Teaching Degree

Find out what skills you need to complete your teaching degree. Learn more about teacher certification and top teaching programs in 2023.

Teaching is one of the top degrees in the United States. Educators are always in high demand, especially with so many schools receiving more students every year. Teacher broadly refers to any individual who works in public or private schools, but there are several different types of teaching jobs available, largely based on what are you wish to specialize in.

Besides teaching students in the classroom, educators have many other responsibilities. During the evenings, you must plan lessons and grade papers. The school day often lasts longer for teachers, who must attend meetings with department heads at the school. Teachers also spend time communicating with parents.

Each state has different requirements for becoming a teacher. Some requirements are universal, such as needing your bachelor’s degree and teaching certification. To become certified, you must pass a Praxis test, though some states use a different certification system. Depending on your desired profession, you may need additional certification before earning your teaching degree.

Skills to Become a Teacher

Many students seeking a teaching degree underestimate how many skills are necessary to become an educator. You must be knowledgeable in whatever subject you wish to teach, but there are other important skills as well. One of the top skills for a teacher is communication. Teachers spend most of their day interacting with students. You must be able to present information in a clear, easy to understand way. Communication is also vital when disciplining students. If students break a rule, you must be able to explain why what they did was wrong, and what steps the student can take to avoid breaking the rule in the future.

Critical thinking is another important skill. Many students require variations in lessons or assignments to understand the material. As a teacher, you are often put on the spot to answer questions or make decisions. You must be able to make adjustments to your lesson plans to better suit your classroom.

Another important skill to teaching is organization. This applies to several areas. You must be able to create an organize and effective lesson plans. Organization applies to keeping records as well, including accurate grade reports. You must also be able to assign work at a reasonable rate and balance assignments for multiple classes.

Different Types of Teachers

There are multiple types of teachers. Teachers typically go through the same training, but you may require slightly different classes based on your specialization. Elementary school teachers focus on kindergarten up to 5th grade. Elementary teachers focus on many subjects, including reading, science and math and social studies. Elementary teaching is often more hands-on than the higher grades. It often requires more patience as well, since younger students are still acclimatizing to an educational setting. Typically, elementary school teachers have one class.

Middle school teachers cover 6th, 7th and 8th graders. Middle school teachers build on the lessons taught by elementary school teachers, focusing on many of the same subjects, but applying more advanced concepts. Most middle school teachers focus on a specific subject, like math or history, and have multiple classes throughout the day.

High school teachers also teach a single subject for students in 9th to 12th grade. High school teachers develop lessons to prepare students for higher education. Because students are more mature, communication between high school teachers is much different than the lower grades.

In addition to the three base teachers, there are also special education teachers. Special education teachers work with students who have learning, emotional, mental or physical disabilities throughout all grades. Special education teachers often work alongside traditional teachers, as well as counselors, parents and the school administration. These teachers develop specialized education plans, tailored to fit the needs of each student. Most work with significantly smaller class sizes than other teachers, with some focusing exclusively on one student. Becoming a special education teacher requires additional training, with some specializing in helping students with a specific condition, such as exclusively working with autistic students.

Financial Aid for Teachers

In addition to the standard financial aid options, there are several special options available for teachers. One option is to apply for a TEACH grant. You must be either an undergraduate, postbaccalaureate or an eligible graduate student enrolled in a participating school to receive this grant. There are educational requirements you must meet as well, but these vary based on the university. Typically, you must have a certain GPA or be in a certain percentile for your class.

If you accept the TEACH grant, you must agree to work for at least four academic years in either a high-need educational field, or at an elementary, secondary or educational service facility in your area. You must complete this up to eight years after graduating.

Another option for educators is the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. Loan forgiveness covers up to, as of writing, $17,500 worth of direct subsidized or unsubsidized loans, as well as Federal Stafford Loans. To qualify, you must have taught for at least five consecutive academic years at a low-income school or educational service agency.

Purdue University

Teaching degrees are common among many universities, but there are several universities with standout programs for teachers. Purdue has one of the best bachelor teaching programs in the United States, with 17 different bachelor teaching degrees to choose from. There is also an accelerated path, which takes three years to complete. The school has multiple specialized programs for niche areas, like agricultural, visual arts and space science.

Heritage University

Heritage is a private university in Washington. As a private school, it only accepts a small number of students each year, so entry is competitive. Unlike most other private universities, the tuition is fairly inexpensive, with a fair amount of financial aid options available to students. Heritage has two of the best teaching programs, focusing on STEM education. It also has an excellent early childhood studies program, with options for online learning.

Berea College

Berea is another private university with a strong focus on education. What sets Berea apart from other teaching universities is the Tuition Promise Scholarship. This scholarship is available to all students and covers the entire tuition costs for undergraduate education. There are many education degrees available, including common classes like English, math, science and social studies. There are also certification options for elementary education as well as middle grade mathematics and sciences.