Good question! The traditional path to teaching is to earn an education degree and your teaching licensure at the same time. However, while that is the most common path, it is definitely not the only path! Whether or not you can become a teacher without an education degree depends on your state and what age group you would like to teach. There are also some important pros and cons to consider in your decision.
Many programs, such as Teach for America, allow you to teach without having an education degree. This is done through a process called alternative certification that allows you to earn your licensure while you are teaching. In the meantime, you teach under a “provisional licensure.” You will likely need to attend graduate school or another education program to earn your licensure while you teach.
Our own David taught abroad and has a great post walking you through the requirements for teaching abroad. While the requirements vary depending on what school and country you are interested in, it is possible to teach in another country without an education degree under your belt.
I am an early childhood educator, so I’m passionate about bringing good people to the field! In most states, the requirements are not as strict for preschool as in the higher grades. There are also many more openings for positions such as assistant teachers, “floaters” (assistant teachers who help in multiple rooms), or child care providers. These are all great entry-level positions! Often the requirements only involve taking a few relevant courses or showing a certain number of hours of experience. Other states only require a high school diploma. Some states allow you to meet these requirements (for instance, contact hours) while working.
Private or Parochial Schools
In some states, private and parochial schools are allowed to set their own policy regarding teacher requirements (if you want to check on your state, you can look it up in the big Department of Education document under “teacher certification”). This may be an especially good option for you if you have a related degree. For instance, if you studied Math and want to teach high school math, a private school could be a good choice.
Pros and Cons of Teaching Without an Education Degree
Ultimately, the more education you have, the more prepared you will be as a teacher. It may be worth investing the extra time in yourself and in your future students if you’re sure teaching is the path for you. Sometimes, though, you aren’t sure exactly what type of teaching you’d like to do or if teaching is really the right fit for you. Other times, life gets in the way–maybe an education degree is out of reach due to time or money right now. If that’s the case, finding a position like assistant teaching where you can learn from a mentor is ideal. Good luck with your decision!