Do Private Schools Require Teachers to Be Certified?

Teacher walking past a row of students sitting at their desks.

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Teaching can be a rewarding experience, and talented teachers are in high demand. But, some people are deterred from this career choice because they didn't pursue an education degree or aren't certified to teach. But, did you know that not every school requires certification to teach? It's true, and private schools in particular often place a high value on professionals who have work experience and can share their knowledge and experience with eager learners.

Private Schools That Don't Require Certification

Many private schools value degrees in related fields, work experience, knowledge, and natural teaching abilities over a certification. It's true that it does vary from school to school, but many private schools look beyond the teaching certificate or degree in education. A school will make it clear if certification is required — and even if a private school requires certification, you may be hired provisionally if the school feels you can meet the state certification eligibility requirements within a reasonable length of time. 

Most private schools require evidence of a bachelor's degree and a background check before approving a new hire, and master's degrees and doctorates are highly desired. But, apart from those requirements, what a private school is really looking for are teachers who can inspire students and bring great experience to the classroom. Research has shown that good teachers are often professionals blessed with superb verbal abilities. Put another way, they know how to communicate their subject extremely well. That has little or nothing to do with certification.

Coming in right behind superb verbal abilities is the experience. A private school will value these attributes far more than teacher training or education courses alone.

Are Certified Teachers Better Teachers?

According to the Abell Foundation's report "Teacher Certification Reconsidered: Stumbling For Quality," there is inconclusive evidence that certified teachers are more effective in the classroom. Teacher certification is a concoction of the political-educational establishment to protect, shield, and justify the inadequacies of public education. After all, the state education office only looks at transcripts and required courses to determine if certification standards have been met — it never actually watches a teacher teach.

This is why private schools value a teacher who is passionate about his or her subject more than they value teachers who are certified to teach a subject. Yes, the private school headmaster will look at your transcripts, but what they will really focus on is results and your ability to be a great teacher. Are you inspiring your students? Are they excited about learning?

Is a Degree Important?

You have to know your subject, obviously, but believe it or not, your degree doesn't have to perfectly align with the subject. Most upper schools will value strong tertiary level credentials highly. A master's or a doctorate in your subject is an excellent door-opener at these elite educational institutions. However, many seasoned professionals have degrees that don't relate to the subjects they intend to teach. A history teacher with a math degree isn't the norm, but it has happened. Schools want to know that you have a superior mastery of the subject at hand, and work experience can go a long way. 

While it may seem odd to possess a degree that doesn't directly relate to what you intend to teach, the rapid changing of today's industries and skillsets make it a necessity for private schools to be progressive about their hiring. Many graduates with humanities degrees have found themselves in the technology industry, which may have them working in a number of fields with a wide variety of experiences. Schools will look to hire professionals with degrees, yes, but they also want to see that you have something to bring to the classroom. Coding, software development, technical writing, research, website development, and marketing are just a few examples of non-traditional subjects that schools are teaching today, and your talents of actually working in these industries and ability to share those talents with students may give you the edge on someone who possesses a degree in that subject but doesn't have real-world experience. 

Getting a Private School Teaching Job

If you want to increase the likelihood of getting hired, research specialty programs. The ability to teach Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate level courses is also another big advantage. While you likely won't get training until you're actually hired, familiarity with these programs shows that you're ready to embrace a specific style of teaching.

In academia, a bachelor's degree is only the first step in your educational journey. Many schools value master's and doctoral degrees as further proof that you have mastered your material. Private schools often provide tuition assistance to help you further your education, too, so if you're interested in going back to school, let the hiring committee know. 

Special education, guidance counseling, curriculum development, digital media, website developing, coding, vocational education, media specialist — these are just a handful of specialist areas which are much in demand. While not in the same league with a terminal or a master's degree, subject certification shows that you have explored methodology and current practice in your area in some depth. Assuming you keep those certificates updated, you will contribute to your chosen academic community and can increase the chances that you will be an asset to a school's academic curriculum. 

The Importance of Technology Experience

Using a tablet, PC, and an electronic whiteboard effectively are essential skills in the classroom these days. Communicating via email and instant messaging are givens. Private schools have been in the vanguard of educational technology since the mid-1990s. Understanding how to use technology effectively in your teaching is not something certification has even begun to address and measure.

Teaching Experience Helps

If you have taught for three to five years, then you have worked out most of the kinks. You understand classroom management. You have figured out how to truly teach your subject. You can connect with your students. You have learned how to communicate with the parents. Experience counts far more than certification as a rule. This can come in the form of a teaching internship, grad school teaching assistant, or even involvement in programs like Teach for America.

Sources

"Teacher Certification Reconsidered: Stumbling for Quality." National Council on Teacher Quality, 2018, Washington, D.C.

"Teaching AP for the First Time?" AP Central, College Board.

"Teaching the IB in your language." International Baccalaureate.

"What We Do." Teach For America, Inc., 2018.