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Teacher Careers

Teaching Schools and Degrees

Teachers are afforded high status in our society. Teaching requires a set of unique skills beyond mere command of content and a patience that many people do not possess. Ultimately, we look to teachers as keepers of our cultural knowledge who work tirelessly to pass it along to the next generation.

Teacher Careers & Degrees

Teacher careers generally specialize in a particular age group and/or specialty.

Early childhood educators focus on the first years of a child’s life. They most often work with infants up through the age they enter kindergarten. They are sometimes referred to as preschool teacher. Though they may instruct children in basic knowledge, these educators are most concerned with their intellectual and emotional development.

Elementary school teachers typically teach grades k-5/6. They are in charge of a group of students and must be able to teach all subjects. Like their early childhood educator counterparts, elementary school teachers monitor each student’s total development.

Secondary school teachers teach students in middle and high school. These teachers typically specialize in a single subject and see different groups of students throughout the day. With guidance counselors, they help students make the transition to adulthood and prepare them to enter college or the workforce.

Special education teachers work with the students who have learning disabilities, which may range from mild to severe. They may assist students in their classes or lead a group of students who require special instruction full-time. Though most teachers receive some training in order to work with special needs students, special education teachers are highly trained to meet the unique challenges they face.

Vocational teachers specialize in courses that prepare students for specific careers or occupations after school. These teachers are typically found in middle and high schools and teach courses in subjects such as agriculture, construction trade, family and consumer science, and business.

Teacher Careers Path

At the very least, teachers in K-12 positions need to have a Bachelor’s degree in education or the subject in which they teach. Many schools also require a Master’s degree, again, either in education or the teacher’s field.

For grade school teachers, coursework will be broad since they must instruct their students in all subjects. Middle and secondary school teachers will often have focused on a single subject in college. Most teachers, especially those who teach younger children, also take courses in pedagogical techniques and spend time in internships.

For those who wish to teach at the highest levels, college and university, a Master’s degree or Ph.D. is almost always required.

In addition to degrees, all states require public educators to become certified (private school teachers often do not have to do so). This is typically accomplished through a combination of testing and provisional licensing.

With a provisional license, a teacher must prove competency in the classroom before being fully certified. Certification typically requires teachers to complete a certain number of continuing education classes each year. Teachers who teach unique subjects like music or who work with special needs children often have their own certification. College and university professors do not have to be certified, though they are often expected to pass performance reviews and/or publish in order to earn tenure.

Teacher Careers: Salary Expectations

The average salary for K-12 (elementary) teachers is $47,100 to $51,180 a year. Income or salary level is highly dependent, however, on education level, the area of country, and the school system in which one teaches.

Those with Master’s degrees tend to earn a higher salary than those with only a Bachelor’s degree. Teachers in inner-city and rural school systems do not tend to as high a salary as their suburban counterparts, though public school teachers tend to earn more than private school teachers.

Some teachers earn extra income by picking up coaching jobs and/or working during the summer months they aren’t teaching. Those who wish to make more money may try to transfer to better schools or move into administrative positions.

Teacher Careers: Compatible Personality Traits

Excellent oral and written communicator, good with children/young adults, highly organized, patient, multi-tasker, trustworthy, creative, works well with others, willing to work long and/or odds hours.

Teacher Interview

Interested in the experiences of a teaching career?  Read More from a Teacher…

Teacher Careers: Job Outlook

The job outlook for teachers in the coming years is generally good. There will be need for new teachers to replace the many who are expected to retire in the coming years.

The highest demand will be for those who teach in-demand subjects like math and science and/or those who are willing to teach in rural or inner-city areas. Teachers who speak foreign languages and who can teach English as a second language (ESL) classes will also be in demand in areas with large immigrant populations.

Teachers who are certified to teach math or science, are certified to work with special needs children, speak a foreign language, are willing to relate to unpopular school districts, and/or have a Master’s degree stand the best chance of finding a good position.

Teacher Associations and Resources

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education

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