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What Degree Do You Need to Be a Teacher?

If you’re considering a career in teaching, it’s important to get the right credential. The most basic qualification you need, in terms of a degree, is a bachelor’s degree. Without a four-year degree you are ineligible for pretty much any teaching position other than that of a classroom aide. (This is true even with alternative teacher certification and experience-based licensure).

Exactly what four-year teaching degree you need to be a teacher depends a lot on the subject you want to teach. In theory, any bachelor’s degree will work as a prerequisite for post-baccalaureate teacher certification.

Varying Degree Requirements

Elementary education has the most flexible degree requirements. It’s possible—and common—for people with bachelor degrees in many different disciplines to become elementary school teachers by taking post-baccalaureate courses.

Post-baccalaureate teacher certifications are earned by taking a set of additional classes after graduation. While post-bac coursework is not as long or time consuming as a full bachelor’s degree, there are undeniable advantages to getting an elementary education degree as your initial degree if you want to teach that subject. With an initial bachelor’s in elementary education, you can get licensed in just four years, instead of getting licensed in five or six years by doing an unrelated bachelor’s and then taking post-degree classes.

To be a teacher under most other types of teaching licenses, you’ll need a degree that is very relevant to the specific subject area you’ll be teaching. This is because you’ll need to a certain number of course credits in your subject area in order to get licensed. While this number varies depending on the license and the state, the number of credits you need is significant. So if you’re looking to get licensed as a science teacher, you’ll likely need a degree in the sciences. And if you’re looking to get licensed to teach high school psychology, you’ll need a degree with a lot of psychology classes in it, such as social work, criminal justice, counseling, or psychology itself.

As with elementary education, there is the option to add a post-baccalaureate teaching certificate to any subject area degree. But again, getting certified during your undergraduate studies is the fastest option. If your initial degree isn’t complete yet, talk to your academic advisor about minoring in education with a mix of courses that will allow you to get certified to teach by your expected graduation date

If your degree is already complete, a Masters in Education can sometimes be a good alternative to a post baccalaureate teaching certificate. Masters degrees tend to take just one semester longer than post-bac, and they actually lead to a full additional degree, not to mention higher entry-level pay. Of course, in that case, what degree you need to be a teacher depends a little bit on the budget needs of your prospective employers. Masters-degree holders sometimes find themselves priced out of cash-conscious school districts.


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2 Responses to What Degree Do You Need to Be a Teacher?

  1. Mona December 5, 2016 at 5:08 PM #

    I have a bachelors degree in commerce, but I want to be an elementary school teacher & pursue my career in teaching. So do I have to complete the bachelors of Education degree (Elementary) or go directly doing masters degree?
    your advice in this is highly appreciated. Thank you.

    • David Recine
      David Recine December 6, 2016 at 7:53 AM #

      You have several options. You could get a “second bachelors” in education. Generally, a second bachelors can be done in just two years, because you can apply your previous general education credits to your second undergrad degree. You could also get a masters, as you’ve mentioned. Masters Degrees in education generally take at least two years, sometimes three. (Student teaching and various other state requirements for earned credits can sometimes add an extra year to your Master’s; this depends a lot on the licensure requirements in your state.)

      You could also get a post-baccalaureate, as I’ve mentioned in this post, or go the alternative certification route (although, as Allison has discussed, alternative certification has its pros and cons).

      From what you’ve told me of your situation, I’d recommend getting a second bachelor’s if you can. It will probably be relatively fast for you, and it’s also likely your cheapest option. This option can also be quite flexible, as it’s offered by many online universities. Double check with prospective schools to get exact estimates on tuition prices and degree completion times, of course.

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