The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Doctoral Student (and Full-Time Teacher)

January 8, 2010

How To Become a Teacher Without an Education Major

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 12:06 pm

I did not major in education when I was in college. Heck, I didn’t even want to be a teacher in college, or so I thought. I went to graduate school for International Affairs, not to be a teacher. However, after graduate school I somehow found myself becoming a teacher. How? It wasn’t that difficult, sure it required hard work, but it’s not as difficult as you think. Today, I am licensed to teach in 3 different states and I have a track record of success teaching English.

I came into teaching with a program called Teach for America. TFA is essentially the Peacecorps for people who want to stay in the United States, but better. You get paid a living wage. You are supported in the process of getting licensed. You are helping to close the achievement gap in education. TFA was created with the goal of putting top college graduates in some of the most challenging school settings in the country, with the goal of helping economically and socially disadvantaged students succeed in school. The program is amazing, because it helps people without an education background get into the classroom and they get a regular teaching salary. The TFA commitment is 2 years, but you are an employee of the district in which you work, so if you want to stay another year, 10, or 30, you can! The only downfall is that TFA is only in certain cities and you are not guaranteed to be played in your top choice– perhaps not ideal for some people.

TFA is not the only method of getting into the classroom. Cities all over the country have mini-TFA programs, like Denver Teaching Fellows, that are sometimes easier and more convenient to get involved with. Private schools do not require teachers to be licensed (though some want their teachers to be licensed).

Thousands of colleges have graduate programs for people who want to become teachers, but do not have an education degree. These are called alternative certification programs. At the end of these programs, which typically take between a year or two years to complete, you are able to become licensed in that state to teach. In some states, especially those with teacher shortages, and in some subject areas (with shortages, like HS science), people are able to teach with an alternative teaching license, or a temporary license, while also working on course work concurrently. This is how I became licensed.

The classes, at least in my experience, are pretty easy. I was working full-time as a teacher, and I took classes in the evenings. In my opinion, taking classes while teaching was the most beneficial. I was able to practice what I was learning (and truly internalize it) in my classroom. In addition, questions that popped up while I was teaching could be asked in my graduate classes.

I only had to take 3 or 4 additional classes to get my master’s degree in teaching after taking the classes to become certified. Many schools have this set-up, it’s a Master’s of Arts in Teaching degree. A master’s degree will get you more pay! Once you have your license in one state, it’s pretty easy to get a license in another state. However, you NEED TO GET THE LICENSE IN THE STATE IN WHICH YOU TOOK CERTIFYING CLASSES!!!! Even if you never plan to teach in that state, it will make the process of applying for a license in another state a million times easier. Reciprocity across states only works if you have a license from the state in which you took your certifying classes.


  1. Another good thing for people to check out is — they tell you what you need to do in each state to earn your certification. And the non-profit I work for, ABCTE, has an alternative certification program that is accepted in nine states:

    Comment by Mike — January 8, 2010 @ 12:26 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks Mike for the further information!

    Comment by rachaelski — January 8, 2010 @ 1:06 pm | Reply

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