So, you've earned your bachelor's degree, and you're not sure what to do with your life. Maybe you've thought about teaching. Maybe you've even worked in schools as a substitute or paraprofessional. What now? Can you still become a teacher with a bachelor's degree if you didn't study education? Here are some stories from folks who didn't set out to be teachers, but ended up making careers in education.
Grace, a psychology major, became interested in teaching after taking a class in college called Social Policy in a Global Perspective. "That changed everything for me," she said of the experience. The course focused on policy as it related to children. "After that class and thinking about ways the economy, health, and education all impact the child, I kept coming back to education. Education was the way I saw myself in the cause of social justice." Grace also took an urban education class with Pedro Noguera, a renowned sociologist studying discipline in schools.
After observing classrooms as part of that class, Grace realized she wanted to teach. She joined Teach for America and began teaching biology in an urban, low-income high school outside of Boston. "Part of why I loved teaching was because of the school I was in," Grace said. "I got a lot of support in my first two years, and I realized I could really see myself doing this in the long term. I love that light-bulb moment when kids understand something, especially with science."
Further reading: The Path from Paraprofessional Educator to Teacher
Grace enjoys being an advocate for marginalized children, and she likes partnering with families to ensure students are receiving the best education possible. For Grace, the requirements for teaching meant earning a special education license and then her master's degree.
In college, Nancy thought she might be a neurosurgeon or a research scientist. Her parents had dreamed she would be a doctor ever since she was little. Nancy loved school and learning new things. After she graduated with her bachelor's degree, she worked as a research assistant in a lab, cowriting papers and presenting at conferences. But she found the work to be isolating, so she decided to try something else.
After leaving that position, she worked two jobs waiting tables to make ends meet. But she wanted a job that had benefits and would enhance her resume. She heard about a paid internship program for teaching at the University of California at Irvine and applied.
Nancy thought that she would teach or be a substitute until she figured out her career plans. She never dreamed she'd stay in teaching. After her first assignment teaching third grade, Nancy was hooked. She loved her master teacher, who convinced her she had a gift for teaching, and she realized she could make a huge difference in many lives if she stayed in the field.
Nancy had to go back to school and take several prerequisite courses prior to starting her teaching credential program. She went on to get her master's in education and a reading specialist credential. Twenty years later, she still loves teaching, and she's proud to have had an impact on so many children's lives.
Paul's career took a few turns before he ended up in the classroom. He always wanted to be an archaeologist. He went to school to pursue this dream, and graduated with a bachelor of applied science degree in classical Mediterranean archaeology. But then he decided he wanted a singing career, so he moved to New York City.
After six years in the Big Apple, Paul moved to Massachusetts and closed the book on his career in music. He went back to school and earned a master's in history, figuring he'd get into archival or museum work. But the more he thought about it, teaching started to make more sense.
What drew him to the teaching profession was the idea that he could change minds for the better. He didn't want the future generation to just memorize-regurgitate-repeat; he wanted them to be able to look at an event, ask questions, gather evidence, and come up with an educated response. He wanted to treat history more like science or math, turning it into a laboratory.
To become a teacher, Paul needed to take the Massachusetts Tests for Education Licensure. He earned his master's degree online and appreciated the convenience of online learning. He plans on taking more coursework to earn certifications in special education and teaching English language learners.
Taking the Right Steps
Requirements to become a teacher with a bachelor's degree vary from state to state, so find a program that is recognized in all 50 states. Every state requires that you have at least a bachelor's degree, and you will need to pass a background check. After that, you'll most likely have to take your state's teaching exams. In some states, you will be required to earn your master's degree soon after you start teaching.
Further Reading: Career-Change Teacher Stories
Teaching is an incredibly rewarding career, and people take many paths to end up there. Changing careers takes courage, but applying to schools isn't as hard as it might seem. And a career in teaching is one worth pursuing; Grace, Nancy, and Paul all agree that it's a great way to positively impact lives and make a difference in the world.