Becoming a teacher

I’m currently an undergraduate Mechanical Engineering student, and I was just kind of wondering, what does a person have to do to get into the world of teaching?

I’m majoring in Drafting and Design technology. And I am also interested in becoming a teacher especially in the Career and Tech.

I spent a semester (well, a year on paper) as an elementary education major. At least in South Carolina, the procedure depends on whether you want to teach at elementary or secondary schools. Elementary-level teachers generally major in elementary education, while on the secondary level you major in the subject you wish to teach, then minor in education. (This is generally followed by getting a Master’s degree in education.)

However, check with your particular college to see what it would take.

This information maybe completely irrelevant but i remember it from a college meeting i went to. In South Carlonia the teahcer requirement for getting some offical paper are easier (less collge time or something) that other states. But some agreement allows you to use that in other states (Virginia is one i know). So look into that. It allows you to get your teachering license i beilive easier in one state but use it in another. Sorry if this isnt helpful at all.

From Wikipedia:

In the United States, each state determines the requirements for getting a license to teach. Normally, a bachelor’s degree with a major in a certifiable area (languages, arts, sciences, etc.) is a minimum requirement, along with rigorous pedagogical methods course work and practical field experiences as “student teachers.” It is also required by all states that teachers pass standardised exams at the national and/or state levels both in the subjects they teach and the methods of teaching those subjects, and that they undergo constant evaluation by local, state, and sometimes even private organizations during their first years of teaching. Most states use graduated licensing programs (i.e., initial, Stage II, Rank I, professional, provisional, etc.). A license to teach in one state will usually facilitate the obtainment of a license in another state.

Teachers in almost all states must have a Bachelor’s degree with the appropriate teacher preparation course and complete a Master’s degree within five years. Additionally, to be permanently certified, teachers must pass three state exams on pedagogy, general knowledge and knowledge of a content area. In order to work in a public school a candidate must be fingerprinted.
For you, sanddrag, it sounds like you would need to complete your undergraduate degree, and then get your teaching certification and masters degree in education. (Someone correct me if I am wrong!)

From what I hear and observe (my parents are both educators), nowadays, the aquisition of your teaching certification in increasingly more difficult than it used to be. New teachers at my high school in Connecticut must spend two years (as student teachers) developing a portfolio in order to get certified. From what they tell me, the process is rather difficult and stressful.

Try talking to a teacher from your state (who teaches at the grade level you are interested in), and ask them about the specific requirements, as well as their experiences.

Good luck!

It would not be necessary to get a master’s degree in education. It would be necessary to investigate what it will take based on YOUR college. Many states have requirements but allow colleges and universities to make the evaluations and recommend students for certification. This usually requires a minimum amount of education classes that would have to be taken. When I did this about 10 years ago after being an engineer/scientist for 18 years, I took about 18 hours of education classes and then did another semester of a combination of a curriculum class in sciences and my student teaching. I was in a hurry and already had 2 undergrad degrees and a masters so it might have been easier for me but plan on at least a year (and probabaly an additional summer) to accomplish this.

Many states are requiring portfolios and other assessment tools but these are done during the first 1 or 2 years of teaching. You may get a beginning license and within 2 years you must upgrade it by doing the portfolio. There are many different requirements depending on state.

Example… if you have a mechanical engineering degree you probably have already had enough physics and mathematics to become a physics teacher.
You will have to see what the requirements are.

The upside of getting a degree first is that you are usually referred to as “highly qualified” under the regulations and this is good for your career as the No Child Left Behind regs require schools to have this. Many career teachers got degrees in education which the government does not consider “highly qualified” for some reason. Some states require teachers to have a degree before they get their certification and some don’t. The key would be to talk to YOUR college education department and find out what to do.

