Ready to launch your teaching career? Rio Salado Educator Preparation Programs staff member Paulina Ngo has advice and answers to some of the most common questions for newcomers to the teaching profession.
How do I become a teacher?
As a Student Services Analyst Sr in a college educator preparation department, I can say that this is the most frequently asked question we get.
Most states have the same standard licensure requirements: completing an approved educator preparation program, clearing a background and/or fingerprint check and passing the state’s exams for the certification.
While these requirements may appear pretty basic, it is helpful to break down each requirement into manageable steps.
Completing an approved educator preparation program
Investigate potential colleges or universities to see if they offer a state-approved educator preparation program. You will want to ensure the program you are pursuing leads to certification and not just a degree.
For example, some universities offer a degree in education but do not include all of the state certification requirements such as student teaching.
Don’t rule out community colleges. Candidates who begin their degree program at a community college typically save thousands of dollars through lower tuition costs. Community college does not mean lower quality. Many community college educator preparation programs have been recognized nationally for their work.
Rio Salado College now offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary and Special Education. This degree program is ideal for individuals who want a dual certification in Elementary and Special Education. This program is offered at Rio Salado College, but up to 65 credits may be taken at any of the Maricopa Community Colleges or coursework can be evaluated from any accredited institution. Applicants should first work with an academic advisor to understand the transferability of courses into the program.
We also offer two unique Post Baccalaureate Programs for applicants who already possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution:
Traditional Post-Baccalaureate Program for individuals who would like to pursue certification at their own pace.
Teacher In Residence Post Baccalaureate Program allows individuals to accept a full-time teaching position while simultaneously completing their teacher certification coursework and student teaching.
Clearing a background and/or fingerprint check
Any person seeking teacher certification must clear a state background and/or fingerprint check. These checks are made through the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). For specific instructions, visit your state’s department of education website. As a rule of thumb, expect the process to take 6-8 weeks. School districts may require a separate background check for job applicants.
Passing the state’s exams for the certification
Generally, there are two state mandated exams required for certification: a subject/content knowledge exam and a professional knowledge exam. Teaching candidates must receive a passing score on both exams, except for Special Education: Mild to Moderate candidates in Arizona. In Arizona, Special Education: Mild to Moderate only requires passage for the Professional Knowledge exam. The subject/content exam measures how much a person knows about a specific subject area as defined by the state’s academic standards. The professional knowledge exam measures how much a person knows about teaching/pedagogical skills.
Now that you’ve learned the basics of how to become a teacher, I encourage you to research programs in your area for specific information. Rio Salado College does not offer its online program to students outside of the state of Arizona.
Rio Salado College Educator Preparation Program Orientation Sessions and who to contact:
At Rio Salado, we offer free virtual orientation sessions to help you learn more about our teacher education programs, requirements and how we can help you transition to teaching.
- Traditional Post-Baccalaureate: This program is a great opportunity for individuals with a bachelor’s degree to work toward their Teaching Certification. Register here. Or email email@example.com for more information.
- Teacher In Residence: This program provides a convenient and cost-effective way for students and working professionals with a bachelor’s degree to transition into a K-12 teaching career. Through paid employment opportunities in the classroom, students can earn an income while completing the certification coursework. Register here. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Classes begin in Fall 2023 for Rio Salado's new bachelor's in Elementary Education & Special Education (Dual Certification). Join an info session! RSVP or email BAEE.email@example.com for more information.
Paulina Ngo serves as the Student Services Analyst Sr for Rio Salado's Educator Preparation Program, celebrating 17 years of service to the college and 16 years as a member of the Educator Preparation Program team.