A beginner’s guide on how to become a teacher

Written by Kate Lopaze

Few people have the power to affect others’ lives as much as teachers do. From childhood classrooms to continuing education programs (because it’s never too late to be a student), teachers bring that educational expertise and commitment to their own career paths, choosing a profession that may not make them millionaires, but can bring incredible fulfillment. If you’re thinking about this profession as a student or as a career changer, we’ve got the tools you’ll need to get started—and to succeed once you become a teacher.

What do you want to teach?

First, it’s important to think about what you want to teach. Are you better with young kids or are you more into subjects better suited to high schoolers or college students, like advanced math or English? Sometimes picking that specialty is easy—maybe you’ve already got a passion for conjugating French verbs or are a whiz with kids who are just learning how to do the basics. If you know you want to be an educator but aren’t sure yet what path to take, it can’t hurt to start with a little quiz and some background info about different kinds of teaching careers.

What Grade Should You Teach Based on Your Personality?

10 fulfilling teaching jobs that pay more than $60k per year

How to jumpstart your career in education

How to become a paraprofessional

How to become a substitute teacher

How to become a kindergarten teacher

10 teaching jobs you can get outside the classroom

Or maybe you’re not trying to figure out what you want to teach, so much as the why. What does the teaching field look like? What can you expect once you get in the classroom? Is it even a good fit for you? Now is the time to figure that out.

A quick guide to understanding what it takes to be a teacher

5 reasons teaching might not be for you

Where are the best paying teacher jobs?

Once you’ve decided, “Okay, this is what I want to do,” it’s time to pick the where. Teaching can be totally different depending on where you are—an urban classroom in Chicago may have very little in common with a rural classroom in Texas. There’s also the matter of salary. The common saying goes that teachers are chronically underpaid for everything they do, but the pay can vary pretty widely depending on where you are. If you have some geographic flexibility, it’s worth looking around the country to see where you can make the most out of your teaching salary, looking at factors like the pay itself and the cost of living. And don’t discount the “where will you be happy?” factor. If you pick Alaska due to the crazy high teacher salaries, but hate the cold, then that impacts your quality of life, and ultimately your career as well.

One of the best things about teaching is that the skills are transferrable—the main difference between teaching in one place and another is that each state has different requirements, so when you’re scoping out a place to stake your teaching career, be sure to check out what kind of training and certification are necessary for the level you want to teach.

The top-paying cities for teachers

The teacher job search

The first step on your teaching job hunt, as with any job search, is getting your resume and cover letter in order. Because education and certification are so important for future teachers, it’s important to make those elements shine in your application package, even if you don’t yet have a ton of teaching experience.

Check out the following information on creating your best possible resume.

Strategies for writing an ideal teacher resume

How to write a perfect teaching resume (examples included)

Does your resume pass this key checklist?

Resume summaries—how to write and use them

Powerful Action Verbs That Will Make Your Resume Look Like a Million Bucks

And here are some tips for writing a cover letter to get you noticed:

Cover letter guide: Writing your best cover letter for 2017

How to Write a Perfect Teacher Cover Letter (Examples Included)

Preparing for the interview

And it’s not just the resume and cover letter you need to prep—the interview is a key part of the process, whether you’re looking at your first in-person interview for a teaching job, or an interview to help you move up a level in your career.

Top 5 School Administrator Interview Questions

The ultimate guide on how to ace any job interview

8 interview strategies for introverts

Don’t underestimate the power of your interview outfit—as a teacher, you’ll be expected to look respectable and professional in the classroom and out of it. For teaching jobs, it’s best to err on the side of a conservative outfit. You don’t want to scandalize the interviewer, and make them think that you’ll show up at school in something inappropriate for kids.

The 5 types of interview outfits

As a teacher, it’s also important to have an elevator pitch beyond “I’m a teacher,” or “I’m a recent grad who wants to teach.” Your elevator pitch can help you craft the narrative of who you are as a teacher, and what you value most as an educator.

How to create your elevator pitch and get hired

In the classroom

Once you’ve gotten past the job search and are thinking ahead toward settling in the classroom, there are also some tips and insights you should keep in mind even before day one of teaching.

10 tips all new teachers should know

10 TED Talks to inspire teachers

Whatever you encounter on the road to becoming a teacher, remember: you’re choosing a path that many people are just not willing or ready to take. We want to do everything we can to help you achieve your own goals as you take on the joys and challenges of teaching. Good luck!

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.