A word to the wise… be prepared for an exhausting career… pay is not extremely good… responsibility is huge…you won’t get any recognition from anyone… BUT you will never find anything more rewarding…NOTHING is like finally seeing the light come on in a student you have worked with for a long time… it also keeps you young (at least in spirit…)

Going on 9 years I am very happy with the choice I made.
If you have any other questions please let me know… IM would be fine.
Good luck…

Scroll to the bottom and look for your state’s certification requirements. I could speak in great detail about the PA requirements, but when/if you have a need for help in any specific state, email or pm me.

Good luck. The profession needs LOTS of dedicated and passionate folks.


I was in the same place as you - I also studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate, and loved it, but decided that I wasn’t ready to either practice as an engineer or go on to graduate school quite yet. I opted for an alternative route to certification since I had no education credits, but really wanted to be in a classroom ASAP.

There are many programs out there - Teach for America being the most well known. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find a program that suits your objectives and qualifications. I joined the NYC Teaching Fellows program immediately after graduation in 2003. This involved spending that summer in intensive training, teaching summer school, and taking college courses to make up education credits. I had my own classroom in an NYC public school by September.

It was a lot of work, and involved a lot of late nights due to college classes after full days teaching, the trials of planning lessons, and the urge to do more and more for my students. I could not be happier with my choice to join this profession - others have already listed the reasons why it is so rewarding.

This is my first time writing on Chiefdelphi - I have read for a few years now, but remained silent. I had to speak up here because while deciding to teach is quite rewarding on its own, it also put me in a position to mentor the FRC team that had been started at my school the year before I got there. It is a perfect opportunity to share my enthusiasm for engineering with the students that I teach. I have met and worked with some amazing individuals through this - Wayne Penn and Gary Israel from #395, Mike Siegel from #375, and even getting to meet Dean Kamen (and be incredibly star-struck in front of my students in the process) at the NYC Regional in 2005. They have all inspired me to push myself to be more and more immersed in the FIRST message and do whatever it takes to spread it everywhere. I had the honor of bringing my team home to the Buckeye regional (I grew up East of Cleveland) this past year. It made me realize how much FIRST has changed my life. If I hadn’t entered the teaching profession, I might not have made this realization, or met the amazing people and students that I have met over the past few years.

The most amazing experience is sitting down with my students and working WITH them on tasks, particularly when I really don’t know the exact way to do it. They get to see how I attack a problem, and then work with me to solve it. They see that I don’t get the right answer the first time, and that this is perfectly OK, because I am still learning and always will be. I wasn’t a member of an FRC team in high school or college, but I am having SO much fun, and I don’t have to worry about graduating in four years.

My point is that anyone that is FIRST minded should consider teaching of one form or another. I have caught a very strong case of FIRST fever. I have come to believe that there is no better way to inspire students to join the FIRST cause than to be right alongside them in the classroom, reminding them to do their homework.

Enough of my sermon, enough procrastinating. It’s time to plan my classes or tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,


Thanks for the responses everyone. I found all the info on the California requirements and whatnot.

EDIT: Has anyone here been (or is anyone currently) an Industrial Technology teacher? If that’s you, please reply here. And other teachers, reply here too, and tell how and why you first got into it. Thanks.

First off you are “NUTS”

Secondly I don’t think you want to be a Tech Ed. teacher. Schools are dropping their Tech programs at an alarming rate. I am a Tech Ed teacher in a school that has dropped its Tech program and I am here to handle internships and teach Project Lead the Way courses. If I were you I would get a Physics license and then you would be very valuable to a school system. Physics teachers are as hard to find as Japanese and Chinese language teachers. You can then teach Project Lead the Way courses from there. I like what I do and I love my students but I can honestly say that I hate the system. Many of my perceptions have changed about teaching since I have been in and I am certainly not here for the reasons I thought I was when I graduated college. Hey, the only thing that I would rather do than teach is milk cows and I don’t see that happening. Good Luck

There are universities starting entire departments for “Engineering Education.” I work with some dedicated and very talented folks here who are in this evolving field.

