Do Private Schools Require Teachers to be Certified?

Find out what makes a private school teacher qualified to teach

Female teacher showing book to children (5-7) in class
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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.

Want to learn more? Check out these frequently asked questions.  

Do you have to be certified to teach in a private school?

Surprise! The answer is actually, no. 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 experience. A private school will value these attributes far more than mere teacher training or education courses.

Is there any evidence to suggest that certified teachers are better teachers?

According to the Abell Foundation's report Teacher Certification Reconsidered: Stumbling For Quality there is inconclusive evidence. In my opinion, 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 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 he 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 in my subject is 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 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. 

How can I increase my chances of getting a private school teaching job?

If you want to increase the likelihood of getting hired, research speciality 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 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 up those certificates updated, you will contribute much of value to your chosen academic community and can increase the chances that you will be an asset to a school's academic curriculum. 

How important is technology experience when it comes to teaching?

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-'90's. 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 3-5 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.

 

Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski