Transition to Teaching

July 18, 2007 2 min read
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Question is, are there any programs out there that will help with the costs of becoming licensed? (I think it would be like nursing where you would agree to sign on with a certain district?)

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I have a college education (BA in English) and have some educational classes in that background. I am really interested in teaching reading and or English at the elementary level.

I would appreciate any information on this subject. I am also willing to relocate to an area where this is possible. (I am living in Pittsburgh, Pa.)

Franklin J. Spaniol

Answer I: It sounds like you have done a lot of serious thinking about what you want to do with your career and how you might best contribute your skills through teaching. Just a quick tip as you begin to consider programs to become a teacher: Reading certification is in higher demand than English (simply because there are many more English teachers than reading specialists). If you are interested in both areas, you’ll find a better market for your skills if you pursue licensure in reading.

Secondly, there are specialized programs and loan forgiveness programs/scholarship programs that can help you with this process. One of the best-known is Teach for America. It’s an accelerated program that places teachers in high-need areas, such as urban or extremely rural schools. You can find information on this national program at

In addition, individual states have their own unique programs to assist those who want to become teachers. A good place to begin perusing these programs is the American Federation of Teachers resource, which gives a state-by-state breakdown of available programs.

Your willingness to relocate will surely make the process of becoming a teacher easier and more realistic for you. I wish you luck and success!

Dr. Dawn Scheffner Jones, Online Education & Health Advisor, Career Services, Northern Illinois University

Answer II: There are programs across the country at area universities and community colleges. The key is to shop around. Many universities offer one-year graduate programs. There are faster options, depending on location. Online universities offer programs, but it is important to enroll in a program that includes field experience.

Substitute teaching is a great way to earn money and gain experience while seeking your certification. Some states have such a shortage that they have considerably lowered their standards for substitutes. A few schools even accept high school graduates. A four-year degree will make it easier for you to find substitute teaching jobs.

Alternative licensure can also offer an accelerated path into teaching, especially in urban areas. Big cities generally have a shortage of teachers and will likely help an applicant attain certification through an alternative certification program designed for career changers.

In Pennsylvania, there is an oversupply of elementary school teachers, because of the many certification programs in the state. But there is an undersupply of male elementary school teachers. If one male and one female with equal qualifications applied for a job in elementary education, most likely the male would be hired. Gender is only one factor, but school districts need to expose students to role models.

Lastly, the most important thing to remember is to shop around your area for programs, because every state is different.

B.J. Bryant, Executive Director, American Association for Education Employment


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