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Become a Teacher

How Do I Become a Teacher?

All states require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in Education to become a certified teacher. Additionally, some states may require teachers to obtain a Master of Arts in Teaching or Masters in Education degree within five (5) years of completion of their initial degree.

Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Education
Bachelor’s degree programs in education are traditionally completed within four years at an accredited college/university. These programs provide students with a background in liberal arts as well as a strong foundation in content, pedagogy and practice. There are several options available for those looking to earn a bachelor’s degree in education.

Earning a Master’s Degree in Education
In some states, students are required to have (or be in pursuit of) a master’s degree within five (5) years of receiving their bachelor’s degree in education. Traditional master’s programs take one to two years to complete at an accredited college/university. These programs provide students with highly specialized knowledge and training in a specific content area or field of study. For more information about earning your Masters Degree, visit Master of Arts in Teaching or Masters in Education

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Teacher certification requirements vary greatly from state to state. Most states have various levels of certification for teachers based on the age group or subject area they wish to teach. Please see CertificationMap.com’s state-by-state breakdown to determine the specific requirements needed to get certified in your state.

How to Become a Teacher Infographic

How to Become a Teacher

There are many paths to becoming a teacher. Your own route will depend on many factors, including your education, professional experience and location. Ultimately, you’ll obtain a teaching credential from your state. This might be accomplished by entering an undergraduate program that offers a fifth-year credential program. You may also take an alternative certification program, or you could enroll in a Master of Arts in Teaching program that also offers a credential option.

The road to a credential can be a long, confusing process, but Certification Map is here to help by providing this handy table delineating a few routes to becoming a teacher.

Please note that the paths outlined below are generalizations. Each state has its own unique criteria for becoming a teacher. To learn more about the specific requirements of your state, visit CertificationMap.com.

Three Routes to Becoming a Teacher

A. The Bachelor’s Degree Program Route

  1. Enroll in an accredited college or university. To become an elementary school teacher, major in education or liberal studies. To become a secondary school teacher major in the subject you would like to teach (e.g. English, biology) and minor in education.
  2. If your undergraduate program did not include a teacher education program, attend one accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
    • To qualify for a teacher education program, you may need to pass the Praxis I exam on reading, math and writing or take specific state required exams.
  3. To earn your state teaching credential:
    • Pass the Praxis II exam or your state’s specific exams in your content area.
    • Apply for certification.
    • Pass clearance requirements, including fingerprint screenings and medical screening.
  4. Congratulations! You’re now certified to teach!

B. The Alternative Certification Route

  1. If you’ve already earned your bachelor’s degree, enroll in a state-approved alternative certification program.
    • To qualify for an alternative certification program, you may need to pass an entrance exam and pass background and health screenings.
    • Begin working as a teacher with temporary certification.
    • Complete accelerated coursework for a standard certification while working.
  2. Earn your state teaching credential:
    • Pass the Praxis II exam or your state’s specific exams in your content area.
    • Apply for certification.
  3. Congratulations! You’re now certified to teach!

C. The Master’s Degree Program Route

  1. If you’ve already earned your bachelor’s degree and want a program that will offer you more preparation before entering a classroom enroll in a Master’s of Art in Teaching degree program from an accredited university.
    • Develop a pedagogical foundation with core curriculum classes.
    • Specialize in a concentration in elementary education, single subject education (e.g. math, science), special education, gifted education or English as a second language.
    • Gain in-class experience by working with a mentor teacher.
    • Complete a capstone project on research and implementation.
  2. Earn your state teaching credential:
    • Pass the Praxis II exam or your state’s specific exams in your content area.
    • Apply for certification.
  3. Congratulations! You’re now certified to teach!

In order to obtain your teaching certification, states require the following:

  • Undergraduate Education: Hold a Bachelor’ Degree from an accredited college
  • Teacher Education: Complete a teacher education program from an accredited college/university or undergo a teacher preparation alternative certification program
  • Testing: Most states require the passing of state-specific teacher tests and/or the PRAXIS exam
  • Masters Degree: Most states require teachers to earn their Masters Degree in order to become a certified teacher

Visit your state’s Teacher Certification Requirements for more information


If you’re unsure about whether teaching is right for you, read about some of CertificationMap.com’s reasons to become a teacher. Take a look at your state’s specific certification requirements:

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