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.