Teaching and Learning

Do you want to become a teacher? This job is rewarding and has many advantages, but it also requires a lot of hard work and dedication. If you think you have what it takes to become a teacher, read on to find out important information about how to get your teaching degree and certificate as well as what you can expect to earn and the job outlook for teachers in the United States.

Not All Teachers Are the Same

Teaching jobs can be divided into several categories or classifications, but the simplest way to classify these jobs is by the age group of the students. Elementary teachers work with students as they are just beginning school up until the age of about 10 or 12 years. Older students are taught by secondary teachers, and adults are taught by adult educators. Some school systems separate ages 10 to 14 into another classification called “middle school,” but most teachers focus on either elementary or secondary age groups or on careers as adult educators.

Elementary School Teachers

Elementary school teachers work with children from kindergarten till around seventh grade when they move on to secondary teachers. Elementary schools require teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree as well as state certification, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many teachers also seek higher degrees in order to become leaders in their schools and increase their pay, which is often based on degree level.

Similarly, high school teachers must also have a bachelor’s degree although many of them have degrees in academic content prior to seeking teaching certification, while elementary teachers usually have pure education degrees.

Adult education teachers often have higher levels of education than elementary and high school teachers, although this is not always the case. College professors, for instance, often have doctoral degrees in their fields, but some have a master’s degree. Adult educators working in junior colleges and vocational schools are less likely to have doctorates than professors working at large universities.

Teacher Pay and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, elementary teachers earned an annual median salary of $48,800 in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree. It is important to remember that the level of education as well as years of experience have a significant impact on teacher salaries. It is also important to remember that teachers often work only ten months of the year, so they are often able to take part-time jobs over the summer to supplement their incomes.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that high school teachers earned a median annual salary of $53,230 in 2010, while college professors earned a median annual salary of $62,050.

Elementary teachers can expect to see job growth rates of 17 percent (slightly higher than average) according to the BLS, while high school jobs will increase by seven percent (lower than average). College teaching jobs are expected to increase by 17 percent.

How To Become A Teacher

The path you take to becoming a teacher will depend on what type of teacher you want to be. Elementary teachers generally follow an education pathway in college, taking a Bachelor’s in Science in Elementary Education. Many elementary education programs ask students to concentrate on one or more specific topics such as math, science, or reading for their programs, and these students often seek jobs teaching these subjects. However, most elementary school teachers will teach at least some of every subject.

Secondary teachers are more specialized and must choose a content area in which to take a degree. For example, an English teacher might take a degree in secondary English education. However, many high school teachers actually have degrees in their subject matter field, as well. An English teacher might have a Bachelor’s in Arts in English literature then take extra classes to become certified to teach English.

Both secondary and elementary teachers are required to pass a certification exam for the state in which they wish to teach. Check with your state’s Department of Education to determine the required test for your field.

College or vocational school teachers do not have to have certification but they usually require a postsecondary degree in their field. Many colleges even prefer to hire candidates with doctoral degrees in specific subject areas.

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