Teacher: What They Do, How to Become One, Resources

Teachers power our youth's education. As one of the most popular jobs in The United States, with more than 1.9 million job openings on an annual basis, teachers are a core part of the economy and help ensure the development of our youth.

What is a Teacher?

A teacher is a public educator that usually focuses on the age groups K-12. That is a kindergarten through 12th grade High School level. Teachers aren’t often found in University-level education systems. That is often confused with a Professor or University Educator.

The primary responsibility of a teacher is to follow state-issued guidelines for educating the youth. They must follow annual curriculums which outline subject matters like Math, Writing, Reading, Science, Social Studies, Geometry, Trigonometry, Geography, and more.

As an educator, they are considered faculty and staff within the education system. This education system is funded or supported by the local community depending on the state. They are often issued guidance or teaching recommendations based on the district they are part of and principal that administers the school system within that district.

How to Become a Teacher

To become a teacher, you must earn a Bachelor’s degree (4-year university-level education) in secondary education, teaching, or another relevant field. A two year minimum of work experience is required by most positions. In order to achieve that work minimum, you must assist other primary educators as either a Teacher’s Assistant or Teacher’s Aide.

Most universities offer education as a major and some universities offer it is a minor. Though, in order to become a teacher, you will need to major in this field of study.

The average cost of becoming a teacher, while earning your Bachelor’s degree in secondary education can be around $32,000 based on U.S. national averages. This is the total cost you might spend on tuition costs earning your field of study.

While being a Teacher’s Aide or Teacher’s Assistant during your first two years of work experience, you should expect to earn anywhere from $22,000 to $31,000 per year based on U.S. national average salaries collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

You will need to have a state-certified Professional Educator License (PEL) in order to practice as an educator. If you choose to go into Substitute teaching, you will be required to receive a state-issued Substitute License.

Alternative Jobs to Becoming a Teacher

Below are a few job titles that you can apply for before you decide to become a primary educator or decide that you’d like to bypass the requirement of having a Bachelor’s degree in secondary education.

Teacher’s Aide (TA): A Teacher’s Aide assists with lesson plans, student evaluations, parent-teacher meetings, scheduling, field trip planning, and other administrative tasks that might slow the teacher down from performing regular education.

Teacher’s Assistant (TA): A Teacher’s Assistant is similar to a Teacher’s Aide. The core difference between these two job titles is that the Teacher’s Assistant may perform more administrative duties, such as printing, copying, note-taking, and more.

Substitute Teacher: A Substitute Teacher does not require a four-year university in order to be employed. A Substitute Teacher will have to follow the primary educator's lesson plans and general curriculum. Which requires them to have a Substitute License that is issued in the current state they reside in.

Teacher Certifications

There are many types of teaching certifications. These can be considered specialists of focus as a secondary educator. While some of these certifications may apply to you, not all will. It will vary based on the grade level and education level you plan to teach for.

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Elementary Education
  • Secondary Education
  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Sciences
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Life Sciences
  • Physics
  • Social Sciences
  • Agriculture
  • American Sign Language
  • Art Teacher
  • Business Education
  • Computer Science
  • Dance
  • Drama/Theater
  • English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Foreign Language (some examples below)
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Certification
  • Health Educator
  • Home Economics
  • Journalism
  • Music
  • Physical Education
  • Reading Specialist
  • Special Education
  • Speech Language Pathologist
  • Technology
  • Visually Impaired Teacher
  • Education Technology
  • Administrative Licensing
  • Reciprocity
  • Alternative Certification
  • Librarian Certification

Teacher Duties or Responsibilities

In order to better comprehend what might be required of a teacher, we should look at the job description you might see when a school system is looking to employ an educator.

Here are the duties and responsibilities that a school system might be seeking from an educator.

  • Develop, issue, and plan educational plans.
  • Supervise classes to ensure students are learning in a safe, productive, and educationally conducive environment.
  • Organize supplies, resources, and notes for lectures or presentations.
  • Deliver personalized instructions to each student by encouraging interactive and educational education.
  • Plan and implement educational events, activities, and field trips.
  • Ensure the classroom is clean, orderly, and safe.
  • Attend parent-teacher meetings and make calibrations to your teaching plans or student evaluations.
  • Evaluate and document students’ progress.

What is it Like to Be a Teacher?

snipthm79 • Source: Reddit • January 18, 2016

Most teachers work from 7-4 or 5 on a normal day. Many work after school as coaches or club leaders. There does seem to be a strong push in education for students to be collaborating more and project-based learning. We never have textbooks and most schools only have about 50-100 computers for student use.

Almost all of our resources in class come from Google, discovery learning, or something created by the teacher themselves. We are expected to get higher scores every year but are given fewer resources each year. Pay is overall decent. I am a 3yr teacher in NC and we are at the very bottom of teacher pay in the country. My wife works at the same pay and we can afford a house together albeit small. We, of course, feel we should be paid more but we are happy and comfortable with what we are paid.

We do not teach any foreign languages which is a shock to most countries. In high school, you usually take like 2 courses in Spanish that nobody cares about including administration, but is a requirement for most graduations. This is different in other states since every state has its own policies towards different things.

Another big difference from what I have heard of other countries is that students here get much less exercise. They might get 30 minutes of physical education a day and most students can opt-out of that by taking other elective courses like band or computer science.

Teacher FAQ’s

Below are common questions that job seekers have as it relates to becoming a teacher.

How many jobs are available for teachers?

Roughly 1.9 million jobs are available for teachers on an annual basis.

Is the demand high for teachers?

The need for teachers will continuously expand as the United States population continues to expand. With 1.9 million jobs available and a growth outlook of more than 13% between the years of 2008 and 2018, it would be unrealistic for the demand for teachers to decline in coming years.

Is it hard to find a job as a teacher?

Mathematics and Special Education are some of the specialties of secondary educators that have the most demand. Meaning, they are the “easiest” to obtain in terms of finding employment.

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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