How to Become a Teacher: Teacher Certification vs. Master's Degree - (2023)

How to Become a Teacher: Teacher Certification vs. Master's Degree - (1)

Steps to Earning a Teaching Position

Teachers have the important job of educating young minds for the future. There are many paths to becoming a teacher, including routes for those who did not study education in college. Whether you’re completely new to the field, have a bachelor’s degree in another field, are re-entering the teaching industry, or are a new college graduate, there is a path for you to become a teacher!

Teaching license requirements vary from state to state.1 However, it’s important to note that most teaching positions within the United States require the following:

  1. A bachelor’s degree in any subject – While a degree in education is preferred and can speed up the licensing process, a bachelor’s in any field can get you started. The bachelor’s degree must be from a regionally accredited institution, and the Department of Education must recognize the degree. Research your specific state, and carefully check the individual requirements for licensing in that state.
  2. US Citizenship – Aspiring teachers must be eligible to work in the U.S. and hold a valid green card or US citizenship.
  3. Clean criminal history – Teacher’s must be able to pass a background check.
  4. Teacher certification – Following degree completion, teachers must enroll in an accredited teacher certification program. If aspiring teachers have a degree in a different discipline, they may opt to do an online/on-campus/hybrid program for accelerated teacher certification. Some bachelor’s degree programs include the teacher certification program.
  5. Work history – While not always required, supervised experience or previous teaching experience on your resume and application is a plus.
  6. State certification – Teachers must apply for state certification and pass the state licensing exam to officially become a licensed teacher. Be prepared to retake the licensing exam every 4-8 years depending on the state.

How long does it take to become a teacher?

1. I don’t have a degree – If you don’t have a degree, the first step would be acquiring a bachelor’s degree. It is recommended to earn your degree in the field of education, as many education programs include the licensing component within the degree program.

Depending on your desired teaching specialty, you may need a degree with an emphasis on a specific discipline, such as science or math. If seeking an education program online, it is extremely important to research which schools have programs that lead to licensure in your state. Not all programs lead to licensure, and not all states have reciprocity agreements with other states or universities.

2. I have a degree in an unrelated field – If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, it is possible to take a teacher preparation program at an accredited college or university. It may also be worthwhile to supplement the bachelor’s degree with a master’s in teaching program — especially if you live in one of the states that require an education master’s degree after a certain period of time in the field anyways.

3. I have a degree in education but no teaching license – The great news is that by having a degree in education, you are already a few steps into the process. Here are the next steps:

  • Complete a teacher preparation program
  • Get practical teaching experience through field experience or student teaching
  • Apply for state licensure

Be sure to check for specific state requirements on an additional master’s degree is required to remain licensed.

4. I want to work in education outside the US and have an unrelated degree: If you want to teach and travel, the great news is you won’t have many requirements for licensure or certification exams. Countries like South Korea, Japan, Thailand, China, Saudi Arabia, and more offer teaching positions from US teachers. While it is not mandatory to have a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification to find a teaching job overseas, schools may ask for it. For a small fee, TEFL certification courses can often be completed online. From there, you’ll be ready to start applying for jobs.

5. I want to work in education but I’m not sure I want to commit to being a teacher or getting licensed yet: There are a variety of other positions available to people interested in teaching, but not quite ready to take the plunge. Alternative options include becoming a teacher’s aide, substitute teacher, or volunteer teacher at charities and organizations.

What Is A Teaching Certificate vs. A Teacher Certification?

While the terms teaching certificate and teacher certification are often used interchangeably, they mean two different things. A teacher certification is a license, which is mandatory for teaching in public schools and some private schools.

A teaching certificate is a certificate provided to aspiring teachers for completing an academic program related to teaching. To become certified, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, complete a recognized and accredited teacher training program, and pass a state exam.

There are also alternative certification options for future teachers who have a degree in the subject they wish to teach but lack formal licensure. To become licensed, students are asked to take an additional 1-2 years of coursework in teaching in an accredited program paired with 1-2 years of classroom teaching experience under a temporary license. State regulations vary, but some allow aspiring teachers to complete only 1-2 years of graduate level study in education to qualify for teaching licensure.

Teaching Certificate Specializations

For teachers who have a bachelor’s degree, it is possible to earn a certificate to specialize in a certain area of teaching. Some options include:

  • Elementary and Middle School Education
  • Secondary Education- with subject endorsement
  • Nationally Recognized Teacher Certification/Board Certification
  • Special Needs Education

What is a Bachelor’s in Education Degree?

