Do your co-workers say that you would make a great teacher? Has leading a classroom always been in the back of your mind? Becoming a teacher as a second career might be an excellent choice.

Pursuing a career as a teacher shows your commitment to a fulfilling and engaging life helping the next generation. And teaching as a second career is a lot more common than you might think; in fact, more than a third of today's educators were in another career before entering the classroom. There are benefits to making the career change; educators have a clear vocation and purpose, especially in comparison to typical a 9-to-5 office workers. Teaching also provides many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others — and, by the same token, in your own life. Each new school year brings new kids and new perspectives. This is not to mention that as a teacher you will have a long break over the summer to reflect and take time for yourself, go on vacation with your family, and complete summer projects around your house.

Like many fields that require high levels of emotional labor and communication, teaching is not always easy. In fact, a 2014 report by Gallup reveals that teachers experience a high amount of on-the-job stress. But Gallup also finds that teachers rank second-highest in being satisfied with their lives overall. This tells us that while teaching is a tough job at times, it is extremely rewarding. In addition, If you were successfully working in another industry before becoming a teacher, you will bring fresh, innovative perspectives to your school or district.The life experience gained in your previous career will help you contribute to your school’s diversity and potentially help other teachers think about things in a new way.

Timeframe for Becoming a Teacher as a Second Career

The time it will take for you to become a teacher will depend on where you live, your background, and your level of education. If you have already met your state's mandated requirements for becoming a teacher, your next step will be to apply for a teaching license, start networking, and get your name out to surrounding school districts to secure an interview. However, if your bachelor's degree is not sufficient for licensure, or if your state mandates an additional certification program prior to issuing a teaching license, you may need to take a step back and fulfill a few educational requirements.

Below you will find the various requirements for becoming a teacher. Included in these sections is the time it will take to complete each step — but keep in mind that unique circumstances could lengthen or shorten these estimates. For example, the timeframe for completing a teacher preparation program will be heavily influenced by whether you are completing it on a full-time or part-time basis.

Each of these options will take some investment and a lot of discipline, but following these steps will result in a fulfilling career that is well worth the effort.

Bachelor’s degree (4 to 5 years): Any teaching position in a U.S. public school will require that you have your bachelor's degree at minimum. Some school districts may prefer your major to be in a certain subject, however, your state's Department of Education will be able to provide specifics on the educational qualifications for licensure. Most bachelor's degrees can be completed in four years, but if you plan to take an integrated program (which will graduate you with your bachelor's degree and teaching credential), or if you choose to double major in education and the subject you wish to teach, it may take up to five years on a full-time basis.

Teacher preparation (6 months to 2 years): All states require some form of licensure to be a teacher, but not all require the completion of a teacher preparation program. However, if your state does require this program in order for you to become certified as a teacher, there are college, university, and online options available. An online program can be completed in as little as six months, while a teacher preparation program that also includes a master's degree could take up to two years.

Exams and teacher certification (varies): Contact your state's Department of Education to find out the timeline for obtaining a teaching certification. This will include not only how many exams you need to take, but how often they are offered. If you miss the window for taking a specific exam, you may have to wait several months before that exam will be offered again. You will also typically need to undergo a background check when applying for a teaching certificate, which can take a few days to several weeks. Once you have satisfied all these requirements, you will just need to wait for your license application to be processed.

Master’s degree (1 to 3 years): If you would like to complete a master's degree to enhance your educational qualifications, you might consider securing your teaching credential first so that you can start teaching in the meantime. Some school districts favor first-year teachers that only have a bachelor's degree, because they will fall lower on the payscale. However, once you finish a master's degree, it is an automatic pay raise. For this reason, many teachers wait until they have a secure teaching job, and then go back to school to earn their master's. Because this is so common, most education master's programs are offered with flexibility so that students can continue working in the classroom while they are in school. And while most states don’t require this level of education, some states, such as New York, require teachers to earn a master’s degree after a certain number of years in order to continue teaching.

What Steps Do I Need to Take to Start My Second Career as a Teacher?

I have a bachelor's degree in education or a related field. You might have landed a career outside of teaching, but it is possible you were educated as a teacher at one point. If you have a bachelor's degree in education, you are very close to becoming a teacher — even if you’re currently working in another field. If you are still living in the state where you completed your bachelor's degree, you can contact your state's Department of Education to see if your credentials satisfy their licensure requirements, or if there are additional courses or exams you will need to complete. The good news is that even if you have a few more hoops to jump through before you have your own classroom, you educational background will give you a solid foundation.

