Due to increasing demand for qualified teachers, colleges and universities have joined with school districts to develop new types of partnerships to facilitate adult entry to teaching. The changing economy has caused huge shifts in types of employment.
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If you are thinking about a career in teaching, you will be entering the field at a great time! States and the teaching profession have set standards for what students need to know and be able to do at each grade level, so you will be working with clear standards for student learning. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions.
Q: Do I need a master’s degree to start teaching?
A: No! Most people start teaching with a bachelor’s degree. More than half of all teachers do earn a master’s degree, though. Many earn the degree while they are teaching and focus on improving their teaching skills. Districts often reimburse teachers for some or all of the cost of their coursework.
Q: How long will it take to obtain teacher certification?
A: The proper term for ‘certification’ is actually licensure. If you are an adult entering teaching with a bachelor’s degree but no preparation for teaching, most states will require you to enter a teacher preparation program. Some programs are accelerated and some are geared to ease financial barriers to entry to teaching for adults. It will generally take from a few months to two years to earn the license. Some states allow adults with prior work experience to enter the classroom as an intern while they are taking courses toward their license. If you are in college, you will want to enter a teacher preparation program, usually in your sophomore or junior year.
Q: What states are in the most need for qualified teachers and which states have the highest salaries for teachers?
A: Shortages tend to occur in subject matter areas across the country as a whole—mathematics, science, special education, and English-as-a-Second Language are areas where the shortage applies across states. Large cities and rural areas always need qualified teachers.
In terms of salaries, the 2002 American Federation of Teachers salary survey (http://www.aft.org/research/salary/home.htm) showed California to have the highest average salary at $54,348, followed by Michigan at $52,497, Connecticut at $52,376, Rhode Island at $51,619 and New York at $51,020. A difference in the cost of living, which is 30 percent higher in some states, explains some of the variation in salaries.
Q: What are the types of programs available for individuals who are changing careers into the teaching field?
A: Most colleges and universities that offer teacher preparation programs have developed post-baccalaureate alternate route programs for adults who want to change careers. Most NCATE accredited institutions offer such programs; you can link directly to these institutions for more information at http://www.ncate.org/accred/list-institutions/the_list.htm. In addition, approximately 130 NCATE accredited institutions have developed over 200 alternate route programs designed specifically to ease financial barriers and help smooth the transition to teaching from another career; visit the site at http://www.ncate.org/accred/list-institutions/alternate_route_programs.htm.
Q: How has the teaching profession changed in the past 30 years?
A: Thirty years ago, educators and policymakers were focused on upgrading curriculum as a major reform. With the advent of the new century, accountability—in terms of teacher qualifications and student achievement--is the major concern. Policymakers are focused on outcomes; state administration of standardized tests of individual student performance has been written into federal law. Teachers must be well qualified to help students achieve at acceptable levels.
For more information about the field of teaching, visit NCATE’s web resource site for future teachers at: http://www.ncate.org/future/m_future.htm.