How To Get Into Teaching

I get two questions all the time. The first comes from non-teachers -How would you recommend I get into teaching? The second most common question comes from teachers – How would you recommend I get out of teaching?

I figured it would be a useful resource for those people to come here to read and then we can have a more in-depth discussion about their specific life and goals. So here it goes.

How to get into teaching:

Most people ask this are in 1 of 3 life stages. The first is that they are in college and are thinking of how their degree or major fits into education. The second is you already have a degree but you want to get into teaching. There are two options for this situation. One involves going back to school and the other doesn’t. I’ll address these options in that order so you can skip down to what applies to you (except the 3rd could use the advice for the 2nd).

  1. You’re currently in college and majoring in X and you want to teach upon graduation. The problem is your degree is not in education. What to do? Well in Texas if you want to teach 8-12 you have to major in your content area. But what if my major still isn’t in my content area? There are a few options for you. Most universities recognize the need to produce educators and have options for how to get certified without changing your major (or maybe it’s as simple as adding a minor). At the University of Texas, where I went, there was a program called UTeach. It provided training for current UT students majoring in things besides education to become certified in STEM fields along with their degree. This is a great option because you get the more dynamic opportunity to major in something besides education. If you really want to keep your major and it’s not what you want to teach (like engineering but want to teach physics like as was my situation) then you can always do option 2 or 3. So wherever you are in school, ask an advisor for how this works at your school. There may be an option for you.
  2. You have your degree. What to do now? There are two options but the one I see often for the more recently graduated is simply going back to school. However, this option is open to anyone. The thing to google is “Post Bacc Teacher Certification Programs at (insert school in my area).” Almost every university has a masters program or post bacc program that involves one year of classes and one year of “training.” Often the training is you being a classroom teacher but with a mentor that guides you through the year. Your lessons and projects for class and your classroom are intertwined. Sometimes the courses for the Post-Bacc can count towards a M.Ed if you choose to continue. This is a great option for getting extra credentials and building your resume, especially if you’re competing for social science/humanities teaching jobs. I thought about getting certified this way at UTSA but decided against it. I don’t really remember why to be perfectly honest. I was 23 and I don’t know why I did half the things I did.
  3. Last option is to do a private certification program. This is what I did. There are tons of options for this from for-profit certification companies that have billboards asking you “when you can start?” I don’t know how these operate because I did mine through the regional education service center. This is a branch of the education realm that holds records for certifications, school evaluations, general data holding, etc for the state. I felt like this was a good option because it was a branch of the education system that was well connected to the school districts. I don’t know how this works in states beyond Texas but I imagine there are similar opportunities. I took night classes twice a week from 6-9 pm that prepared me for curriculum content and one class every other weekend that covered classroom management and teaching pedagogies. I liked this option because I was working during this time. It was about 3 months of this in the spring of 2010 before schools started looking for candidates. The agency helped us prepare our resumes and for interviews and even had a career fair. It only cost about $800 upfront and the rest was taken out of your paycheck only if you got a job (Something like $2000 over 12 months).

To be honest, a lot of the content in my program felt like a waste of my time but as far as hurdles go – it was pretty easy. I didn’t mind that this is what it took to become a teacher and it proved useful in that it helped me get my first teaching job. I wish I had done the M.Ed program as it would have been more valuable to my long term career. I already had an MS in Engineering so I think that’s why I didn’t bother.

This is a very unsexy post but all career changes or decisions are scary and even the bold require some assistance, hand holding, or high fives.

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