How to Secure a Teaching Position
In order to secure a teaching position in a public school, you must be licensed and certified to do so. There are different types of teaching licenses, including provisional, emergency, and permanent. A license authorizes you to teach, whereas a certification is an indication of what you are qualified to teach. You may also have more than one certification attached to your teaching license.
Each state sets its own requirements regarding tests and minimum passing scores to achieve state certification/licensure, although alternate paths to certification do exist. The tests are typically designed to evaluate teacher candidates’ basic academic skills, subject knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and in some cases, classroom performance.
1. Basic Skills Examination
Typically, in the first step of the process, teachers must pass basic skills examinations before they are admitted to teacher education programs or enroll in upper-level courses (those taken in the junior and senior year) at colleges and universities. The basic skills tests measure reading, writing, and mathematics skills.
2. Subject Area Tests
In the second step, educators who have graduated with a teaching degree must pass subject-area tests as part of the certification/licensure process in their state of employment. Subject assessments measure candidates’ knowledge of the academic subjects they will teach, as well as domain-specific pedagogy skills (how to best teach these particular subjects).
Many states use the Praxis system for license and certification testing. However, some states, such as Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas, use their own testing service for certification purposes. You’ll need to check the requirements for your state.
3. “Highly Qualified”
Separate from certification, highly qualified is a status given to teachers in content areas after completing course work and/or passing a Praxis exam or equivalent. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires teachers to be highly qualified in their content area. Teachers may become highly qualified in multiple areas. A teacher highly qualified in elementary education may teach all subjects in grades kindergarten through sixth. After sixth grade, however, teachers must be highly qualified in each subject area they teach. For example, passing the science Praxis test makes you highly qualified in science, so you can teach this subject to students in grades 6 through 12. If you also pass the social studies Praxis, then you may teach both science and social studies.
Be aware that higher paying school districts that are known for positive teacher morale and educationally supportive communities are more competitive. This may make it more difficult for you to secure employment in one of these schools, because you’ll compete against a greater number of applicants. Take your time investigating and selecting appropriate schools to make sure that you can come up with concrete and valid reasons, sometimes other than simply high pay, that would make you willing to work in one of these schools. An additional factor to consider is that you’ll be applying along with “alternative route” teachers, who’ve already had career experience in other work forces. Taking time to identify applicants that you might be up against during the selection process will assist you in determining where your best chances lie of securing employment.