What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Teacher?

Teachers have lasting impacts on the lives of their students.
Teachers have lasting impacts on the lives of their students. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Teachers play an important role in our communities. They foster both intellectual and social development during the formative years of childhood, and continue to share that knowledge as kids grow up into teenagers and adults. Aspiring teachers first need to earn a teaching degree, preferably from a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards accredited program, and become licensed to teach in the state.

Education and Training

Aspiring teachers need to earn an appropriate degree for their teaching level. Grade school teachers typically major in education with a minor in another area, such as mathematics or science, while high school teachers often major in the chosen field of education and also need to take additional courses in education to complement their degree. Preschool teachers may complete a two-year degree program in childhood education to qualify. Most programs require the teachers to complete a student-teaching internship to gain hands-on teaching experience. Some states may require a certain grade point average prior to being considered for teacher training, while other states may necessitate a master's degree after a teaching position has been assigned.

Licensure and Certification

Licensure is required by all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, for public school teachers, but, generally, private and home school teachers are not required to be licensed. Academic programs commonly offer the necessary courses and resources to apply for teacher certification, so you are certified when you graduate. Teaching experience is required by all teacher certification programs. Once certification is complete, teachers can apply for licensure. Licensure exams typically test teachers on their level of competency in basic skills. Alternative licensure programs are available in all states for teachers who have earned a degree in the subject they will teach, but may be lacking necessary education courses required to obtain the regular license.

Additional Qualifications

Teachers also need have good communication skills, plus the ability to motivate students, to understand student’s educational and emotional needs, and to inspire trusting relationships and confidence in students. Teachers need to recognize and respond to cultural differences in students and know how to apply different teaching methods when needed. Organization, dependability, patience and creativity are crucial qualifications for a teacher. Teachers also are required to work with other teachers, staff, parents and other members of the community on a regular basis. In private institutions, teachers need to share the important values of the institution.


Teachers can further their qualifications by adding voluntary certification credentials to their resumes or joining a professional organization. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offers voluntary certification opportunities. In addition, teachers can advance in the academic field by earning a Master of Arts in Teaching degree, or another advanced degree. Teachers can also publish papers or articles on their chosen field to further advance their career.

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