You think you might like to be a teacher? Following is some essential information about teaching careers and teacher education that you will want to check out to make sure that becoming an educator is truly the right path for you.
- Personal Qualities. First of all, do you have the right personality to become a teacher? Good teachers have positive mind-sets and are passionate about the subjects they teach. They possess good senses of humor as well as innate respect for all people no matter how different they might be. They are also flexible and able to motivate through creative approaches to material. They need to have the strength of mind to take control when it is needed and help their students deal with problems. They act as good role models for their students, are hardworking, and are willing to continue learning from both other teachers and students. Most importantly of all, good teachers have a natural empathy with young people and genuinely like working with them.
- Education and Certification Requirements. Every state requires public school teachers to be certified or licensed, but each state’s requirements for certification are set by their own boards of education and can be different from one another. It is therefore important to find out what your particular state’s prerequisites are so that you can plan accordingly. All states require at least a four-year bachelor’s degree, either in elementary teacher education for those wishing to teach elementary students or majoring in the subject you plan to teach for secondary teachers. More and more states are requiring a master’s degree, which usually takes one to two additional years to complete after your bachelor’s. Most of these states allow you to begin teaching with only a bachelor’s degree as long as you are certified and complete your master’s degree within a certain amount of time. Other certification requirements that most states have include completion of a teacher education program and passing scores on an assessment exam.
- Salaries. The salary you earn as a teacher depends mostly on the state and the particular school district you work for. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, elementary and secondary school teachers in 2008 earned from $30,970 at the lowest end to $80,970 at the highest level, with a median salary of $51,180. Salaries for postsecondary teachers can vary by rank, type of institution, field, and geographical area, but the median wage was $58,830. Full-time university professors earn the highest at about $108,749. Average teacher salaries are highest in California, Michigan, Connecticut, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia. The states with the lowest average teacher salaries are South Dakota, Montana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. Level of teacher education and years of service can help boost your earnings.
- Hours and Working Conditions. Most teachers work a ten-month year, with two months off during the summer. However, many teachers spend their vacations teaching summer courses to earn extra money or attending continuing education classes to renew their licenses. Although the school day may end for students at 3:30 p.m., teachers often stay much later for extracurricular activities, parent-teacher conferences, and faculty meetings. As busy schedules during the day leave little time for lesson planning, they also must often bring paperwork home with them.