Do You Need a Bachelor of Education to Become an Educator?

Michele Snoke
Michele Snoke
Elementary school principal; M.S.E. in Educational Leadership
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The traditional route for educators is to declare education as the choice of Bachelor of Education for an undergraduate student aspiring to become an educator in elementary, middle, or high school. Years ago, many students only applied to colleges that specialized in instructing future teachers, calling these colleges: “teaching colleges.” Most colleges that started as teaching colleges have evolved to full universities, now offering advanced degrees for students seeking to further their knowledge as educators. However, as K-12 classroom instruction has evolved, so have the higher education and state requirements for the teachers in those classrooms.

How I Became an Educator Without a Bachelor of Education

When pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology, my course study involved child development, sparking my interest in a possible education career. The child development courses in the psychology department covered the early stages of development through adult development, giving any psychology undergraduate a solid foundation to be helpful in a classroom setting.

The child development courses also required observation hours to be conducted, and what better place to watch the development of children than in a classroom environment? While conducting these observations, my psychology studies helped me understand how students were learning based on the behaviors I observed in the classroom. For example, some students were more physical and learned better while moving about; this is also known as kinesthetic learning.

Other students sat and intently listened to the teachers’ instructions and could answer questions with amazing recall. It could be safely assumed these students would be classified as auditory learners. Observing these behaviors in the students and watching their “light bulbs” go off, intrigued me, and inspired me to become a teacher, even though I had not experienced any college course in the Education Department at my university.

After earning my Bachelor of Science in Psychology, I enrolled back into college to complete the eight class requirements necessary to earn my state teaching license. Six of the eight courses were methods classes involving teaching specific areas such as reading, math, social studies, science, physical education, and music in an elementary setting. The most important requirement of each course was to present several lessons in front of the other students.

The professor recorded each lesson, providing criticism that would add up to a grade and sharing the lessons with the class to encourage peer review. The last two courses required were an entry-level education history course and a classroom management class. Upon completing all classes, I was certified to teach Kindergarten through sixth grade in my home state. Later in my career, my state license and my PRAXIS scores provided me with reciprocity to receive a state teaching license from a different state.

How My Master’s Degree Helped My Career in Education

After completing eight years of teaching various elementary grade levels and one year of middle school literature, I had decided to pursue a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. I was privileged to be led by some very influential principals at the two schools and I knew that I wanted to lead a school and empower other teachers. In my ninth year of teaching, I decided to enroll in a university to earn a master’s degree.

The program I selected was a two-year commitment, so while teaching in the classroom during the day, I studied and attended graduate classes in the evening. The coursework required more observations to be done with the current administration at my school and other schools. Quickly I used my knowledge of psychology to notice the behaviors of leaders and compared that with their effectiveness at their school. Once again, my undergraduate degree in psychology lends itself to my studies in education.

The final project in my graduate program involved a research project to determine the best assessment tools. Since I was currently teaching in the classroom, I could conduct the research with my students. Once my graduate studies concluded, I was fortunate to be hired as assistant principal of my current school. After seven years of assisting the principal, I applied to become a principal.

My Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership was the requirement to become an administrator. Still, my undergraduate study in psychology is an important resource for understanding the personality traits of over 60 faculty members, 650 students, and 400 families.

I rely on my Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership to help develop school culture, curriculum, public relations, and budgets. My psychology studies assist me with handling daily human resources issues at school.

Do You Need a Bachelor of Education to Become an Educator?

Educators earning an undergraduate degree in education spend four years with the clear goal of knowing that after earning a Bachelor of Education, they will enter a classroom to teach. These students often spend one semester of their education as a student teacher, learning from an established teacher, on-the-job training, but without compensation. Students with an education bachelor’s degree may have also become a member of a network of first-year teachers. This network can share ideas and provide the camaraderie needed in a demanding profession.

Teachers without an education bachelor’s, like myself, immersed in the required courses to earn the state’s teaching license and sometimes might be already teaching while completing course work, are usually compensated. These teachers are called Lateral Entry or Emergency Certified teachers. These educators typically do not have a support group of other teachers that can share ideas, and teaching may not be their first career. Teachers with experience in another career can lend them expertise in one or more subject areas, which will enhance teaching in a classroom. Many teachers coming to the classroom after spending years in business usually hold exceptional organization, negotiating, and time management skills that enhance the classroom setting and benefit students.

For myself, my psychology degree and my first career experience in business, along with a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership gave me the perfect blend of skills to be an educator. However, the one ingredient all educators share with or without a Bachelor of Education is passion to teach any grade level and subject. Passion and a genuine desire to make a difference in the world make a great educator.

Interested in becoming an educator or advancing your career with a graduate degree? Check out our available graduate programs and get started today!

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