How to become a teacher

In a recent post on the Facebook Community Group, The Village, a concerned parent posed this question:

“I have an amazing daughter who managed to get excellent results. 9 distinctions and her subject choices included all the Sciences, Maths and AP Maths. She applied to do a BSc in Maths and BSc in Actuarial Sciences. She has been accepted to both but has chosen the BSc in Maths because her ultimate goal is to be a high school Maths teacher. I am proud of her but so worried that she may have thrown away an opportunity to a better degree and ultimately better job opportunities. Am I being ridiculously anxious for nothing?” 

The response to this post was overwhelming, with most group members stating that teaching was a wonderful profession that not only provides a great work-life balance but also enables a sense of pride and purpose by positively impacting the lives of children. 

In this article, we will discuss teaching as a career choice. We will provide valuable insights into; the day-to-day responsibilities of teachers, the subjects that are needed to become a teacher, how long it takes to become a teacher, and we will also look at some teacher salary expectations.

What to look for in a career

So often people feel the need to pursue career paths that provide optimal financial rewards, whilst neglecting to consider the day-to-day practical highs and lows and work-life balance that these high-paying jobs offer. 

When considering potential career paths, children need to pay careful attention to the work-life balance that their careers will provide. They also need to understand their own personal strengths and areas of interest and follow a career path that suits their unique personality. 

What does a teacher do?

A teacher's day-to-day roles and responsibilities can vary depending on the level of education they teach and the school or institution they work in. Some common tasks that a teacher may perform include:

  • Planning and preparing lessons: Teachers are responsible for creating lesson plans that align with curriculum standards and are appropriate for their student's abilities and interests.
  • Delivering lessons: Teachers present the material to their students in an engaging and effective manner, using a variety of teaching methods such as lectures, discussions, and hands-on activities.
  • Assessing student learning: Teachers use a variety of assessments, such as quizzes, exams, and projects, to evaluate student understanding and progress.
  • Providing feedback: Teachers provide feedback on student performance, both through formal assessments and informal observations and conversations.
  • Managing the classroom: Teachers are responsible for maintaining a safe and positive learning environment, which includes managing student behaviour and providing appropriate discipline when necessary.
  • Providing support: Teachers are often a source of support and guidance for students outside the classroom, providing academic support and personal advice and connecting students with additional resources as needed.
  • Professional development: Teachers are expected to engage in ongoing professional development, such as attending workshops and conferences, to stay current on best practices in education and to improve their teaching skills.
  • Collaboration: Teachers often work with other educators, such as guidance counsellors, special education teachers, and administrators, to support student success.
  • Extracurricular activities: Many teachers also take on additional responsibilities related to extracurricular activities, such as coaching sports teams, directing school plays, and advising clubs or student organisations.

What subjects do you need to take to become a teacher? 

To become a teacher, you will typically need to have a strong academic background. The specific subjects you need to take in high school to become a teacher can vary depending on the level of education and subjects you wish to teach. 

Some common subjects that can be beneficial for students who wish to become teachers include:

  • English: Strong language and writing skills are important for any teacher, as they will be responsible for communicating with students, parents, and other educators.
  • Mathematics: A strong background in math can be helpful for teachers of math and science, as well as for understanding the concepts of measurement and data analysis.
  • Science: A background in science is important for those planning to teach science subjects.
  • Foreign Language: Some schools require their teachers to be proficient in a second language, like French, and having a background in a foreign language can open up opportunities to teach in bilingual or immersion programs.
  • Social Emotional Learning: This subject can help to understand the mental and emotional development of students, which is crucial for any teacher.

How long does it take to become a teacher?

The time it takes to become a teacher can vary depending on the country and level of education you want to teach. 

Here are a few examples of the approximate duration to become a teacher:

  • Bachelor's degree in education: This is typically a four-year program that includes both education coursework and a student teaching component. After completing this program, graduates will be eligible for a teaching certification.
  • Alternative certification program: These programs are designed for individuals who already have a bachelor's degree in a subject area other than education but wish to become teachers. These programs usually take about a year to complete and include both coursework and a student-teaching component.
  • Master's degree in education: Some states or countries require teachers to have a master's degree in education or a related field. These programs usually take about two years to complete (over and above a bachelor’s degree) and may include a thesis or research component.
  • Practical experience: Once you have completed the required education, you will typically need to complete a period of supervised teaching, which can range from a few months to a full academic year, depending on the country.

It's important to note that the duration of each step can vary depending on the institution, country and personal circumstances. It's also important to check with the tertiary institution you plan to attend and the country where you plan to teach for specific requirements.

How much do teachers earn? 

The average salary for a teacher varies depending on their location and level of education. In the United States, the average salary for a public school teacher is around $60,000 per year. Whereas in South Africa, the average starting salary for a teacher is around R280,000 per year. Experienced teachers with advanced degrees can earn significantly more, with some earning up to R450,000 per year. 

Teacher salaries vary greatly depending on the country, experience and qualifications. 

Who should consider teaching professionally? 

Teaching is a wonderful profession for someone who displays an interest and strengths in:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Patience, compassion and empathy
  • Creativity and flexibility
  • Subject-specific knowledge and expertise (for example a child who is gifted in Maths could make a great high school math teacher)
  • Organisational and time-management skills

Teaching is a rewarding profession that allows an individual the opportunity to positively impact the lives of children and it provides a great work-life balance. To become a teacher, individuals typically need to have a strong academic background. While the salary expectations may not be as high as in some other professions, the satisfaction and fulfilment that comes from making a difference in the lives of students is invaluable. 

When considering a career path, it is important to consider not only the financial rewards but also the work-life balance and your personal strengths and interests.

Take our P.A.S.S Career Quiz to help your teen identify their strengths and areas of interest to help them make informed career choices. Alternatively, book a professional Career-choice assessment from our qualified Education Psychologist.  

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