In order to get a teaching job, you will need to acquire either an undergraduate or graduate degree. The differences between the two relate to the number and types of courses you will take and the types of teaching jobs you can get when you complete the degree. Your degree, whether undergraduate or graduate, will determine what subject and grade level you can teach.
To qualify for a teaching job, you can earn a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in a specific major, such as biology or history, and then acquire an emergency teacher certification upon graduating through a program such as "Teach for America." You can also acquire a B.A. in a specific subject with an additional focus on education, majoring in math education or English education, for example. This provides you with content specific coursework, additional courses on teaching strategies and pedagogy, and a student teaching practicum.
A Master of Arts in Teaching or MAT degree involves a one-year teaching practicum and one year of teaching-related coursework taken in successive years or in the same year. MAT graduates receive a provisional teaching certification upon entering the program and receive a permanent certification upon graduating. The degree often supplements content-specific bachelor's degrees. For example, someone with a B.A. in English might then enter into an MAT in Secondary English Education program in order to become licensed to teach high school English. With an MAT degree, you can teach at the primary and secondary levels, and teach lower-level courses at some community and four-year colleges.
A Master of Education or M.Ed. degree focuses on coursework in teaching and broader educational concerns, such as special education, administration and curriculum development. M.Ed. degrees allow teachers to acquire more advanced knowledge and practice in a field closely related to the one in which they currently teach. For example, an English teacher might pursue a Master of Education degree in Reading and Literacy to acquire a Reading Specialist license or a social studies teacher might focus a master's degree in administration in order to become an assistant principal. With an M.Ed. degree, you can teach at the primary or secondary level and lower-level courses at a community or four-year college.
The highest graduate degrees for teaching are the Doctor of Philosophy and the Doctor of Education. Ph.D. degrees qualify graduates for research and teaching jobs at the university level. A working high school teacher or administrator might also acquire a doctorate as part of her ongoing professional development. Those acquiring an Ed.D. degree might also enter into higher education or get a teaching job with a greater focus on administration, such as a principal or superintendent. With a Ph.D. or Ed.D. degree, you can teach at any level, from primary through the highest level courses at a college or university.