It takes about four years of college or university studies to earn a teaching degree but, once completed, there is still another very important step to take before taking charge of a classroom.
This important career move, in addition to the teaching degree itself, of course, is state licensure. The respective boards of education for every state plus the District of Columbia require licensure of public school teachers before they can begin work.
A typical teaching degree qualifies a graduate to work in a specific level of school, such as kindergarten, elementary, middle, or secondary, and state licenses are grade specific as well. Aspiring teachers who want to specialize in a particular subject, music or reading, for example, may be required to pass an exam focused on individual disciplines as well as teaching in general.
As a rule, and all teachers must become comfortable with establishing and keeping classroom rules, the licensure exam that follows a teaching degree focuses on the applicant's competency in basic educational skills such as reading and writing but they must also demonstrate knowledge in the subject in which they expect to teach. Basic teaching skills are also a part of the state licensing exam.
In the past decade or so, there has been a decline in the number of college and university graduates who do so with a teaching degree. This has led to a shortage of qualified school teachers, especially in some areas.
There are also concerns for the public school systems in the coming decade because many of the teachers now working face retirement soon and others simply leave the profession. This exodus from the school systems, combined with fewer graduates with a teaching degree, has led many states to implement alternative licensing programs in order to attract more teachers.
In these alternative licensing programs, a teaching degree isn't a requirement but a bachelor's degree in the subject to be taught is required. This degree is usually coupled with a one- or two-year training period wherein the person goes back to a school-sponsored training program to gain the teaching education missed while teaching or assisting in a classroom at the same time.
Regardless of whether a school teacher actually has a teaching degree or an alternative degree, in order to maintain a license to work, he or she will need to continue the education process by way of continuing education credits in order to renew or maintain the license to teach.