A bachelor’s degree in education program is a four-year program at an accredited university or college. A bachelor’s degree can be in any subject, but it is highly encouraged that students who want to become teachers aim for a bachelor’s degree in education. Teachers with a bachelor’s degree make an average of $59,140-$62,870 per year.

Bachelor’s in Education Career Paths

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2020-2030)About the Position
Special Education Teachers$61,5008%Teachers specializing in special education work with students with hearing, visual, physical, or learning impairments and need specialized care.
Career and Technical Education Teachers$59,1402%Career and technical education teachers are primarily focused on assisting students in developing trade skills. They teach a variety of subjects including but not limited to graphic design, auto mechanics, landscaping, 3D printing, blueprint development, computer-aided design (CAD), and more.
Elementary, Middle School, and High School Teachers$60,660, $60,810, $62,8704%Elementary, middle, and high school teachers aid in the development of students in different age groups. Teachers will support and inspire students, monitor progress, offer educational guidance, lesson plan, deliver lectures, lead class discussions, and grade assignments.

What is a Master’s in Education Degree?

There are three states that now require teachers to obtain a master’s degree in their field of speciality within 5-7 years of certification: New York, Connecticut, and Maryland. The master’s degree typically comes with higher pay benefits. According to the data, a teacher with a master’s degree can expect to earn an average of $2,760 more in the first year following obtaining the degree and up to $7,358 more per year at the height of their career.2 On average, teachers with a master’s degree earn $52,750-$61,015 per year.

Master’s in Education Career Paths

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2020-2030)About the Position
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals$98,4908%Principals are tasked with overseeing the administrative responsibilities of a school. They evaluate teacher performance on a consistent basis and oversee all operations.
Instructional Coordinators$66,97010%Instructional coordinators work in a variety of educational environments and analyze and assess the effectiveness of school curriculum and standards.
School/Career Counselors$58,12011%School counselors play an important role in making sure students are mentally and academically prepared for the school environment. They ensure students reach certain benchmarks to move onto the next level. Career counselors are primarily tasked with aiding working professionals or college students with developing career skills and/or finding meaningful work.

Becoming a Teacher FAQ

How long does it take to become a teacher?

This can vary depending on the requirements per state. At a minimum, teachers are required to possess a four-year, regionally accredited bachelor’s degree in education. For teachers interested in teaching high school, they are often required to choose a subject specialty. Teachers should also gain licensing, pass a background check, and complete a one to two-year supervised student teaching stint. As a conservative estimate, the process can take 4-7 years.

How much do teachers get paid?

Teachers new to the industry can expect to be paid around $40,000 per year. The average salary for teachers in the United States is $60,477 per year.

Are teaching positions expected to grow?

Job prospects for teachers for grades K-12 are expected to grow as fast as average at 4%. However, post-secondary teachers have an expected job growth above average at 9%.

Can someone from another country become a teacher in the US?

It is possible, but there are a series of requirements that must be met, including having an accredited bachelor’s degree. Non-native English speakers will be required to take a teaching exam in the state they are interested in teaching in, so good English language reading and speaking ability is a must. Potential teachers must notify the US embassy in the country of their intention and apply for a temporary or permanent visa for work purposes.



Emina Dedic

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Leticia Gonzalez

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Leticia Gonzalez is an honors graduate from Columbia University Teachers College. She is currently a Principal in South San Francisco, CA. Her career in education has spanned almost 20 years and has included working in the elementary, secondary, and at the college level.


Is a teaching credential the same as a master's degree? ›

No, a teaching credential is not the same as a master's degree. A master's degree declares that you have mastered the knowledge within a university's program area. A teaching credential is the licensure process needed in order to teach within a given state.

Is there a difference between a Masters in teaching and a Masters in education? ›

The primary distinction is that the master's in teaching focuses more directly on teaching and classroom management. In contrast, the master's in education is a broader degree, applicable to a classroom career but also to jobs in administration, curriculum development, and education policy.

Are Masters degrees worth it for teachers? ›

In fact, on average, a teacher with a master's degree earns between $2,760 - $7,358 more each year than those with a bachelor's degree. Some school districts even offer automatic wage increases for teachers with a master's in education.

