Obtaining a teaching degree can lead to a fulfilling and rewarding lifelong career. But to simply state that one is a "teacher" is incredibly vague. There are many different specialty areas and levels of education, and considering which one you would like to pursue is an important first step in obtaining a teaching degree.
Specialties and Subjects
Elementary education is defined differently in different areas, but understanding the general age group you are interested in teaching is important. Secondary education tends to become more specialized by content. Those who want to teach middle school and high school obtain their license in a specific content area, such as English, mathematics, music, and family and consumer sciences. Those interested in teaching on the post-secondary level, such as at a college or university, will find it necessary to obtain multiple advanced degrees such as a master's degree, education specialist degree, or a doctoral degree. Special education is very important within the teaching field, and it requires its own particular certification.
Obtaining a teaching certificate generally requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a particular area of education. Make sure you consult with admissions counselors at prospective schools to find out what is offered. Typically, students will take four to five years to meet all of their requirements for a bachelor's degree in education. States generally require that special education teachers have a master's degree. Teachers who want to enter fields such as administration or counseling will also find that a master's degree is required for proper licensing. Colleges and universities don't often require teaching certification but rather have more stringent requirements on post-graduate degrees.
Job Prospects and Salaries
Each state has a list of shortage areas in the area of education. Many states offer special incentives such as student loan forgiveness, signing bonuses, or even added stipends to teach in these shortage areas. The fields of special education, foreign language, and sciences are just a few of the areas where shortages exist nationwide. Teachers with degrees in these shortage areas have a great deal of job opportunities. Even in nonshortage areas, licensed elementary and secondary teachers can often find several employment options in most areas of the country.
Until recently, teacher salaries in the United States have been considered sub-par. As of 2014, the national averages for teacher salaries are generally around $40,000, which is a substantial improvement over the past few decades. The push to increase teacher salaries continues nationwide and is expected to continue growing.