Do You Have What it Takes to Shine as a Teacher?

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's learn a little bit about who a teacher is. A teacher is a person who helps others to acquire knowledge, competences, or values. Informally, the role of a teacher may be taken on by anyone. Outside of the classroom, parents, family members, mentors, and coaches can be considered teachers in their capacities. Each of these roles helps to bring out the best in a child and instill core values. A great classroom teacher can accomplish this as well.

In this article, the formal kind of teachers and requirements needed to become one will be covered. Frequently asked questions will also be examined and solutions offered.

How long does it take to become a teacher?

Well, the answer to this question depends on a whole lot of things which includes your current education level, what you are aiming for in the teaching field, and what kind of teacher you want to be and if you are looking to work in the public or private school sector. It is as simple as that.

You can stop at a bachelor's degree and get a teaching certificate, you can go on to a master's degree and get the credentials that come along with it, or you can go all the way to a Ph.D. and teach at universities. If you are asking how long it all takes to obtain your undergraduate degree, it depends the subject. It will take at minimum about four years.

During that period of four years, this is what you do: - Earn a bachelor's degree; - Complete a teacher education program; - Become a student teacher where you observe, create lesson plans, assign work, and interact with parents and school administrators; and - Gain your certification. This is very important because your whole journey to being a teacher is incomplete without a certification.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you may be able to obtain your teaching certification without first completing a teacher preparation program. Do what is best for you and get the all important certificate. Learn more about teaching licensensure reciprocity in our guide here!

Credential requirements needed to become a preschool and elementary teacher

For a preschool teacher

It's important to point out that the requirements for preschool teachers vary from state to state. Some states and markets demand a high school diploma. While other states call for a degree or certification in early childhood education, which covers preschool through third grade.

Being a preschool teacher requires a lot of joy for interacting with young children and a great desire to foster creativity and engagement. Preschool teachers prepare children to enter kindergarten by providing support, guidance, and learning activities. This career typically requires one to have some formal education or training. On this note, a minimum of a high school diploma or associate's is often needed. However, most preschool teachers for public schools must earn a bachelor's degree. A Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate is a common credential that is required by many states. CPR and first aid certification may also be necessary.

For an elementary school teacher

To become an elementary school teacher, you must earn the multiple subject teaching credential. There are different ways to earn this multiple subject teaching credential which includes: - Receiving it at a college or university - A college or university internship program - A school district internship program - You can also earn it through experience which you must have got from teaching at a private school.

Finally, the credential can also be obtained through the early completion internship option.

Now while all these methods are viable and will get you to where you want and what you want, it is important to consider the factors that will be favourable to you and pick a method that will get you the multiple subject teaching credential fast enough.

Be sure to read more about our full guide on how to become a kindergarten teacher.

Credential requirements to become a middle and high school teacher

For a middle school teacher

Middle school teachers provide schooling in particular subject areas to children in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. The most common way to get prepared to teach middle school is to get an undergraduate degree in your subject of choice with a minor in education. Follow this up with passing a state licensing test and student teaching.

The job of a middle school teacher is dependent on the course (or courses) you will be teaching your students. Excellent communication skills, a love for teaching, and a compassion for children are necessary to be a good middle school teacher. Again, since middle school is between elementary school and high school, middle school teachers review concepts learned in elementary school and built on them with more in-depth information, preparing students for the high school years ahead. Middle school teachers plan and deliver appropriate lessons, assess students on their progress, and grade assignments.

On this note, middle school teachers need postsecondary degrees. They usually specialize in one subject area, such as history, English, or mathematics. All states require public school teachers to be state-licensed. To earn a license, completion of at least a bachelor's program with student teaching experience is required.

Teachers in middle schools typically focus on specific subjects such as math, English, social studies, science, art, or physical education. Within these broader areas, a middle school teacher might instruct multiple courses. For example, a middle school teacher specializing in the subject area of science may teach classes in biology and natural science. Their responsibilities vary and including preparing courses, assigning lessons, grading homework and tests, creating classroom rules, and meeting with parents to discuss student progress and behavior issues. They also may spend extra time with struggling students, often mentoring and tutoring them after hours.

For a high school teacher

High school teachers, also known as secondary school teachers, are known to instruct students in subjects through lectures, classroom discussions, and other methods and then evaluate the student's progress in the given subjects through examinations and real-time coursework. Those interested in becoming high school teachers must be proficient in the subject matter they intend to teach, and also in the administrative and technical aspects of handling the classroom. High school teachers should also communicate effectively with parents, guardians, students, and other staff members. It can be tiring and stressful to work with demanding and sometimes unruly teenagers, and it often requires a great deal of calm and patience.

