You're certainly not the first person to ponder the possibility of changing your career path after already having earned your degree. Many can attest to the reality of discovering their calling at a time when it almost feels as though it may be too late to veer in a new direction. But once you've begun to set your sights on the honored and respected profession of teaching, it can be a challenge to feel fulfilled pursuing anything else.
So, what's holding you back? You didn't major in education. Whether your background is in business or biology, communications or computer science, you realized too late that you wanted to be at the head of the classroom, inspiring and engaging young learners.
But just because you didn't major in education doesn't mean your dream of teaching is out of reach. There are opportunities to enter the education field that don't include another four years spent earning a second bachelor's degree. And if one thing is certain, it's that the education field needs smart, inspired individuals like you to make a difference for future generations of students.
Read on to learn more about the options you can still take advantage of to fulfill your dream of becoming a teacher.
If you want to be a teacher and you already have a bachelor's degree in anything other than education, you have a couple of options to pursue a teaching career. Consider the following two.
Alternative certification or teacher preparation programs are designed to train teaching hopefuls just like you who have already earned a bachelor's degree in a different field.
Consider, for example, the story of Chris Brantner, founder of SleepZoo. He originally majored in finance before discovering his interest in teaching just before graduation. Wanting to complete what he'd spent years working toward, Brantner graduated with his finance degree and then opted to participate in an alternative certification program that included classes taught by local teachers. He also had to acquire a certain amount of classroom observation hours before taking the TExES PPR test and a content exam. He was able to land a teaching job the following year.
"In Texas, as in many states, you do not need to have a degree in education to find a teaching position," explains Micah Fikes, director of curriculum and technology at ECAP. "In fact, the most in-demand positions are STEM, bilingual and special education teachers. Many districts are having difficulty finding qualified candidates to fill those open positions." He adds that if you have a degree and can demonstrate competency by passing state mandated content exams, you can begin the process of applying for open positions.
It's important to note that teaching requirements vary by state, so it's critical to do your research and review all your options before mapping out your plan to break into teaching. For example, there are multiple options for those wanting to become a teacher in Minnesota. If you have a bachelor's degree, Minnesota offers four different tiers of licensure to enter the field, as of June 1, 2018:
- One tier requires certification and administrative approval, if there is a special need within the school.
- Other tiers require the individual with a bachelor's degree to either enroll in or complete a teacher preparation program and pass licensure exams.
- The highest tier — the one you'd ideally want to be in — requires individuals with bachelor's degrees to complete a teacher preparation program, receive passing scores on content and pedagogy exams and have garnered three years of in-classroom experience.
Alternative certification or teacher preparation programs build upon a student's previous bachelor's degree. These programs educate future teachers on the essentials of the field — such as assessment and curriculum development — and provide field experience and student teaching opportunities, explains Annette Miller, associate professor of education at The College of St. Scholastica. Some teacher preparation programs are traditional, on-campus programs. Others are online, while some are hybrids of both modalities.
Another choice for those interested in a teaching career is to obtain a master's degree in education. Some states allow this as a viable option to launch a career in teaching. You don't need to have an undergraduate degree in the field to enroll, making it a good option for those looking to enter the field after already having earned a degree in a different subject.
When it comes to earning an education degree at the post-graduate level, you have two choices: a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) or a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree. An M.Ed tends to be more broad, while a M.A.T. focuses more on developing your expertise in a specific subject, as well as pedagogical theory and implementation. Most master's programs take about two years or more to complete.
There are definite benefits to earning a master's degree, as it can set you apart from the crowd of applicants when you begin your job search. It can also potentially pave your way toward earning more throughout your career. For example, Minnesota teachers with master's degrees and experience can make $90,000 or more annually. That's significantly higher than the national median annual salaries of high school teachers ($58,030), middle school teachers ($56,720) and elementary school teachers ($55,490). Do note that geographic location and level of education both influence a candidate's salary potential.
A master's in education has also been proven to help teachers increase student achievement and be more impactful in their classrooms, as it allows educators to develop a deeper understanding of teaching methodology and educational philosophy.
Your educational background doesn't have to be a hindrance when it comes to your dream of becoming a teacher. In fact, it can actually be considered an advantage. "Students who have worked in different fields all bring a different perspective to teaching, using their experience, skills and talents in the classroom," Miller says.
Your bachelor's degree provided you with intensive knowledge in a discipline that interests you. As you move forward, that expertise, combined with your experience in the working world, will bring a fresh perspective to your classroom. This can benefit both your approach to teaching and your future students for years to come. See this as a chance to be proud of your unique route to the head of the classroom, no matter which path you ultimately take.
Whether you decide on a teacher preparation program or opt to pursue a master's degree in education, use this opportunity to transition your thinking from, "I want to be a teacher" to, "I will be a teacher." You can learn more about obtaining your teaching licensure or the details of pursuing a master's in education by checking out the The College of St. Scholastica's Graduate Teaching Licensure page.