In all 50 states, a teacher in a public school needs to have the appropriate level of education and certification to teach. In most cases, a teacher needs to earn a bachelor's degree in the subject area she plans to teach in, then pass the examinations to become certified. Certification is not a country-wide process, but instead is granted by individual states.
Most teachers attend a four-year college and earn a bachelor's degree in education. If you plan on teaching in secondary schools, such as a middle or high school, you'll most likely earn a degree in the subject you plan on teaching, such as English, math or science along with taking courses in education. Elementary or early childhood education teachers typically earn degrees in education, which focus on teaching a range of subjects, from reading to science.
Before earning certification, you need to have some classroom experience. Most college education programs include a semester or two of student teaching. You'll probably also need to have maintained a certain GPA during school to be eligible for certification. Some states require training in technology to obtain certification.
Specific requirements for certification vary from state to state. Most states require candidates to take and pass the Praxis exams in the relevant subject area. A few only require that teachers have the required educational background and a set number of months of teaching experience.
If you decide to become a teacher later in life, you do not need to enroll in a 4-year program, especially if you already have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Many states offer alternative routes to certification, which usually involve taking a short training course in the required topics, then passing the Praxis exam. Alternative certification programs are generally designed to encourage people to teach in under-served school districts.