A high school teacher needs these basic credential requirements: - A bachelor's degree. - A secondary education or subject-specific field is required. - A student teaching internship.

Finally, for licensure or certification, a high school certification and state teaching license are required for public schools. Additionally, they might need to have some fundamental skills like patience, instructional abilities, flexibility, communication skills, computer and basic technical skills, and developmental techniques.

Credential requirements to become a substitute teacher

Substitute teachers are encouraged to have a high school diploma, but however, there are no statewide certification requirements. Specific school districts determine certification rules. K-12 substitute teachers must have a bachelor's degree or higher to obtain a license, which is valid for five years.

Substitute teachers are responsible for maintaining all the established rules, procedures and policies of the classroom, school, and district. Substitute teachers work on an as-needed basis and their hours may not be consistent. However, it is possible for substitution to lead to a more permanent position.

These are a few requirements for this: - Meet educational requirements. Know that most school districts require substitute teachers to have a bachelor's degree in any academic discipline from an accredited college or university. - Obtain the Substitute Teacher Certification. - Work in a local school district. - Earn an advanced degree.

For more information, be sure to check out our article on tips for becoming a successful substitute teacher.

Other questions people have been known to ask about teaching

How long does it take to get a teaching degree?

The BA/MAT Program is designed to offer undergraduates a path to a BA, a Master of Arts in Teaching and grades 7-12 Teacher Certification in biology, history, literature, mathematics, or spanish within five years of entering college.

The BA/MAT is an engaging and cost-effective means of earning a teaching credential through college. While the four disciplines mentioned above are the primary certification areas, students in a variety of undergraduate majors are eligible. Upon graduation, they join over 400 MAT graduates who are teachers and administrators in public and private schools around the US and internationally.

In other words, this BA/MAT program is a dual degree which enables you to complete your bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and secondary teaching certificate (grades 7 through 12) within five years. In your first year, you’ll select a major, such as biology, English, history, spanish or mathematics, which will prepare you to teach that subject at the secondary school level.

So effectively, it takes five years to get a teaching degree through these dual degree programs. More if you decide to follow a path into school administration.

How long does it take to obtain a teaching credential/certificate?

The length of time it takes a teacher candidate to complete certification requirements varies from person to person.

However, the traditional path to a teacher's credential begins by taking a four year teacher education program at a standard college or university. The typical teacher education program is built to allow students to complete the necessary credit hours to graduate in eight semesters or 12 quarters. During the initial seven semesters, the students will be attending courses at the university. The final semester credit hours are usually made up of your teacher internship hours. For those with a bachelor's degree in the subject area you wish to teach, you could complete the requirements quicker in 1-2 years through a Master’s of Arts in Teaching or a Master’s of Education program.

During your first two years of the program, the bulk of your coursework will be general education requirements such as math, history, and English. However, during those first two years, you will also be expected to complete some of the lower-level courses in education, typically one per semester, in addition to your general education requirements. The general education requirements may look a little different depending on what you want to teach. Odds are, more of the content courses for the subject (or subjects) you want to teach will be on your schedule. By the time you graduate, you will need to have completed a state-specified list of subject-specific courses to be qualified for your license.

How long will it take to pass a state required teaching exam?

Most times, states need to ensure teachers are smart and qualified to teach students. As a result of that, many states require students applying to teacher education programs to pass the Praxis Core exam before they are officially admitted. This exam is specifically designed to assess reading, writing, and math skills to determine whether or not a candidate for the teacher education program has the skills they need to succeed.

However, many states like Maryland and South Carolina will allow you to substitute SAT or ACT scores for the Praxis Core if you scored high enough. In either case, preparing for these exams can be time-consuming depending on your ability level.

So generally depending on your ability, it could take about two years or less to pass the state required teaching exam.

The time it takes to become a teacher can vary and seem long but the end result of having a classroom full of students is worth it. Start making your plans now to make a real impact on someones life and take on the most rewarding job you could dream of.


  • Bard College Programs. Retrieved February 12, 2018
  • Teaching licensure. Retrieved February 12, 2018
  • Requirements to be a highschool teacher. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
Nedda Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert is a certified social worker and 30 year educational consultant with an interest in helping college-bound and graduate school students manage the process and stress of admissions effectively. She is one of the senior founding managers of the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company, and the author of The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and another book, Business School Essays that Made a Difference (Random House). She is a guest contributor to Forbes Magazine on college and college life. Ms. Gilbert is also certified as a collaborative family law professional in New Jersey. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MS from Columbia University.