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The Complete Guide to Teaching in the USA


The Complete Guide to Teaching in the USA

what are the requirements for teaching in the US, teacherofsci, Paul Stevens-Fulbrook

What are the requirements for becoming a teacher in the U.S.?

1. The foreign equivalent of a U.S. undergraduate degree.
2. Completion of a teacher preparation program in accordance with the requirements of the state where you would like to teach.
3. Completion of the required number of university-level credit hours in education and in the subject area they wish to teach.

Just like in the U.K., becoming a teacher in the U.S. involves years of study at university, passing scores on a range of certification exams, a criminal record check and no small amount of courage. If you’re reading this, we’ll assume you’ve got the courage part down and you’re wondering what you need to do to become a teacher across the pond. Excellent.

To make this as straightforward as possible, we’ll detail two tracks to teacher certification in the U.S — one for those who can go the traditional American route and one for those who would be naturalising with a foreign degree (from the U.K. or elsewhere). First, we’ll take a look at the conventional way of becoming a teacher in a public school.

Do you have a tattoo and want to become a teacher in the US, you want to check out this article: Can Teachers Have Tattoos in the United States?

What Education do You Need to Become a Teacher in the U.S?

Degree RequiredBachelor’s minimum; master’s and doctorate at higher levels
Degree FieldEducation; specific teaching area
CertificationRequirements vary by state
ExperienceStudent teaching experience

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

1. Get a High School Diploma.

This may be an obvious one, but your first step down the road to becoming a teacher is to graduate from high school. In the U.S., students often start high school aged 14 to 15 (a level equivalent to KS3 in the UK). Four years are required — freshman, sophomore, junior and senior. Successful completion leads to a diploma, which is required for entrance to university. 

2. Get a Bachelor’s Degree.

After high school, aspiring teachers will need to enrol in a 4-year university programme. While not every state in the U.S. requires teachers to have a degree in education, it’s the most logical educational path. In these programmes, you’ll learn things that will be critical to your career including theories of learning, classroom management and typically a broad overview of the liberal arts.

All states require you to have at least a bachelor’s degree to be a teacher. Kindergarten and Elementary teachers need a bachelor’s in elementary education, while high school teacher certification might require you to major in a particular area. For example, if you want to teach history at the high school level, you may need a degree like a Bachelor of Arts in History and Social Studies Education.

Most bachelor’s programs in education have the required courses for certification. Aspiring teachers who don’t have an undergraduate degree in the right area may need to complete a teacher preparation programme

3. Get Teaching Experience.

Most degrees have a built-in component of student teaching experience in the form of an internship that is completed during your studies or immediately after graduation. It’s here where you’ll get to sharpen your skills in a real classroom in front of real students, under the supervision of an experienced teacher. Once you’ve fulfilled your required hours (this varies by state), you can apply for certification. 

4. Get a Teaching Certification.

Each state has different certification requirements, but there are a few that are nearly universal:

  • A bachelor’s degree. 
  • A teacher prep programme.
  • Passing scores on the requisite exams. This typically includes a test in the major competencies, plus tests in the certification area (special education, K-6, early childhood education etc).
  • A criminal record check, which usually includes fingerprinting.
  • An application fee (not all states require this).

5. Continue Your Education.

Teachers in every state are required to complete a certain number of hours in continuing education to maintain certification and ensure they’re keeping up with the latest trends in education. 

If you want to rise to the top of your profession or teach at the university level, you’ll want to pursue a master’s degree and if you want to find work at the highest levels of administration, you’ll need a doctorate. Many of these graduate education degrees can be completed online

How to get Teaching Jobs in the USA for International Teachers.

As a foreigner, you’ll face a different set of challenges, though there is some overlap. Here are the steps you’ll likely need to take. 

QualificationBachelor’s equivalent (level 6 on the FHEQ, level 9 of the SCQF)
Degree FieldEducation; specific teaching area
CertificationRequirements vary by state
ExperienceTwo years of teaching/professional experience

Source: U.S. Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs

1. Get a J1 Visa for Teachers.

If you’re not a U.S. citizen, the first thing you’ll need to do is get a visa that allows you to teach in the U.S. This will typically be a J-1 visa (these are specifically designed for educational exchange). The requirements for getting this type of visa will line up conveniently with many of the requirements for teaching in the U.S.

2. Get a Bachelor’s Degree.

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree. For citizens in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, that’s level 6 on the FHEQ (The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications). For Scotland, that’s equivalent to level 9 of the SCQF (The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework). 

3. Get Teaching Experience.

Some states (and the U.S. government if you need a J-1 visa) will require you to be currently teaching in the UK or have a certain number of years of teaching experience to be approved. 

4. Take a Teacher Preparation Programme.

Many states will ask that you complete a teacher preparation programme, especially if your degree is in a field outside of education. Again, this can vary widely by state. 

5. Fulfil the State’s Teacher Requirements.

Depending on the state in which you intend to teach, this could mean submitting transcripts for a credential evaluation, taking a battery of tests to prove your proficiency in a range of subjects, and sending in an application with an application fee. 

But what if I don’t have all that?

How to Become a Teacher in the U.S. Without a Degree.

With educational requirements, tests, and certifications, it can sound a bit daunting to become a teacher in the U.S. If fulfilling all of these prerequisites isn’t in your plans, there are some alternatives. 

You could teach in a private school. Private school teachers generally don’t have to meet the same rigorous certification standards as public-school teachers. Private school teachers often aren’t paid as much as their public counterparts, but they also enjoy more control over the curriculum and may teach smaller classrooms. 

With the dearth of teachers to fill positions stateside, you might be able to find employment through an emergency certification. This is especially true for teachers in subject areas like maths, science, bilingual education, and special education. Keep in mind that these certifications are temporary; you’ll still need to work toward a traditional certification in the state. 

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Paul Fulbrookhttps://teacherofsci.com
Paul Fulbrook (TeacherOfSci) is a Science teacher, writer and education blogger based in Brighton, England. He started teacherofsci.com to help support teachers everywhere with the everyday struggles that they are all faced with, both in the classroom and at home.

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