Finding your path into teaching

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While your path into teaching can take many forms, they fall along two main branches - "traditional" teacher preparation, and everything else (often referred to as "alternative certification" or "non-traditional").

Four out of five teachers come from traditional programs. These programs are easy to define - they're the ones you usually think of when someone says she's going to college or grad school to become a teacher.

Traditional Programs

If you're going to an undergraduate program, you'll embark on a four-year degree. You will:

  • Take general education coursework for about two years, possibly with a few teaching courses and some early classroom exposure added in,

  • Spend the last two years focused on learning how to teach and building a deeper knowledge of the subjects you'll teach, and

  • Spend some time as a student teacher in a real classroom.

If you're going to a graduate program, you'll go straight to the teaching courses and student teaching experience and will generally walk out with a master's degree, often in a year or two.

At the end of a traditional preparation program, possibly after some additional paperwork and tests, you're certified (aka, you've earned your license) to teach.

Looking for a strong undergraduate or graduate teaching degree program? Try doing a search on the left side of the screen.

Alternative Certification

These programs are, quite simply, anything else. This category is filled with all the other types of programs that don't quite fit into the traditional model. These programs may:

  • Be offered by a non-profit or for-profit rather than a university OR be offered by a university but not lead to a bachelor's or master's degree.

  • Require you to take a few courses before you start teaching, and the rest while you have  full classroom responsibilities OR you may not take any teaching courses until you start teaching.

During the clinical practice (the real-classroom experience that substitutes for student teaching in alternative certification programs):

  • You may be unpaid and supervised by the official classroom teacher in a "residency" during which you spend a long time learning from the teacher,

  • You may teach summer school under the supervision of an official classroom teacher,

  • You may be paid and yourself be the official teacher, in an "internship" model.

Some alternative certification programs grant master's degrees by affiliating themselves with university partners or by becoming accredited to offer master's degrees themselves, but some simply offer certification to graduates. Depending on the district and the program, you may be working under a "provisional certification" for several years before you're a fully licensed teacher.

Looking for a strong alternative certification program near you? Try doing a search on the left side of the screen. Be sure to select "Alternative Path to Teaching."

Which path will you choose?