So You Want To Become a Teacher... Now What?

Maybe you're a senior in high school applying to colleges, or you're in an undergraduate institution and decided to become an Education major, or you've already graduated from college and wish to pursue a career as a teacher. Wherever you are in life, you decided that your goal is to become a #teacher! How exciting! Now, what are your next steps? What does it take to become a teacher? There are a few different paths one can take, so let's explore our options!


Choose which scenario applies to you for a step-by-step suggested guide to becoming a teacher down below!

  • High school student

  • Undergraduate student

  • Already have a degree!



High School Student


When I made the decision to become a teacher, I was a senior in high school. Previously, I had wanted to be a veterinarian, so I worked in a veterinary clinic. I knew that if I was serious about my decision, I needed to gain some experience with kiddos to make sure Education was the field for me. I began to work at a local daycare for their after-school and summer programs, where I gained experience with K-5th grade students.



Suggestion #1: Get Experience

Decide on what age group you would like to work with (Elementary, Middle, High School) and try to find a part-time job or tutoring position with that age group! What age group works for you might not work for everyone else and vice versa, so make sure you explore what grade levels work best for you!


I LOVED working with the elementary grade levels, and really enjoyed my job at the daycare. When it came time to apply for colleges, I knew I needed to find a school that had an Education Program that worked for me.


Suggestion #2: Look for Schools

Whether you start your post-secondary education at a community college, or you go straight into a 4-year institution, you need to make sure they have programs suited towards Education! Research schools around you, check for majors associated with Education on their school websites, and visit the campuses that interest you! Find some way to contact program advisors at your schools of interest and see if they have Prospective Student Events for their Education Programs! Of course, you should keep price and distance in mind, as well as academic requirements for each school. There are hundreds of programs out there! Make sure whichever one you choose is the best for you.


I only applied to 5 schools, each having their own unique Education programs. I visited the schools and went to events specifically designed for incoming Education majors. I'm so glad I did because I realized what was once my top choice school didn't have an Education program that interested me! I applied to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I am happily studying now. Even though UNC doesn't have an Education major, they have a strong School of Education. My major is Human Development and Family Studies, which could lead into a large array of career opportunities, and I felt more comfortable knowing that I had an option to change my mind if teaching was no longer my goal.


Suggestion #3: Connect with Academic Advisors, Professors, and Other Students!

College can be intimidating, and you have to be on top of the courses you are taking to make sure you are fulfilling your requirements per your institution. Make sure you know what general requirements you have to fill, as well as what classes you need to complete your major. Academic Advising can help you schedule your courses so that you finish on time. Getting to know professors and other students can be beneficial too, as you can learn from others about different courses and professors they would recommend! Elementary Educators and Secondary Educators are on slightly different paths. Secondary teachers often have to take courses in their content area (Math, English, Science, History, etc.). Meet with an advisor regularly to ensure you are on the right track!


Suggestion #4: Apply for Licensure

Teachers in the public school system are required to have some kind of certification or licensure. The requirements for obtaining a teaching license vary by state. Most require some form of testing in order to gauge your knowledge in your content area, as well as student teaching requirements. Different states may have different licensure options available for you to choose from. Two websites that consolidate this information state-by-state are:


Teacher Certification Requirements by State

What Is Teacher Certification?


For North Carolina, there are two licensure options: A nonrenewable Initial License that lasts for 3 years, and a Continuing License that can be renewed every 5 years. All teachers should complete student teaching through their teaching programs. A K-6 teacher is asked to take the Foundations of Reading and General Curriculum exam and 7-12 teachers must take the PRAXIS exam based on their content area. When I begin my licensure process, I will make sure to update with specific details of the process!



Current Undergraduate Student

If you're a current undergraduate student, and you've recently decided to change your major to Education, your process will look similar to that of high school students! Most colleges want you to choose your major by your junior year, so if you're a first year or sophomore, you more than likely are able to change your major without changing your expected graduation date. If you are a junior or senior, you may have to spend an extra year or two in school, but you need to schedule an appointment with an academic advisor ASAP!



Suggestion #1: Switch to an Education Program

Check with your school to make sure an Education major/program is available to you! If you're school does not have an Education School, you can apply to transfer to another school that is better suited to your interests. Much like I suggested for high school students, research schools with Education Programs, visit the campus and speak to School of Education staff, and make sure the school falls within your price and location preferences!


Suggestion #2: Connect with Academic Advisors, Professors, and Other Students!

If you stay at your original institution, meet with an advisor to figure out which courses you must take in order to fulfill the requirements of your major. If you switch institutions, take note of which credits you've earned that transferred with you, and which credits you still need to earn. Academic Advising can help you schedule your courses so that you finish on time. Getting to know professors and other students can be beneficial too, as you can learn from others about different courses and professors they would recommend! Elementary Educators and Secondary Educators are on slightly different paths. Secondary teachers often have to take courses in their content area (Math, English, Science, History, etc.). Meet with an advisor regularly to ensure you are on the right track!


Suggestion #3: Apply for Licensure

Teachers in the public school system are required to have some kind of certification or licensure. The requirements for obtaining a teaching license vary by state. Most require some form of testing in order to gauge your knowledge in your content area, as well as student teaching requirements. Different states may have different licensure options available for you to choose from. Two websites that consolidate this information state-by-state are:


Teacher Certification Requirements by State

What Is Teacher Certification?


Already Have A Degree!

If you've already graduated from college and have joined the workforce, your path to becoming a teacher will look slightly different than the previously mentioned scenarios. First, let me say congratulations! A career change can be intimidating, but I admire you for going after what you want! It's okay if you didn't major in Education because 48 states have what is called an alternate teaching certificate.


Suggestion #1: Decide on What to Teach

Since all teachers must be certified to teach in public schools, you'll want to decide on a grade level and content area to teach in! Once you've decided on a teaching placement, make sure you meet the requirements to pursue the alternate teaching certification.


Suggestion #2: Meet the Requirements

Now that you know what you want to teach, you can enter the teaching field through lateral entry. In general, most alternate teaching certification programs require you to hold a bachelor's degree, participate in a teacher prep program, and pass a test assessing your basic knowledge of the content area of your choice. Like traditional licensure, each state will have various requirements for certification. This website details the different requirements by state:


Teacher Certification Requirements

Now you're on your way to becoming a teacher! Obtaining a degree and license in teaching can seem overwhelming at first, but there are many resources available through Internet searches to guide you. No matter what path you choose, I would advise you complete regular check-ins to ensure you are completing all of the requirements. You don't have to go through this alone! Form connections with college advisors, current teachers, or peers going through the same process to stay on track!


If you found this post helpful, leave a comment below! If you have any other questions, you can comment or email me at dearfutureteachers@gmail.com. If you've already been through this process, drop some tips and tricks in the comments, especially if you're licensed outside of North Carolina!


Much Love,


Emily B.