What Credentials Do I Need To Become A Teacher?

"I want to teach in an elementary school but I don’t want to be a classroom teacher. Instead I would like to teach classes in a special area. I am considering Art or Music but I am open to other specialties. What credentials do I need?"

asked by Sarah H from Portland, OR

You have plenty of opportunities besides being a classroom teacher if you want to work in an elementary school. Schools need many types of teachers to educate children. Specialty areas include Art, Music, Physical Education, Educational Technology and Library/Media Specialist.

The easiest way to become a teacher in your area of interest is to major in that area as an undergraduate. For example, you can major in Art Education, Music Education, Physical Education, Technology Education or Library/Media Science. You will get a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification at the same time. However, that is not always an option.

Many people do not make the decision to be a teacher until they have already finished their bachelor’s degree program. They may even have been in the workforce and decided to change careers. For this reason there are alternative teacher certification programs.

Some colleges and universities offer teaching certification programs for people who have already earned a bachelor’s degree. For example, if you have an undergraduate degree in music you can enter a program that prepares you to teach and that ends with certification. It only takes about a year to finish most of these types of programs because you already have a bachelor’s degree.

Another option for people with a bachelor’s degree who want to teach is a graduate program that integrates master’s degree coursework with teacher certification preparation. You can apply for this type of programs as long as you have an undergraduate degree. When you complete the program you have both a master’s degree and a teaching license. For example you can earn an Art Education Masters and become certified to teach Art at the same time.

You may hear the term alternative route to teacher certification or accelerated teaching program. Programs go by different names. Check with the colleges in your area to see what options they offer for people with bachelor’s degrees who just need teaching certification.

Some school districts require their teachers in specialty areas to have master’s degrees. For example it is not uncommon for a district to only hire people with a Masters in Library Science and state certification as a school library media specialist to work in their schools. The most important thing is to make sure the college you attend is accredited.

Specialty classes are vital for children in elementary schools. For some it is the only exposure they get to the arts. Physical education has become even more important as children spend less time involved in outdoor activities.

Each state has its own requirements for provisional certification. If you are interested in teaching elementary school in a specialty area then contact colleges and universities with education programs to see what the requirements are in your state.

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