Home Five Ways to Get Started in Teaching

Five Ways to Get Started in Teaching

Reviewed by Jon Konen, District Superintendent

Have the desire to lead a classroom full of kids toward new discoveries, but lack the credentials? Maybe you’ve got a college degree, but it’s not in education? Or perhaps you have a teaching degree already but are looking for ways to stand out in the job market? Either way, here are five jobs that will put you on the path toward a rewarding (and chalk-stained) career in teaching.

Teaching English Abroad

Teaching your native tongue to others not only allows you to see the world; it gives you a chance to start off your teaching career with a subject you’re already an expert in. The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program is one of the best-known opportunities for teaching overseas, but there’s also demand for English teachers in China, Thailand, Chile, Argentina, and a host of other countries.

Necessary Qualifications
Requirements vary from program to program, but in general, you’ll have better luck landing a gig if you’ve got a college degree and can speak some of the language of the country where you’re seeking work.

How This Will Help You Later
You’ll get in-classroom experience plus, if you eventually want to teach a foreign language in the States, you’ll have an edge over applicants who haven’t lived abroad.


Did you ace the SAT, or were you a whiz at American history? Share your knowledge. Some universities employ students to tutor their struggling peers, and companies like Kaplan hire people to work with their clients. Or, if you’re enterprising, you can start your own service.

Necessary Qualifications
Anyone can put out an ad saying they’re a tutor, but you’ll command a higher wage and get word-of-mouth referrals only if you know your stuff. Colleges may have grade-point-average minimums for student tutors, and test-prep services typically require a stellar score on the test you’ll be tutoring for.

How This Will Help You Later
When a hiring principal asks you about individualized instruction, you’ll be able to start your answer with, “Here are some things I learned in my tutoring days…”

Substitute Teaching

Substitute teachers are famous targets for spitballs, but if you’re willing to dodge them, answer your phone at 5 am and rush to fill in for the flu-ridden geometry teacher subbing can be a good way to get your foot in the door.

Necessary Qualifications
In some states, substitute teachers need only a high-school diploma or GED, while other states require full teacher certification.

How This Will Help You Later
You may get offered a full-time job when a slot opens up at a school where you’ve subbed.


This is about as close as you can get to a K-12 teaching job, other than the real thing. You’re teaching kids all day just younger ones!

Necessary Qualifications
As with substituting, this varies by state.

How This Will Help You Later
Nothing hones your classroom management skills like trying to corral a crowd of toddlers. Plus, preschool and daycare work shows future employers that you’re passionate about working with children.

Alternative Teaching Programs

Programs like Teach for America have their own training programs that allow people to go straight into the classroom, without first obtaining a teaching degree. Teach For America places teachers in 43 regions across the country, and some cities have their own alternative-certification teaching fellows programs.

Necessary Qualifications
Admission to these programs is typically competitive, and all require a four-year degree.

How This Will Help You Later
You’ll start your teaching career with a built-in network of colleagues who may later be able to help you connect with advancement opportunities. Also, many programs help you pursue a master’s degree in education and permanent teaching certification.

Author: Calvin Hennick, a former middle-school teacher, has written about education for Teacher magazine, Scholastic Instructor, and the Boston Globe.