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How to Become a Career or Technical Education Teacher

Public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license. Requirements for certification vary by state. However, most states require the completion of a teacher preparation program and at least a bachelor’s degree or extensive work experience.


There are a variety of ways that someone can become licensed to teach as a career and technical education teacher.

Some teachers get a bachelor’s degree from a teacher preparation program in which they major in a content area, such as agriculture, and take classes in education and child psychology.

Other career and technical education teachers have a bachelor’s degree in the field they teach, such as engineering, computer science, or business.

Some teachers have a high school diploma and significant work experience in the field they teach, such as automotive mechanics or culinary arts. Teachers without training in education must enroll in an alternative certification program to receive the teacher training they need to get a state teacher's license.

Work Experience

Most states require career and technical education teachers to have work experience in the field they want to teach. As a result, many teachers spend time working before moving into teaching. For prospective teachers whose highest level of education is a high school diploma, extensive experience is typically required.

Licenses and Certification

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed, or, as it is frequently referred to, certified. Those who teach in private schools are not required to be licensed.

Requirements for certification vary by state. However, most states require completing a teacher preparation program and at least a bachelor’s degree or work experience in the field. Teacher preparation programs include supervised experience in teaching, which is typically gained through student teaching.

Some states require a minimum grade point average. States typically require candidates to pass a general teaching certification test, as well as a test of their knowledge in the subject they will teach. For certification requirements in your state, contact the U.S. Department of Education.

Teachers often must take annual professional development classes to keep their license. Most states require teachers to pass a background check, and some states require teachers to complete a master’s degree after receiving their certification.

All states offer an alternative route to certification for people who already have a bachelor’s degree or work experience in their field but lack the education courses required for certification.

Some alternative certification programs allow candidates to begin teaching immediately, under the supervision of an experienced teacher. These programs cover teaching methods and child development. When they finish the program, candidates are awarded full certification.

Other programs require students to take classes in education before teaching.

Students may be awarded a master’s degree after completing either of these programs. For information about alternative certification programs, contact the National Center for Alternative Certification.


Experienced teachers can advance to become mentors or lead teachers, working with less experienced teachers to help them improve their teaching skills.

With additional education or certification, teachers may become school counselors, school librarians, or instructional coordinators. Some become assistant principals or principals, positions that generally require additional training in education administration or leadership. For more information, see the profiles on school and career counselors, librarians, instructional coordinators, and elementary, middle, and high school principals.

After gaining enough experience, some career and technical education teachers instruct at community colleges. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Career and technical education teachers must collaborate with other teachers and members of the community. In addition, they need to discuss students’ needs with parents and administrators.

Creativity. Teachers must be able to develop interesting lesson plans to keep students’ attention and to teach students who learn in different ways.

Instructional skills. Career and technical education teachers need to be able to explain difficult concepts in terms that students understand. They help students develop skills through a variety of teaching techniques.

Organizational skills. Teachers in middle school and high school have many students in different classes throughout the day. They must be able to organize their materials and their time well.

Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. Teachers must be patient with students who struggle with material.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition