How to Become a Certified Teacher

Becoming a certified teacher is not only recommended, but required in many states. Certification will also make you more marketable, and can often earn you a higher starting salary.  The process to certification can be confusing initially.  Below you will find some tips to set you on the path to certification.

Earn a College Degree

Choosing education as a major in college is a great idea if you plan on a career as a teacher.  However, you do not have to limit your undergraduate education to a teaching degree.  You can earn an undergraduate degree in another field and then go on to earn your master's degree in education.  Many states require teachers to have a master's degree, some within five years of teaching. 

Whether you pursue an undergraduate and/or graduate degree in teaching or education, you will undoubtedly need to enroll in teaching courses.  What type of courses can you expect? Most teaching education programs cover:

  • History of education

    • a review of education over time, as well as background on our modern educational system

  • Curriculum and instruction

    • teaching strategies, creating lesson plans, or time management, for example

  • Classroom management

    • behavioral management strategies

  • Subject-specific courses

    • these are the courses relevant to the subject you’ll be teaching

  • Student teacher/field study

    • this typically includes time in the classroom

Whether you are a high school student ready to set out for your college experience, or a career changer, you will find a degree program that works for you.  A typical college program is the best fit for many, while online or hybrid (online and in person) programs are gaining popularity. If you’re considering an online program, sites such as BestSchools.org have compiled lists of top online teacher education programs.

Know the Paths to Certification

There are traditional and alternative routes to teaching certification. Both traditional and alternative certification programs are approved by the state they operate in and both ultimately lead to a valid teaching certificate, albeit with different paths to get there. A breakdown of the differences between the two are explained in greater detail below.

Traditional

The traditional path to certification usually entails:

  • Obtaining a bachelor's or master's degree in education from an accredited institution or university

  • Successfully passing teacher certification exams (using your new Cirrus Test Prep study guide!)

  • Passing a background check and fingerprint check

Alternative

Alternative routes to teacher certification are found mostly in areas that desperately need teachers or have a lack of teachers in a specific discipline (often special education, math, and science). Usually an alternative program allows an individual with little to no teaching experience to work on a full time basis while attending a program that combines experience, education, and training into certification.  Alternative routes typically still require 1) a bachelor’s degree, and 2) that you pass your state’s teacher certification exams, which means you’ll still be needing a Cirrus Test Prep study guide if you choose to go an alternative route!

If you’re interested in learning more about the different routes you can take to get into the classroom, teach.org offers additional information about pathways to certification, whether it's the traditional or alternative route.

Prepare for Teacher Certification Tests

No matter your path to teacher certification, you are bound to be required to pass a few teacher certification tests.  Requirements vary from state to state, but the majority of prospective teachers will have to take a basic skills test, which typically covers reading, writing, and math. Subject specific exams will also be given in your certification area.  Your schooling or experience should be the greatest factor in helping you prepare for these exams; in addition, supplementing your studies with study guides and online resources is also recommended. Fortunately, Cirrus Test Prep offers study guides for both general and specific exams for several states – feel free to check them out here, or browse yourself!

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