Does a masters degree mean you can teach? ›

There are quite a few people who wish to teach at a college or university, and they may not have time in their lives for a full doctorate. Teachers at most college hold doctorates, but there are many instances in which teachers with a master's degree may work at that level.

What is the difference between a teacher and a master teacher? ›

Master teachers are experienced teachers who have consistently demonstrated exceptional knowledge and skills in the classroom for at least five years. They usually have an advanced degree such as a Master of Education or a Master's in a specific subject area.

What do you call a college teacher with a master's degree? ›

Those faculty might be addressed as either "Dr." or "Professor", but the only options that she has are "Professor", "Mrs." (or "Miss" or "Ms." as appropriate.)

Do you need a masters or doctorate to teach in college? ›

While most universities and 4-year colleges require full-time professors to hold a doctorate in their given field to teach and/or conduct research, other postsecondary teachers may be hired with a master's degree or lower.

Do teachers need a masters degree in MA? ›

In Massachusetts, you must have at least a bachelor's degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program to receive certification.

Are mat programs worth it? ›

Career Outcomes with a MAT

With an MAT degree, you will make a higher salary than someone with just a bachelor's degree in any position you get. This is certainly true for some of the most common positions for people who graduate from an MAT program: teachers.

What percentage of teachers have master's degrees? ›

Comparing Some of the Top Teacher Master's Degree Options Teachers love to learn. In fact, an estimated 52% of the nation's 3.3 million public school teachers have a masters' degree or higher. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 57% of public school teachers hold a postbaccalaureate degree (i.e.,…

Do you get paid more if you have a masters? ›

The earnings increase from the bachelor's level to the master's level is approximately 20%.

Should I get my masters right after my bachelors? ›

There are many benefits to pursuing graduate school immediately following college. As we said, the sooner you begin, the sooner you'll finish. Graduate school is a long haul, and an early start can help reduce the effect of prolonged study on your personal life.

Can I teach online with a master's degree? ›

While a master's degree can qualify you to work as an online professor at some private and community colleges, most major universities prefer professors who have doctorates. Online professors usually earn their doctorate in a subject specific to their area of interest.

How long does it take to get a masters degree? ›

Most master's degree programs will take an average of two years from start to finish – about half of the time it takes to earn your bachelor's degree.

Can I teach with an MBA? ›

However, a master's degree (including an MBA) may qualify candidates to teach in certain disciplines including the arts, or as part-time instructors and temporary hires (such as teaching specific classes).

Why are teachers called Masters? ›

Origins. The word “master” in this context translates the Latin word magister. In England, a schoolmaster was usually a university graduate, and until the 19th century the only universities were Oxford and Cambridge.

What is the difference between a mat and a med? ›

An MAT degree emphasizes classroom teaching and instructional roles. An M. Ed. degree prepares graduates for administrative and leadership roles.

What can you do as a master teacher? ›

Plans and prepares classroom setting; oversees safety and educational programs; supervises children in the classroom; provides a supportive environment in which children can learn and practice appropriate and acceptable individual and group behaviors.

Can I be a college professor with a masters? ›

Yes, you can be a professor with a master's degree.

The primary qualifications for landing an entry-level professor position ultimately depend on the school. Some professor positions require just a master's degree (6-year program), whereas others require a doctorate (8-year program).

What are female college teachers called? ›

A female professor is called a professor.

What is the difference between teachers and teachers? ›

“ Teachers' “ is the plural possessive; “ teacher's “ is the singular possessive, as in “the book dropped on the teacher's foot.”

Can I go straight to doctorate without a Masters? ›

Can You Get a PhD Without a Masters? Yes, you can get a PhD without first obtaining a master's degree. A number of universities offer direct entry to PhD programs from undergraduate or bachelor degree studies. In some cases, specific schools or programs may prefer that applicants hold a master's degree.

How can I teach at university without a doctorate? ›

Here are the steps to follow for how to become a college professor without a Ph.D.:
  1. Choose your specialty. ...
  2. Earn your degrees. ...
  3. Gain relevant experience. ...
  4. Build a network. ...
  5. Consider earning a Ph. ...
  6. Look for a mentor. ...
  7. Maintain a good reputation. ...
  8. Prepare accordingly.
Nov 28, 2022

How long does a doctorate take? ›

A doctorate degree typically takes four to six years to complete—however, this timing depends on the program design, the subject area you're studying, and the institution offering the program.