I have gotten to know hundreds of people through FIRST. And there are a couple where I have said “You need to look into teaching because you have a gift.” They even post on chief delphi ! :wink:

I have had the real pleasure to meet some Teach for America teachers. And some even mentor FIRST teams and post on chiefdelphi. :wink: This program is not for everyone, but it attracts some really dedicated idealistic teachers.

I’ve been reading up on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing website, and it seems like after I get my degree, I could quite easily become a substitute teacher part time to try it out. Now, I know being a substitute teacher is probably quite different, but it’s easy to get into. Seems like all you have to do is pass the CBEST, complete the application, and pay the fee.

I know schools are dropping tech ed. But I still think it is a wonderful subject. I also am looking into Math and Physics.

I’m looking at Single Subject Credentials. It looks like you have to get your baccalaureate degree, take a single subject teacher preparation program, pass the CBEST, and take and pass any CSETs for whatever subjects you want. Seems like something I could do.

Could anyone tell me what a “single subject teacher preparation program” would consist of? Is this basically another year of college where you go to “how to be a teacher” school? Do they put you in classrooms as an assistant?


Quick question: Why do you want to go into teaching?

If the answer isn’t because it’s something you’ve wanted to do for the majority of your life, chances are you won’t be happy doing it. Make sure your reasons for going into it are clear.

Now, substitute teaching is most definitely not the same as teaching. Neither is mentoring a FIRST team. If you’re thinking it’s a way to springboard yourself into always having a FIRST team, don’t! After a long day of teaching, you probably will be kicking yourself most of the time at staying even longer. (Staying over at any job is not fun.)

The Single Subject Exams are supposed to be extremely difficult to pass, at least in English. I took the Praxis and SSAT for English immediately after graduating and had no problem passing them. Many people take them at least twice from my understanding. Take the tests immediately after graduation while you remember half the stuff. The other half won’t help because it will do things like give you a prompt and then ask a question that seems completely unrelated to the prompt.

There are also a variety of ways to get a credential in the Los Angeles area. The first is to go to school before getting into the classroom. The drawback here is that you may spend a lot of time and money before realizing this is the wrong thing for you. The second is to go into teaching with an emergency credential. This lets you into the classroom immediately and take classes at night. The third option specifically for LAUSD, although other districts might have it, is their District Intern Program. This is a program where you teach during the day, go to classes paid for by the district once a week for three years, and then get a credential. Be aware that the units earned from this program are non-transferrable meaning that if you were to switch districts, your pay would drop to the bottom of the scale. This program also requires things like 16 hours of visiting where the students hang out, their homes, jobs, etc with only 2 hours being allowed at a single location. It also requires a portfolio to be made.

In all of the above cases, some of the classes will teach you something useful, but more often than not, they are busywork. Until you are in the classroom, you won’t know what questions to ask.

And, once again, I would ask yourself why you want to go into teaching. The answer to this is critical to whether you should be doing it at all.

Hope this helps,

For the single subject, I believe the CSET is the test now. (with the afformentioned ones being phased out. At least that’s what I think I read). I don’t really know anything about it. Has anyone here taken a CSET?

I was fortunate enough to have a pretty high quality education. Many students aren’t. Perhaps I can help change that.

Anyhow, I can probably do a Emergency Substitute Teaching Permit For Prospective Teachers this summer (if substitute teachers are still needed in the summer, year round school perhaps?). I would just need to pass the CBEST. Has anyone taken it?

You asked “What does a person have to do to get into teaching?” The simple answer to that is you need to be passionate about it and you need to be capable of being inspired by the sometimes simple yet powerful act of learning. There are, however, many other considerations such as proficiency in a specific content area, the ability to manage people and time, a desire to be a lifelong learner, and so on.

I have to agree and disagree with what some have said in this thread. I agree that you need to be a teacher for reasons other than financial gain because the pay isn’t equivalent to those of other professions. On the other hand, the benefits (health/dental/retirement) are pretty good. I also agree that it takes a special person to be a teacher.

