching organizations. Each organization targets a different focus of education, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for early childhood professionals who care for children from birth age 8 and the National Council of Teachers of English. Still others target different levels of educators, such as the National Association of Elementary School Principals. There are organizations for biology teachers, math teachers, English as a Second Language teachers, and physical education teachers. A comprehensive list can be found here.

There are further organizations specific to each state, such as the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, New York State Education Department, and the Mass Teachers Association.

Graduate School Degree Programs

To further your education and obtain a master’s degree in your area of focus, you need to go to graduate school. By obtaining a master’s degree, you can add value and expertise to your classroom experience, command a higher salary and obtain higher-level positions. A grad degree in this country can add between $2,000 and $10,000 to a teacher’s salary, says the Center for American Progress.

You can search graduate schools and programs for any state in the country by category such as criminal justice or health and medicine. While grad school may be completed in one year, you usually need two full years to complete it. Typical graduate courses delve deeper into a teacher’s area of focus, with more intense courses of study, research papers and presentations. For example, typical graduate courses for a math teacher may include Advanced Probability and Statistics, Foundations of Differential Equations, Theory of Integration and Regression Analysis.

Graduate schools can be found all over the country and in each major city and state. Some examples include Teachers College at Columbia University and the University of California-Berkeley Graduate Division. Search for a school near you here.