What to Expect from a Teacher Education Program

For those who dream of having a teaching career, enrolling in a teacher education program is the first step towards obtaining teaching licenses and making such dreams a reality. Teacher education programs vary from one school to the next, in their curriculum, graduation requirements, and state licensing requirements. Despite these differences, such programs require several common qualifications for being a teacher.

Choosing a Career Path

In the past, most universities and community colleges had generalized programs that covered all levels of education and graduates were free to teach any grade level. Today, there are separate teacher education programs for both the primary and secondary levels. After a specific career path is chosen, an adviser outlines the course requirements for graduation and for obtaining teaching licenses.


Teaching licenses are only granted after an applicant has completed a specific subject area test related to their specific career field. These tests apply to teachers in much the same way a bar exam applies to lawyers. The PRAXIS exam is the most common and widely accepted licensing test, although many states have tests of their own.

Field Studies

All states require that applicants have some form of internship or fieldwork to qualify for a teaching license. Although a semester of student teaching is a requirement at all accredited teacher education programs, the latest approach to teacher education is to have more basic field experience requirements at the lower levels to weed out applicants who are academically unfit or are unsure if a career in teaching is the right choice for them. The most common method of satisfying this requirement is to participate in a basic class observation or assistant experience in which the teacher-in-training visits a school for brief periods under the supervision of an adviser. It is also common to require future teachers to log a number of hours of substitute teaching or tutoring to meet this requirement.

Special Requirements

In addition to course work, it is normal for teacher education programs to have special requirements such as major thesis papers, the creation of a lengthy teaching unit, or a presentation which demonstrates knowledge of procedures, assessments and other current practices in education. For more information on these and other teacher education requirements, contact a teacher education adviser.