How much do teachers make in Massachusetts with a masters degree? ›

The average teacher salary in Massachusetts is $47,396. This figure applies to entry-level jobs. Teachers with a master's degree and prior experience can earn about $82,836, according to the National Education Association (NEA).

Can you teach in Massachusetts without certification? ›

Can I teach in Massachusetts without certification? To teach in a classroom in the public school system in Massachusetts, teachers must hold a valid and current license from the state. However, teachers may teach in a private school without certification as the state has no jurisdiction over private school approvals.

Is there a teacher shortage in MA? ›

Teacher shortage

There are definitely Massachusetts districts that are struggling with shortages, but it's unclear how widespread this problem is in the state,” the spokesperson said.

How long does it take to complete MAT? ›

On average, it will take an 11-month MAT candidate one year to complete prerequisite undergraduate content coursework and one year to complete the MAT program; however, it is all dependent upon how closely your prior major/degree program fits with a 7-12 core academic content area.

What does MAT degree stand for? ›

A Master of Arts in Teaching is a teaching degree that leads to licensure designed for students without an undergraduate teaching degree but who want to teach in public schools.

Are MAT programs easy? ›

The MAT is incredibly hard, as I'm sure anyone who has heard about it knows. It's not easy to understand how much work it truly is until you experience it, and it really is not a program for anyone who is not set on teaching. However, while it is incredibly hard, I have learned so much in such a short amount of time.

What is the easiest master's degree for teachers? ›

Master of Arts in Second Language Acquisition

Many also use their skills in social work, community development work, and adult education teachers. This is considered among the easiest master's degrees due to its emphasis on language skills, not math and science skills.

Which master's degree is most in demand in education? ›

Types of Master's Degrees for Teachers
  1. Master of Education. At the master level, there are many types of specializations that are highly demanded by both public and private schools. ...
  2. Master's in Teaching. ...
  3. Master's in English Education. ...
  4. Master's in Mathematics Education. ...
  5. Master's in Special Education.

What are the 4 levels of teaching? ›

Kevin A. Ryan, founder of Boston University's Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character, lists the “four stages of teaching” as Fantasy, Survival, Mastery, and Impact. Insight into all the stages is useful for a teacher at any stage.

What job pays the most at the Masters? ›

High-paying jobs with master's degrees
  • Computer scientist. ...
  • Petroleum engineer. ...
  • Marketing manager. ...
  • Engineering manager. ...
  • Information technology director. ...
  • Nurse anesthetist. Find nurse anesthetist jobs. ...
  • Chief executive officer. Find chief executive officer jobs. ...
  • Chief financial officer. Find chief financial officer jobs.
Mar 17, 2023

How much should I make a year with a master's degree? ›

Average salary with a master's degree

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), people with a master's degree in the United States earn a median of $1,574 weekly, which roughly translates to $81,848 annually [1].

Do you really need a master's degree? ›

There is no reason not to get a master's degree.

No matter where you are in your career, it's a critical tool in your professional toolkit that will open new doors to new opportunities. However, you need to determine if it's the right time for you personally to get a master's degree.

Can I go to grad school in my 30s? ›

Whether you're looking to change career paths, gain new skills to grow in your current position or simply have a love of learning, obtaining a master's degree in your 30s can be an extremely rewarding experience (and in some ways, even better than doing so in your 20s).

Is a master's degree easier than a bachelor's? ›

Earning a master's degree helps establish your expertise in your field and can help prepare graduates to take on more responsibility and pursue leadership positions. A master's degree tends to be much more rigorous than a bachelor's degree program and requires a more specialized focus of study.

Is it better to have two bachelor's or a Masters? ›

In many cases, attending graduate school to pursue a master's degree may be more valuable than a second bachelor's degree. In most fields, a master's degree is more likely to lead to career advancement and higher wages than a second bachelor's degree.

Is a Masters in education the same as a Masters in teaching? ›

The primary distinction is that the master's in teaching focuses more directly on teaching and classroom management. In contrast, the master's in education is a broader degree, applicable to a classroom career but also to jobs in administration, curriculum development, and education policy.

Is Masters in teaching and Learning worth it? ›

The education field has many exciting career opportunities, from teaching to counseling to administration. While not all jobs in education require a master's to begin a career, having a master's in education can potentially provide a larger salary and potential advancement in your career.

