ERIC Identifier: ED282860
Publication Date: 1987-00-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education
So You Want To Be a Teacher. ERIC Digest 19.
Higher salaries, more jobs, and increased public interest in education
are beginning to attract larger numbers of students to a teaching career.
Students also want to experience the numerous challenges and rewards involved in
educating our nation's youth. An adequate background for teaching requires the
ability to work with others; skills such as competency in presenting subject
matter; and appropriate academic preparation, which includes a bachelor's
degree. The following question-answer sequence provides prospective teachers
with information on teachers' responsibilities, how to become a teacher, teacher
supply and demand, salaries, and working conditions.
WHAT DO TEACHERS DO?
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers play a vital role in children's
development as they introduce the basics of many subjects and evaluate
children's performance. Or, if a teacher specializes in one subject, such as
music, he or she may teach music to several different classes in a single day. A
teacher's work outside the classroom includes preparing lessons, grading papers,
holding conferences with parents, and attending faculty meetings.
Secondary school teachers help students learn more about the subjects
introduced in elementary school, about the world, and about the students
themselves (U.S. Department of Labor, l986). They instruct students in a
specific subject, such as mathematics or chemistry, and evaluate students'
performance. In addition to classroom work, teachers prepare lessons, grade
tests, and attend parent and faculty meetings.
WHAT CLASSES SHOULD HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TAKE IF THEY WANT TO ENTER COLLEGE
TO BECOME TEACHERS?
Completing classes in the basic academic subjects of English, the arts,
mathematics, science, social studies, and a foreign language provides a solid
foundation for college (The College Board, 1983). Your high school counselor can
help you select the specific classes that you will need for college admission.)
DO I HAVE TO GO TO A FOUR-YEAR COLLEGE TO BECOME A TEACHER?
All states require teachers to hold a bachelor's degree, which represents the
completion of a four-year college program (Burks, 1986). You can begin your
studies at a two-year college, however, and transfer to a four-year institution.
DO I NEED TO TAKE ANY SPECIAL COURSES DURING THE BACHELOR'S DEGREE PROGRAM IN
ORDER TO BECOME A TEACHER?
Each state has its own requirements. All states require teachers to complete
a state-approved teacher education program or a certain number of credit hours
in specific education and subject matter courses. In the next few years, states
may require prospective teachers to complete a five- or six-year program. If
these programs are instituted, it is anticipated that more subject matter and
fewer education courses will be offered at the undergraduate level.
HOW DO I FIND THE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES THAT OFFER TEACHER EDUCATION
THE COLLEGE BOARD INDEX OF MAJORS 1986-87 (College Entrance Examination
Board, 1986) and the CHRONICLE FOUR-YEAR COLLEGE DATABOOK (Chronicle Guidance
Publications, Inc., 1984) are two sources of information on teacher education
programs. The DATABOOK also provides information on choosing a school, such as
size, location, costs, admission probability, and financial aid.
WHERE CAN I OBTAIN ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL AID INFORMATION?
A general guide to obtaining financial aid is available from the ERIC
Clearinghouse on Higher Education, One Dupont Circle, Suite 630, Washington, DC
20036 (telephone 202-296-2597). The college or university financial aid office
is an important source. For information about federal aid programs, write to
Federal Student Aid Programs, DEA-85, Pueblo, Colorado 81009. For state
assistance information, contact the state scholarship agency in your state
AM I ADMITTED TO A TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAM WHEN I AM ADMITTED TO COLLEGE?
Students usually are required to wait until their junior year of college to
apply for admission to a teacher education program.
WHAT IS REQUIRED FOR ADMISSION TO A TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAM DURING THE
Most programs require personal interviews, completion of two years of courses
in the arts and sciences, and a minimum grade point average. Some have test
WHAT COURSES DO I TAKE DURING THE FIRST TWO YEARS OF COLLEGE WHILE I AM
WAITING TO GET INTO A TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAM?
Freshmen and sophomores take basic courses required for graduation, such as
English and history. Often they take introductory courses in education. Two-year
college students should check with their college counselors to be sure they take
courses that will be accepted for graduation credit at a four-year institution.
WHAT COURSES DO I TAKE AFTER BEING ADMITTED TO A TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAM?
Required courses vary widely among the states. Generally, they include: a)
professional education courses, such as the history and psychology of education;
b) methods of teaching; and c) student teaching in an elementary or secondary
AFTER I COMPLETE THE TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAM AND BACHELOR'S DEGREE AM I
ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE A CREDENTIAL TO TEACH?
Many states grant provisional certification and expect candidates to
undertake a paid internship, working with a master teacher in a school for up to
Thirty-eight states require passing scores on teaching examinations before
they will grant permission to teach. The National Teachers' Examination (NTE),
administered through the Educational Testing Service, is the test used most
often. The NTE includes a core battery that tests communication skills, general
knowledge, and professional knowledge as well as specialty area tests that
measure understanding of separate subject areas such as social studies or
DO I HAVE TO TAKE ANY COURSES AFTER I RECEIVE MY TEACHING CREDENTIAL?
