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Find Out How Long a Teacher Has to Go to College

classroom with a group of college students

Are you passionate about helping students learn? Do you have a specific type of student or subject you want to teach? The path to becoming a teacher can be an exciting one for students with leadership skills who love inspiring others. No matter what grade level or area of expertise you want to share as a teacher, you can expect to be in school no less than four years. Most students want to know how many years in college to become a teacher before they really make the decision to move forward. This is understandable, since enrolling in college is a big commitment, and serious investment. 

If you want to know 'how long does a teacher have to go to college,' we will break it down for you as simply as possible.  

In short, you will at least have to earn your bachelor's degree to begin a teaching career. Even then, there are additional steps each state will make you take before you can be hired in a teaching role. For students who already have their bachelor's level education (or higher), you will need to speak with schools about teacher certification programs. This type of program could take anywhere from 1-2 years, depending on type of program, and whether you go full or part-time. 

How long do you have to go to school to be a teacher at the college level?

If that's your goal, then you will need to plan for a doctorate level education. First, you should look into master's or graduate certificate level programs. For instance, in Oregon, you can teach Art with a master's level education. Sometimes, colleges will allow teachers to work with a masters degree, if you have proven experience in your field. Each step of your graduate level education will likely add 18-24 months of education and training for completion. 

How many years in college to become a teacher that works as a substitute?

Sometimes, bachelor's degree holders aren't sure if they want a full-time or permanent teaching job. This is why substitute teaching can be a good choice before pursuing full certification. In many school districts, certification is not required. Substitutes simply need a bachelor's degree, and pass an interview process. This will include fingerprinting, background check, contacting references, and other standard requirements. To find out 'how long do you have to go to school to be a teacher as a substitute, speak with your local district and colleges. 

There are states that require long-term substitute teachers to be certified. For professionals that currently have their bachelors, reach out to local colleges with education programs to get these details. Or, your state most likely spells out the details for earning a substitute teaching license on their website. Many states also require substitute teachers to renew their license every year. Other states, like Ohio, offer 1 and 5 year teaching licenses. So, if you decide you want to continue teaching full-time, start looking into alternative teacher certification programs. For professionals who want to know how long do you have to go to school to be a teacher, plan on 1-2 years. 

For students who are just starting out in their education, go ahead and look at bachelor's in education programs to get started. This type of program will help you build a foundation of knowledge and applied teaching skills before earning your license. You will focus on classroom management, learning styles, and other areas that are specific to teaching. Students who have bachelor's degrees in other areas have to play catch-up when they move towards teaching careers. By the time you complete your degree, you can have a gameplan for working with all kinds of students, and be ready to step into your teaching job with confidence. Figuring out how many years in college to become a teacher doesn't have to be stressful, if you take the time to plan things out. 

For experts or subject matter experts, don't fret about transitioning into teaching roles. It might seem like a big commitment, spending a couple of years in school. Especially after spending years in the workforce. But your teacher training can be exciting, and go by pretty quickly. Alternative teacher certification programs will focus on channeling your work experience into the best teaching role for you – and your students. Courses will help you understand how to interact with students to produce optimal learning outcomes. You will find that communicating with students is different than the way you are used to interacting with co-workers. These are things you have to consider, in addition to how long do you have to go to school to be a teacher. 

Advanced degrees can also prepare you for leadership positions in education settings. Working at the executive level can qualify you for jobs that impact curriculum design, public policy, and community outreach. When you consider going beyond the bachelor's level, think outside the box and research other types of jobs in education than teacher or professor positions. The field of education has grown way beyond the classroom and halls of our schools. Private companies and government agencies also need skilled professionals with teaching experience or specialized expertise in education. 

But many professionals make the transition into the classroom with relative ease. If you are naturally a people person, have a genuine interest in teaching, and the self-discipline to earn your degree, you can become a teacher too. And you can expect to spend anywhere from 4-7 years completing your education and earning your license. That's about as simple of an answer for the 'how long does a teacher have to go to college' question as we can give. To get a more accurate picture, you will need to discuss your own situation and goals to really understand what you're it will take for you.