Teachers must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree to earn a professional license and work in a public school setting, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS notes that as of 2010 there were well over 2.5 million k-12 teachers in the U.S. alone. Understanding what the basic undergraduate requirement -- a Bachelor of Arts in education -- for a teacher is, can help budding educators create a realistic career path.
Beginning at the Bachelor
In the forefront of a definition of a Bachelor of Art in education is the word "bachelor." Although there are different levels of education-focused degrees, the bachelor's-level one refers to a four-year undergraduate program. Teachers at the preschool, grade and high school levels may earn their professional credential through non-bachelor programs -- such as a post-bachelor's certificate or master degree. That said, if you don't have a completed undergraduate degree already, you'll need a bachelor's degree to start your career.
Teaching Arts for Different Ages
A Bachelor of Arts in education typically includes a specialization in teaching students in a specific age group. The words elementary, secondary or early childhood precede Bachelor of Arts in education when it comes to the title of a college program. This indicates the age group that the program prepares you to teach. For example, the University of Michigan's School of Education offers a Bachelor of Arts in elementary teacher education. This prepares college students to teach children in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. A secondary designation includes teaching high school students, while an early childhood degree typically includes infants, toddlers, preschoolers and early grade school students.
Certification at the College Level
Depending on the specific program that you choose, a Bachelor of Arts in education may or may not include a certification option. While the majority of programs do prepare students for initial teacher licensure, the school must specifically spell this out in its admissions materials. For example, Saint Leo University notes in its Bachelor of Arts of elementary education materials that its program prepares students to sit for the Florida state teacher licensure exam.
Understanding the Art
The word "art" is somewhat easy to misinterpret when taken out of context. The title Bachelor of Arts in no way implies that the degree focuses on art in the visual arts sense. Getting a Bachelor of Arts in education doesn't mean you're learning how to teach art or that you'll graduate with an arts education degree. If you are looking for an arts education degree, the program must contain the words "art education." Instead, the arts -- in Bachelor of Arts -- refers to the art, or skill, of educating children.
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.