What Degree Do You Need To Be a Teacher?

female teacher smiling while students study behind her

Teaching can be a meaningful career, as it allows opportunities to inspire and guide generations to come. If you have decided to become a teacher, you may be wondering, What degree do I need to be a teacher? If teaching is going to be your first career and you do not already have a bachelor's degree, you will need to start there. Below, you can explore what to major in to become a teacher.

If you are already in a career and looking to switch to teaching, you might have the option to choose between earning a bachelor's degree or a master's-level teaching degree. It’s important to note that licensure requirements vary by state. Check with your state’s licensing agency to determine the right degree required to be a teacher.

In This Article:

What It Means To Go Into a Teaching Career

It’s common for teachers to enter this career because they want to make an impact on the lives of students and families. Indeed, education can make a significant impact on the future of students by empowering them to develop crucial skills, pursue stable employment, increase cultural awareness and give back to their own communities.1

If these enticing outcomes of education appeal to you, then becoming a teacher may be the right choice for you. However, if you’re not quite sure if teaching is for you, you might want to consider volunteering at a school to gain experience and insight into the field. Once you know that teaching is what you want to pursue, it’s time to take a look at the question, What degree does a teacher need?

What Degree Do I Need To Be a Teacher? A Look at the Options

The answer to this question will depend on a few factors — experience, licensure and state requirements. Although specific licensure requirements do vary, all states require teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree in order to teach in public schools. Private schools establish their own requirements, although it’s customary for them to also require a bachelor’s degree as a minimum qualification.2 

Typically, an education program that leads to licensure is ideal for students who are looking to earn their initial teaching license and who may already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-teaching field. It’s important to note that education degree programs that lead to licensure will include a student teaching or internship experience needed to seek certification. 

Programs that do not lead to licensure are for teachers who already hold a teaching license. Non-licensure programs do not contain the in-classroom teaching experience component necessary to obtain a teaching license.

In addition, all public school teachers must earn state certification or licensure,2 and ensure their teaching degree comes from an accredited university.3 Visit our program certification and requirements for education students page to learn more.

What To Major in To Become a Teacher: Bachelor’s Degrees

If you don’t yet have a bachelor’s degree, then earning an undergraduate degree is your first step to getting started on your path toward teaching in the classroom. You can earn a general degree in education, such as a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. In some cases, you may be able to choose a concentration, such as a BS in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in STEM.

It's important to consider your particular academic interests when weighing your degree options. If you pursue an education degree with licensure, you are required to complete a practicum or field experience, which can help prepare you to take the state exam for teaching licensure. 

If you plan to work at the middle or high school levels, you might be able to earn a teaching degree in a specific subject such as biology, English or history. In fact, some states require aspiring high school teachers to major in the content area they plan to teach.2 If your college does not offer specializations in teaching degrees, then consider pursuing a double major or a minor in your field of interest.

What Degree Does a Teacher Need at the Graduate Level?

There are a few answers to this question that depend on the experience you already have. For already certified teachers who work in the classroom, they may wish to enroll in a graduate program to further their career qualifications, whether they wish to continue working with students or work in another area of education, such as administration. In fact, in some states, teachers are required to obtain a master’s degree after obtaining licensure and a job.2 If you are already a licensed teacher, you may want to choose the non-licensure route

However, if you already hold a bachelor's degree but are not a licensed teacher, you can earn a master's degree in education in order to help yourself transition into the career.2 Those who pursue a master’s in education degree with licensure will complete a practicum or field experience and must pass the state exam for teaching licensure. 

Another career option is to pursue employment at the postsecondary level. At many community colleges, a master’s degree may be all that’s required to pursue a job as a professor. However, at four-year universities, it’s customary for professors to hold a doctoral degree, such as a PhD.4

Continuing Education

Most public school teachers must complete a certain number of professional development or continuing education hours to keep their state certification or license.2 In addition to enjoying opportunities to explore content areas further, continuing your education through additional coursework, workshops and seminars may also help you become a more effective educator. Lifelong learning is important at any stage, particularly for educators who can gain exposure to new teaching methods, educational research and classroom strategies.

If you are interested in earning a teaching degree, join us at Grand Canyon University’s College of Education. Choose from a range of degree programs oriented toward supporting student growth and achievement and integrated with the Christian worldview. Complete the form on this page to speak to a university counselor about getting started on your teaching degree.

1 Habitat for Humanity of Broward. (n.d.). 10 benefits showing why education is important to our society. Retrieved Jan. 8, 2024.

2 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, Sept. 6). How to become a high school teacher. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved Jan. 8, 2024.

3 Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. (n.d.). Why it matters. Retrieved Jan. 8, 2024. 

4 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, Sept. 6). How to become a postsecondary teacher. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved Jan. 8, 2024. 

Approved by the dean of the College of Education on Feb. 5, 2024. 

If seeking licensure or certification, applicants to the program are responsible for contacting their state department of education for licensure requirements and program approval. In addition, fingerprint and background clearance is required.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.