Most states require teachers to have a degree from an accredited college. However, there are alternate paths for prospective teachers who have a bachelor’s degree in another field. The steps to earning teaching certification vary based on what type of degree a person already has; however, most states require additional coursework, hands-on experience, and a passing score on a certification test.
Some bachelor's degrees are considered “non-teachable,” which means that the coursework involved didn’t cover areas that transfer to the classroom. A degree in architecture, for example, might be considered a non-teachable degree for a person seeking elementary school certification. The first step for these students is to take college courses in teachable subjects like math, reading, or history to bridge gaps in their education. Many students, especially those hoping to teach at the high school level, choose to earn an associate degree or second bachelor's degree in their focus area.
Teachable degrees are those that focus on subject areas and coursework that a graduate could teach in an elementary or secondary school. People with a bachelor's degree in math or English, for example, wouldn't need additional subject area classes before starting a certification program. The next step for graduates with teachable degrees is to start coursework in educational theory and practice. These courses put them on the road to a teaching certificate.
Hands-on experience is one way for prospective teachers to learn about the real world of education. Most certification programs require an internship or other student teaching experience. Some states, like Illinois, allow schools to hire post-bachelor degree candidates and offer them a paid internship with a mentor teacher. However, most states prefer teacher candidates to get experience through an accredited program, working closely with instructors and certified teachers to learn the best practices to use in the classroom.
Almost all states require teachers to take a certification test. Some states create their own tests. The majority, though, now rely on standardized tests like The Praxis Series to determine proficiency. Most states require passing scores on both subject-specific content as well as educational theory and practice tests. The minimum score needed to pass varies from state to state but can usually be found on the state’s department of education website.