Many states require teachers to eventually obtain a master's degree, such as
a Master of Education (M.Ed.), after beginning work. The M.Ed. requires at least
one full year of coursework beyond the bachelor's degree with an emphasis in an
area such as special or bilingual education.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO TEACH WITH LESS TRAINING?
If there are not enough certified teachers available, most states will issue
emergency credentials to those who want to teach but who have not met the
state's minimum requirements for a regular teaching credential (Roth and
Mastain, 1984). Some states allow alternative teacher certification for people
who have not completed college or university teacher education programs but who
have an interest or experience in shortage teaching areas.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT WHAT VARIOUS STATES REQUIRE FOR TEACHING?
The most reliable information source is the state's education department or
licensing office. The addresses are listed in another good source, REQUIREMENTS
FOR CERTIFICATION, an annual publication of The University of Chicago Press
IF I MEET THE REQUIREMENTS TO TEACH IN ONE STATE, CAN I TEACH IN ANOTHER
Thirty-three states participate in an agreement that provides for graduates
of approved teacher education programs in one participating state to be granted
a certificate in another participating state.
ARE THERE ANY NATIONAL TEACHING REQUIREMENTS?
Nationwide teaching standards may be implemented soon. A national
certification plan has been proposed by a Carnegie Commission report (1986)
prepared by numerous political and educational leaders. The Holmes Group Report
(1986), prepared by several college of education deans, also supports national
standards and proposes the creation of nationally standardized examinations to
be required for all beginning teachers.
WHAT IS THE DEMAND FOR TEACHERS?
A significant demand for additional elementary school teachers is expected
until the early 1990s when a demand for more secondary school teachers will
begin (Stern and Williams, 1986). Currently there is a demand for more secondary
school teachers in math, science, and English (Feistritzer, 1985).
The demand for additional teachers will vary according to geographical
location. The need for teachers is expected to be greatest in the West and
Southwest. Little demand is expected in the Northeast and Midwest (Stern and
WILL THERE BE ENOUGH TEACHERS TO MEET THE DEMAND?
The supply of new teacher graduates is expected to decrease into the early
1990s (Stern and Williams, 1986). This does not necessarily mean there will be a
severe teacher shortage, however, because there may be numerous candidates for
jobs in the reserve pool of teachers. This pool includes teachers employed in
other fields who want to teach and former teachers who are not in the labor
WHAT ARE THE AVERAGE EARNINGS FOR TEACHERS?
Teachers' salaries have increased about 25 percent in the last four years.
Based on 9- and 10-month contracts, the 1985-86 national average for teacher
salaries was $25,257. Elementary teachers averaged $24,762, and secondary
teachers averaged $26,080 (Stern and Williams, 1986).
WHAT WORKING CONDITIONS DO TEACHERS HAVE?
Most states require schools to be in session for a minimum number of days,
ranging from 175 to 205. Teachers generally work on a 10-month schedule with a
two-month vacation. Most states have laws that grant teachers tenure (job
protection) after three years of successful teaching (U.S. Department of Labor,
Elementary school teachers can expect to have about 20 students in a class
and secondary school teachers about 16 students (Stern and Williams, 1986).
Teachers in urban schools may have larger classes with more students from
varying backgrounds than rural teachers. All teachers usually stand and talk for
long periods each day, which can be physically tiring (U.S. Department of Labor,
Teachers often have students of widely different abilities and backgrounds. A
growing proportion of the nation's school children come from minority groups,
poor families, single-parent families, and a non-English language background
(Stern and Williams, 1986).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Burks, M.P. REQUIREMENTS FOR CERTIFICATION, Fifty-first Edition, 1986-87.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, Task Force on Teaching as a
Profession. A NATION PREPARED: TEACHERS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. 1986. ED 268 120.
Chronicle Guidance Publications, Inc. CHRONICLE FOUR-YEAR COLLEGE DATABOOK.
Moravia, NY: Chronicle Guidance Publications, Inc., 1984.
The College Board. ACADEMIC PREPARATION FOR COLLEGE. New York: College Board,
College Entrance Examination Board. THE COLLEGE BOARD INDEX OF MAJORS
1986-87. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1986.
Feistritzer, C.E. THE CONDITION OF TEACHING, A STATE BY STATE ANALYSIS.
Laurenceville, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.
Holmes Group. TOMORROW'S TEACHERS: A REPORT OF THE HOLMES GROUP. 1986. ED 270
Roth, R.R. and R. Mastain (Eds.). MANUAL ON CERTIFICATION AND PREPARATION OF
EDUCATIONAL PERSONNEL IN THE UNITED STATES. Sacramento: National Association of
State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 1984.
Stern, J.D. and M.F. Williams (Eds.). THE CONDITION OF EDUCATION, 1986
Edition. U.S. Department of Education, 1987.
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. OCCUPATIONAL OUTLOOK
HANDBOOK 1986-87. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, 1986.