I have to diasgree with what Scott said (sorry Scott!) about Technology Education (or any equivalent subject by a different name) being on the way out. In Wisconsin I have seen two big initiatives take place in the last few years. The first is a transition from Technology Education to Technology and Engineering. The change goes beyond a simple name change to something more fundamental - the need for more technically literate citizens with engineering being at the core of that need. We still offer what are considered “tradiditional shop classes” but infuse them with technology when it is economically and physically viable. Understanding core concepts (welding, using a saw, checking the timing on a car) are still necessary and will be for some time. Our district has made T & E a priority and has put their money where there mouth is. Other districts around us dumped their Tech Ed programs a few years ago for purely financial reasons and are now struggling to bring them back. Money should not be a reason for dropping a program. Of course, that would be in a perfect world.

The second big initiative in the state is that of PLTW. Four years ago our charter school was one of only three schools in the state offering Project Lead the Way. Now, thanks to DPI support and a grant from the Kern Family Foundation, there are about 60 schools statewide that are offering PLTW classes. In addition, UW-Stout (the school that trains T & E teachers) is offering a specialization in PLTW for it’s T & E undergrads.

Cools things are happening in our district with regards to education in general and it makes my job loads of fun. But the bottom line is teaching boils down to the ability to excite others about the process of learning. If you’ve got the enthusiasm and a knack (read as: patience and persistence) for working with kids, teaching is definitely for you.

Good luck!!


Oh, good… he’s qualified, then! :slight_smile:

I can’t speak for the American experience, but as a Canadian Tech Studies/Industrial Ed/Shop Teacher with a background in Engineering, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tech studies courses tend to be electives, meaning for the most part you tend to get students who choose to be there, as opposed to required courses where you get everyone whether they want to be there or not. The curriculum for Tech Studies also tends to be much more flexible, and is – at least here in BC – not constrained by having to teach towards Provincial/State exams. That’s why we can build robots in class…

Of course having a shop that involves many potentially dangerous power tools does require some additional education (on the other hand, you do get to use tools as your textbooks…). In BC you would have to complete a two-year diploma in tech studies before spending another year getting your B.Ed. All teachers in B.C. are required to have a minimum of a B.Ed, with a very few, very specialized exceptions.

Teaching is a great career choice, and tech studies I think is one of the better options for someone technically inclined… but remember that you aren’t likely to start out with a FIRST team… more likely with a more challenging class… and you aren’t likely to start out with any funding. The kids will know you are a rookie and will challenge you. It will be very demanding, and not particularly financially rewarding. You will be expected to teach to a variety of learning abilities, language abilities, and levels of interest. You will work evenings, weekends, and never get paid overtime. You will get great holidays… but burn them taking courses. From the sound of it, you will have to write a number of exams… that I am sure are all very meaningful (yeah, right.) But you will learn every year, and occasionally you will realize that what you are doing is actually very meaningful, even if it isn’t always recognized as such. A quality public education, after all, is a neccessary component of any democracy.

Good luck, have fun, and be ready to work your $@#$@#$@# off. It ain’t as easy as it looks.


I did take this. The math goes through algebra. As an engineering major, you shouldn’t have any problem with this section. The English is a two part section. The first is the basic grammar, answer base on a given paragraph, multiple choice type of section. The second part is the essay section where you are given two prompts to write on. All they are looking for is a standard five paragraph essay. It was the essay section that I had the most trouble with because I was trained not to write a standard five paragraph essay; and, I was taught to think before ever picking up a pen to write. (That’s not a good thing when you only have one hour to write.)

One thing that most teachers in the LA area will do is put the TV on KLCS and watch homework hotline to do their review before taking the test.

I went into the test cold and passed it. (Then again, that’s how I treat all standardized tests. I figure I can take them again and study, as required.)