I have a bachelor's degree in a non-education related field. If you majored in the subject you wish to teach, you will need to complete a teacher preparation program to become qualified for a teaching credential. Contact your state's Department of Education to see which programs are accepted and in-line with state-mandated requirements. If your bachelor's degree is in a non-education related field but is not the subject you wish to teach, you may consider completing a master's degree in a specialized field or in your subject area of interest.

I do not have a bachelor's degree. If you have not completed a bachelor's degree, an integrated bachelor's degree in education will provide the curriculum you need to become a teacher while avoiding a fifth-year certification program. If your state does not require you to complete a teacher preparation program, an integrated bachelor's will not be necessary.

Teacher Degree Requirements

Every teacher in the U.S. is required to have a bachelor's degree. The traditional path to becoming a teacher is to obtain a bachelor's degree in education; however, if you are changing careers and do not have a bachelor's degree in education or a related field, there are steps you can take to enhance your bachelor's degree and become qualified to teach. Completing an alternative certification program, or a post-baccalaureate certificate, will satisfy the training curriculum you need to become a licensed teacher. There are in-person and online college and university programs in every state that will allow you to complete this training. If you need to continue working while you are going to school, an online program might be very useful; but it is important to make sure that the program meets state-mandated requirements. If you are interested in teaching the subject you completed in your bachelor's program, such as English, psychology, mathematics, or history, completing a post-baccalaureate or master's teaching program will get you one step closer to teaching.

Teacher licensure and certification requirements

To teach in a public school in the U.S. you must have a state-issued teaching certificate. While all teaching certificates require that you have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, each state differs in the additional steps you must take. Becoming a licensed teacher typically requires passing any certification courses that were not completed in your bachelor's degree program, and passing state-required basic skills exams. Read Noodle’s state-specific guide, Your Path from Bachelor's Degree to Teaching Certification, for more details.

If you are not currently qualified for a teaching credential but would like to start teaching as soon as possible, you might consider on of two options: becoming a substitute teacher to test the waters, or teaching at a private school. Private schools are not required to follow state laws regarding teaching credentials, so they offer an alternative route for those who wish to teach but do not have an extensive academic background in education.

Master’s in Teaching vs. Master’s in Education

In most school districts, carrying a master's degree will bump you up to the next payscale, making room for you to earn a higher salary. If your master's degree makes you a specialist in a specific area of teaching, it may also mean you will have more job security or the opportunity to be recognized for your particular work. If you plan to become a teacher and do not currently have a master's degree, you might consider obtaining a Master's in Teaching or a Master's in Education.

A Master's in Teaching is most appropriate for individuals who plan to be career-teachers in a classroom. This means you do not have aspirations to become an administrator or superintendent. If you are thinking about becoming a teacher and do not currently meet the requirements for a teaching certificate, a Master's in Teaching would be a great way for you to do so.

A Master's in Education is a valuable option for individuals who plan to advance in the field of education and be promoted to the role of administrator or superintendent. In addition, this may be a great fit for someone who is pursuing school counseling, as the degree provides a high-level overview of the educational system rather than focusing on classroom pedagogy. A Master's in Education is also a pathway to become a licensed school counselor or school administrator for those who do not have a background in education.

Does completing a master's degree sounds like a good fit for you? Noodle has some advice on how to Maximize your Salary with a Master's Degree.

Teacher Occupation and Salary Outlook

Depending on what you were doing before you decided to become a teacher, a teacher salary might be a pay raise or a demotion. Your salary as a teacher will be guided by your school district and will depend on factors including experience and education level. Similar to other professions, teacher salaries are highly dependant on location, which is in turn driven by cost-of-living. As of May 2017, states across the U.S. employed 15.4 million K-12 teachers, and about 888,900 new education, training, and library jobs are estimated to be added from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also indicates that the average annual salary in 2017 for kindergarten and elementary school, middle school, and high school teachers was $56,900, $57,720, and $59,170, respectively, which is higher than the overall national average salary of $37,690.

Follow your Heart

Do you think you would be a good teacher? Steve Jobs once said, "The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking." If you believe you have found your passion in teaching, go for it. It is never too late to make changes to your life, no matter how large or small. Coming from a different profession, you have the opportunity to bring a new perspective to the educational field. Teaching is a tough, but fulfilling, career that will give you the chance to have an impact on young people’s lives and to make a difference in the world.

Lizzie
Lizzie Perrin

Lizzie is a purposeful writer with a mind for public service and a passion for education. With nearly a decade of experience developing and implementing public policy for the state of California, she has a genuine impulse to help others. Working on California's budget, the sixth largest economy in the world, Lizzie played a key role in securing funds that go toward several leading social programs administered by the state. Lizzie has a BA in Communication and MA in Public Administration. She is a musician, volunteer, and mom, and lives in the Golden State with her husband and son.