Can I teach online with just a bachelor's degree? ›

You can pursue a variety of online teaching jobs from home with only a bachelor's degree, even if your degree is not in education. Although many online schools prefer teachers with certification, demand is growing for teachers, tutors, and test scorers without professional licensing.

What GPA do you need for master's degree? ›

Most colleges like to see at least a 2.5 or a 3.0 from master's program applicants. Some programs set their minimums at 3.3 or higher. The minimum GPA for a doctoral program may start at 3.3.

Can you finish Masters in 1 year? ›

And if you want to finish grad school quickly, consider one-year master's programs. These programs offer the fastest route to an accredited, high-quality graduate degree — and some take even less than one year.

Is a Masters 2 or 4 years? ›

A bachelor's degree and master's degree differ in a few key ways. Assuming full-time enrollment, a bachelor's degree is typically a four-year degree program that is earned at the undergraduate level, while a master's degree is a graduate-level degree that usually takes two years to earn, on average.

What does an MBA actually teach you? ›

What does an MBA teach you? Professionals who graduate with an MBA will learn business fundamentals such as leadership, communication, and critical thinking and analytical skills.

Do you need an MBA to be a teacher? ›

In order to qualify for a teaching role, you must hold a bachelor's degree, even if that degree is in a discipline other than education. To teach, you're required to hold a teaching certification, which you can obtain through an alternative certification or teaching certification program.

How many years does it take to be a professor? ›

It can take at least eight years of college education to become a professor. Completing postdoctoral education or gaining working experience in one's field can add to the time it takes to earn a faculty position.

What is a Master's and teaching credential in California? ›

The Master of Arts in Teaching + Credential (MAT) program enables students to receive a master's degree and a single or multiple subject teaching credential in 14 months. The MAT with Single Subject Credential program prepares candidates to teach one of six subject areas at the middle or high school level.

What is the easiest way to get a teaching credential in California? ›

After completing an approved program, the fastest and easiest way to apply for a California teaching credential is online. The program sponsor must formally recommend you for the appropriate certification via the CTC's online system.

Do I need a Masters to be a teacher in California? ›

At minimum, you will need a bachelor's degree to teach most grade levels and school subjects in California, including elementary school. You can obtain a bachelor's degree in various subjects, but must also complete a master's degree program or a teaching credential program to fulfill the state's requirements.

Do you need a masters in education to teach in California? ›

No, you do not need a Master's degree. You must meet the credential requirements set by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. You can earn a Master's degree while earning your credential or after. Some people choose to get a Master's degree, partly because it can increase a teacher's salary.

Are MAT programs worth it? ›

Career Outcomes with a MAT

With an MAT degree, you will make a higher salary than someone with just a bachelor's degree in any position you get. This is certainly true for some of the most common positions for people who graduate from an MAT program: teachers.

What can I do with my MAT? ›

Featured Online MAT Programs
  • Voluntary Worker. Work for voluntary organizations, such as the VSO.
  • Test Prep Teacher. ...
  • Librarian. ...
  • Daycare Manager. ...
  • Running After School Programs. ...
  • Corporate Education Teacher. ...
  • IT Teacher. ...
  • Train the Trainers.

What does BA stand for in education? ›

A bachelor's degree is a course of academic study leading to a qualification such as a bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of science (BSc), or bachelor of medicine (MB).

How much is a teachers salary in California? ›

His analysis of 2021-22 compensation determined the median California teacher salary was $96,323 – $8,000 more than a comparably educated worker outside of education.

How long does it take to get a teaching credential in California? ›

A traditional, non-accelerated college or university program takes four to five years, assuming you complete each course successfully the first time. Internships may take longer depending on the institution you choose. If you start as a private school teacher, it could take over six years to earn your credential.

Can you teach as a professor without a masters? ›

Hopeful professors must continue their education with a graduate degree. Generally, those who want to work as professors at community colleges are required to earn a master's degree, while those who want to teach at four-year colleges and universities should earn a doctorate.

Are teachers called MS or Mrs? ›

What if I'm unsure which to use? If the teacher you're addressing identifies as female, "Ms." is the most neutral and appropriate honorific to use.

What are students of Masters called? ›

A master's student is called a graduate student or “grad student” for short. A student still studying for a bachelor's degree is called an undergraduate student or “undergrad student.”

What is the difference between a teacher and a head teacher? ›

Unlike most teaching staff, often headteachers do not teach lessons in classrooms. Instead, they spend their time using their years of experience to motivate and manage their staff and students.


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