By working directly with kids in our nation's schools as a K-12 educator, you can help ensure that a successful future is within their grasp. It's a worthy goal, but maybe you're not sure you have enough time outside of work and other commitments to go back to school and earn the appropriate degree. Well, you're in luck—more and more schools are offering online teaching certification programs.
Traditionally, certification is granted after completion of a teacher training program at an accredited college or university. However, advances in educational technology and distance learning curriculum have made online teaching certification programs just as respected as brick-and-mortar programs. Not only that, they are much more widespread than they used to be, enabling scores of new teachers to enter the workforce and meet the demand for qualified educators.
The ABCs of Online Programs
Here's how to get started:
- Always Look for Accreditation: Many employers won't acknowledge degrees from schools that aren't accredited, so it's imperative that you get your online degree from an accredited online college or university. But even in an online program, you'll need to complete a certain amount of in-person practical experience, such as classroom observation and student teaching.
- Begin with a Bachelor's: The best way to start is by earning a bachelor's degree, a necessary prerequisite to becoming a teacher. In the process, you'll complete appropriate coursework in education or in a specific subject area. Then, depending on the requirements of the state where you wish to teach, as well as the subject and age level you're planning on teaching, you can research whether online teaching certification programs are also available. Teacher training programs can be completed while you earn your bachelor's degree or as an independent certificate program.
- Check State Certification Requirements: The last thing you'll need to do before you can be a fully-fledged teacher is pass any assessments required by your state. Generally, this involves a basic skills test as well as any relevant subject area exams, such as the Praxis II, administered by the Educational Testing Service. There is also a voluntary national teacher certification provided by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) for those who already hold a state license and have three years of teaching experience.
Private and charter schools may have different requirements, so be sure to fully research what the certification requirements are for your particular state, district, and/or school. Visit a website such as Teacher Certification Map to find out what each state's requirements are.
Earn Your State Credential Online
Whether you choose to study through a traditional brick-and-mortar education degree program, a professional school that caters to prospective teachers, or an online teaching certification program, you'll need to obtain a state credential before you can start teaching kids the three Rs.
The type of credential you earn will differ depending on your teaching specialty and the grade level you plan to teach. Some common types of teaching credentials include:
- Early childhood teaching certification (usually includes preschool through grade 3)
- Elementary-level teaching certification (usually includes grade 1 through 6)
- Middle grades teaching certification (usually includes grade 5 through 8 or 9)
- Secondary education subject area credential (usually including a subject area endorsement such as a mathematics endorsement or history endorsement, or a special credential in music or reading)
- K-12 special education certification
- K-12 English as a Second Language (ESL) certification
- Educational leadership or administration certification
Not every type of teaching credential may be offered through online teaching certification programs, so you'll want to do your research ahead of time to figure out the best way to fit teacher training into your schedule.