Recent changes in the world of education have brought to light new programs for alternative certification for teachers and fast track teaching degrees, making it much easier to become a teacher. Why the change? Since the mid 1980s, there has been a steadily increasing demand for teachers. In 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act further amplified concerns about this shortage by increasing teacher accountability. Additionally, according to the National Center for Education Information (NCEI), some key trends continue to affect the education system.
• The number of students continues to rise (particularly high school students)
• Teacher retirements are increasing (50% of all teachers are over 50 years old)
• 30% to 50% of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years
• Fewer students at traditional colleges are enrolling in education programs
Certification Alternatives for Teaching
In order to become a teacher, you must have a teaching certification. Traditionally, certification is the process by which four-year colleges or universities provide professional recognition to graduates of their education programs. Traditional education majors spend four years taking the required coursework to earn this certification.
But because of the critical teacher shortage—particularly in the inner cities and rural areas of the United States—an alternative teaching certification has been created, also called Emergency Certification, or Accelerated Certification. Becoming a teacher is easier today than ever before; you no longer are required to have a teaching degree. If you have a bachelors degree in another field, an alternative certification for teachers will fast track you into the classroom.
These alternate routes to getting a teaching certification have radically changed the teaching landscape. More men, non-whites, and older individuals with long careers are now entering the school system as teachers. The NCEI reports a few characteristics of those pursuing Alternative Certification.
- 70% are over 30 years old
- 38% are male
- 30% are non-white
- 46% are teaching in large cities
- 50% were working in non-education occupations prior to earning their certification
The best news about Alternative Certification for teachers is that these new educators feel highly qualified to teach (nearly 97%), and nearly half of them say they would have not become teachers if the Alternative Certification for teachers programs had not been an option. Most Alternative Certification programs offer flexible or compressed scheduling, allowing individuals who are already working an easy and accessible way to earn their certification.
Who Qualifies for Alternative Teacher Certification Program?
Alternative Certification Teacher programs are geared toward individuals who already have a Bachelor’s Degree and do not want to return to college to earn a full education degree, but who do need some additional coursework and classroom experience to qualify.
Either the Alternative Certification Teacher program or the state establishes other qualifications, such as grade point average or other suitability standards.
Where Can I Find an Alternative Teacher Certification Program?
In 1999, the non-profit Center for Education Information (CEI) surveyed many colleges and universities and found that 65% of schools that offer Education Degrees are now offering at least one program for those interested in getting certified to teach but do not have a teaching degree.
If you are considering earning your certification through an alternative program, the NCEI suggests several guidelines to consider when choosing a program.
- The program has been designed for individuals who already have a bachelors degree
- Candidates for the program must pass a rigorous screening process
- The program is field-based.
- The program includes coursework or equivalent experiences in professional education studies before and while teaching.
- Program candidates work closely with mentor teachers.
- Program candidates must meet high performance standards to complete the program.
Bringing Life Experience to Teaching
There are some who criticize Alternative Certification programs, but the bottom line is that there are not enough qualified teachers in many subjects to teach all of the students that need teaching. Alternative certification for teachers programs are needed to help individuals become teachers faster than ever before.
Non-traditional teaching candidates, including those who have already been part of the workforce or are specialized more directly in their field, or those who have decided they need a career change, bring this life experience to the classroom and offer students a new perspective.