How to Become a Certified Teacher Without a Degree

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The demand for highly qualified teachers has never been greater. According to the National Education Association, in the next ten years 2.2 million new teachers will be needed to fill expected vacancies. In rural and urban districts, 700,000 teaching vacancies will open over the next decade. No matter how the economy fares, districts always need more teachers. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 states that all K-12 teachers must be highly qualified to teach. Qualifications and licenses to teach, however, vary among the 50 states. Each state sets forth its own requirements for teachers. Sometimes states waive degree requirements. Many programs in urban school districts allow for provisional certification, or for individuals to earn teaching degrees while working as teachers. Trade school instructors typically do not need a degree or teaching certification, nor do adult and continuing education instructors. If you have specialized knowledge in a particular subject area, the odds are higher that you'll be able to teach without a degree.

  • Prepare your resume. As with any job, teachers need resumes outlining their credentials, work experience, education and references.

  • Determine the type of teaching work you desire. Do you want to work with young children in elementary school? Do you prefer sharing your experience as a plumber, electrician, carpenter, veterinary technician or mechanic with adults? Write a goal for your teaching work to guide your search.

  • Search your state education agency website for teaching licensing requirements in your state. Each state sets forth its own licensing and degree requirement. Note which areas and grade levels do not require teaching certification.

  • Look for job openings online in local newspapers, district websites, and major education publications such as Education Week. To teach in continuing education programs or trade schools, you may need to call the school directly to inquire about vacancies.

  • Apply to teach. Submit applications for provisional teaching programs, emergency licensing, and special programs to the program itself or the school district. Polish your resume until it shines, and ask former supervisors, colleagues and friends if they will serve as references.

Tips & Warnings

  • Share your experience by teaching at a trade school. Trade schools typically do not require degrees or teaching licenses, just experience in the area in which you wish to teach. All trades are in high demand, including electricians, carpenters, plumbers, hair dressers, veterinary technicials, computer technicians and others. Contact each trade school and inquire about their teaching requirements.
  • Adult and continuing education programs offer opportunities to gain teaching experience without a degree. Typically run in the evening at high schools or community colleges, these programs offer courses in everything from English grammar to car repair. Prepare an outline of what you desire to teach and pitch it to the program head, or contact the office to inquire about vacancies.
  • A bachelor's degree is usually required for any K-12 teaching position, even if it's a provisional or emergency certification. If you do not have a college degree and do not plan to obtain one, you may wish to teach in the adult education program or at a trade school.
  • Steer clear of online programs promising to grant you teaching credentials without earning a college degree. Most states will not accept these and it will be a waste of money.

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