Most colleges and universities offer degrees in education—many at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level. Check the U.S. Department of Education website for an accreditation database to be sure your chosen school is accredited to prepare teachers for a career in education, especially if you’re considering online education programs .
Education programs should be accredited by the Council for the Accrediation of Education Preparation (CAEP) which is the the consolidation of NCATE and TEAC.
Teacher education is based on two models:
- In the consecutive model, prospective teachers work toward their degree, then study further to qualify to teach.
- In the concurrent model, prospective teachers study one or more academic subjects and education methods at the same time.
Teaching involves knowledge of the subject being taught as well as the most effective way to teach that subject to various learners.
Teacher education curricula can be broken down into three blocks:
- Foundational knowledge and skills—the education-related aspects of the philosophy, history, and sociology of education.
- Content and methods—the material to be taught at a particular level and how it can be presented most effectively.
- Supervised practice teaching—working with a teacher and supervisor from your college to practice teaching classes on your own.After initial certification, continuing education to keep up with developments in the field is required for teachers to maintain certification.
Choosing a School
Finding a good fit between you and the college or university you attend is important for success in your teaching career. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my priorities?
- Do I want a two-year school or a four-year college?
- Do I want a public or a private school?
- What size college will be most likely to have the majors, extracurricular activities, and academic facilities I’ll need?
- What size college will offer the personal attention I need for optimal learning?
- Where should the college be located? Do I want to be able to visit home frequently, or would I prefer a new experience? Would a small town or urban environment be more conducive to learning?
- What is the academic reputation of the college in my major?
- How much does the college cost, and how much financial aid does it offer?
- What about housing at college?
- What about extracurricular activities?
When you decide on an education degree, you’ll find that many good schools offer them. Study the colleges to determine which is best for you.
Check on accreditation. See if you can work while completing your degree. See if you can transfer credits or previous teaching experience.
Check whether the focus of the program matches your interests. Does it follow the standards of specialized professional associations, such as the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics? How much student teaching does it offer? Does it partner with veteran teachers for classroom mentoring?
What is the percentage of graduates who pass state licensing exams? What is the job placement rate?
Visit campuses. Meet with faculty in your prospective department, not just with admissions officers.
Applying to School
Once you’ve determined the college or university you wish to attend to pursue your teacher career, you’ll want to look it up on the Internet and check out the application procedure. Most college applications require the following parts:
- An application form. You can apply online to each individual school or use the Common Application and just enter the information once.
- A nonrefundable application fee. Most colleges have a nonrefundable application fee of $35 to $60. Fee waivers are sometimes offered for low-income families. Call the college’s admissions office for details.
- Official high school transcript. This form is filled out by an official of your high school. Some colleges send it directly to your school after receiving your application. Others will send it to you to give to the guidance or counseling office as early as possible. An official transcript comes in a sealed envelope and shouldn’t be opened before sending it to the college.
- Admissions test scores. Scores on SAT or ACT tests should be sent to each college to indicate your ability to do college-level work.
- Letters of recommendation. Many colleges will ask for letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, or other adults who know you well. Be sure to ask for these letters well before the deadline.
- Essay. Most colleges require either an autobiographical statement or an essay on a specific theme. This is an opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants by expressing your individuality.
- Interview. Some colleges require or recommend an interview. An interview gives you a chance to make a connection with someone who can help you get admitted. If you live too far away for an on-campus interview, arrange to meet an alumnus in your area.
- Audition/Portfolio. Programs in music, art, or design could require an audiotape, slides, or other sample of your work to demonstrate ability.
The entire application should create a consistent picture of who you are and what you bring to the college.
Most states require a license for a career in teaching, and those licenses must be from accredited teaching programs. Accreditation allows you to be confident that the education program at your college or university was reviewed and approved by teaching professionals. It also means that the teaching community considers your education acceptable for you to be hired to teach.
The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is the main authority that accredits teaching education. NCATE accreditation is based on voluntary peer review and evaluates the college or department that prepares teachers on the basis of NCATE Unit standards.
The Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) evaluates the education programs of private colleges. It establishes that teacher preparation is of high quality and that teachers who complete such training are well trained to teach.
Accrediting agencies are national or regional in scope. They develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess if they are met.
- Six regional bodies accrediting education programs in various parts of the country include the Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
The U. S. Department of Education maintains a database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs, as does the National Education Association (NEA).