FAQs About Careers as Teachers or Other Educators

What to look for in a Teacher Preparation Program

There are special questions future teachers should ask when choosing a school of education. We have compiled a list of questions for prospective students which are based on the recommendations of professional organizations and the latest movements in education reform.

  • Does the institution offer a firm foundation in the liberal arts and teaching disciplines?

  • Are programs designed using subject matter-specific standards developed by specialized professional associations (e.g., the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, etc.)?

  • Does the institution have the resources necessary to support each of the programs it offers?

  • Does the institution prepare candidates to integrate technology into instruction? How well is technology integrated into the coursework at the institution? One course in ‘technology’ is not sufficient.

  • Does the institution provide many opportunities for candidates to learn how to teach under the supervision of a variety of veteran teachers? At what point does the candidate gain experience in P–12 schools? Many institutions now offer this experience as soon as possible so that prospective candidates better understand schools from a teacher’s point of view.

  • Does the institution prepare candidates to work with the growing diversity of America’s school population?

  • Do teacher candidates acquire knowledge of the most effective teaching strategies? How are teacher candidates evaluated on their performance by the institution? By whom are the prospective teachers evaluated? How is it accomplished?

  • What percent of the graduates pass the state licensing exam?

  • How does the institution seek feedback from graduates, and how is it incorporated into the program? What has been the feedback from graduates?

  • What has been the feedback from principals, department chairs, etc.at schools hiring graduates?

  • Does the faculty assure the quality of part-time adjunct faculty? How? What measures are taken?

  • Are part-time faculty required to hold office hours? Do they get paid to do so, and are they provided suitable office space to meet with students?

The answer to all of these questions should be yes. An easy way to ensure that you will be attending a school of education that meets these requirements is to see if it is on our List of NCATE-Accredited Institutions.

 What role does NCATE play in the field of education?

 NCATE is the professional accrediting body for the teaching field. When a college of education becomes accredited, it means that the college has met national professional standards that have answered the question, “what is important in teacher preparation today?” The standards were reached through nationwide consensus of representatives of all education stakeholders—teachers, teacher educators, state and local policymakers, and school specialists. Representatives of these stakeholders visit the college of education and review the performance of its candidates, its programs, structure, and governance to determine if the college meets the NCATE standards. NCATE elevates the entire teaching profession through its standards-setting and review process.

I want to become a teacher and am looking at education schools. What does NCATE accreditation mean to me?

Graduates of NCATE-accredited institutions will be better prepared for new, more demanding licensing expectations. NCATE has aligned its standards with model state licensing standards that many states use. The largest research study to date on teacher qualifications, conducted by the Educational Testing Service and released in 1999, showed that graduates of NCATE-accredited institutions significantly outperform other candidates on state licensing exams. ETS concluded that attending an NCATE institution increases the likelihood that candidates will meet state requirements. In short, you will be well prepared for challenges in the classroom.

What is the benefit of attending an NCATE-accredited college of education?

NCATE accreditation is the profession’s seal of approval. It means that the college of education has met national professional standards for the preparation of teachers and other school specialists. Prospective teachers have assurance that programs at the college are up-to-date, relevant, and research-based, and will prepare them well for performance-based licensing examinations.

Must all schools be accredited?

No. Each state determines if colleges of education must become professionally accredited. Accreditation now is voluntary. Many schools seek it to attain a mark of distinction and program excellence. However, one-third of the states require NCATE accreditation of their public institutions. Forty-six states have partnerships with NCATE to increase the rigor of the review of the college of education. As a result of the partnerships, NCATE standards have been adopted or adapted as the state’s standards for all institutions in 26 states.

How do I discover which schools are best for me?

Visit different types of institutions to get a feel for what you are comfortable with. Are you comfortable at a large institution with 30,000 students, or would you feel lost in an institution of that size? Would you like to attend a public or a private university? What is the range of tuition that you can pay? How much are you likely to receive in loans?

Gain as much information as you can from the institution’s website. You can connect to each accredited institution from NCATE’s List of Accredited Institutions by following the available links to the college’s website. That way, you will be knowledgeable when you talk to representatives of the institution and can ask specific questions that may not have been answered via the website.

Talk to representatives of the colleges of education. If you know the subject you would like to teach, try to schedule an appointment with a faculty member in that area.

The colleges of education I am applying to are well-regarded schools, but they are not NCATE-accredited. Why not?

NCATE accreditation is still mainly voluntary. State policy determines whether schools of education are accredited; contact the state department of education if the school which you wish to attend is not professionally accredited. NCATE accredited institutions produce approximately two-thirds of the nation’s new teacher graduates. Many well-known institutions are accredited but a few are not (Harvard). However, some unaccredited schools are now candidates for accreditation. Some institutions focus more on degrees in other areas of education, e.g., education policy, rather than on producing teachers. In states that encourage institutions to meet professional standards, e.g., North Carolina, more institutions are accredited.

I want to be a teacher, but cannot afford college tuition. How do I get a loan, grant, or scholarship to a college?

The Federal Student Aid Information Center (1-800-433-3243) maintains information on available student aid. Information on financial aid is also available from the U. S. Department of Education.

CASHE is a free financial aid clearinghouse of information on the Internet containing thousands of private scholarships, grants, internships, fellowships, loans, and more. The CASHE information is for all students, undergraduate through post-doctorate and non-traditional.

Colleges and Universities: Request information from an institution’s financial aid office. The College Cost Book, issued by the College Board, is a guide to finding money to pay for college and applying for aid. It can be found in school career centers or libraries.

How do I find out which schools offer specific programs? I want to teach science. How do I find the institutions with teacher preparation programs in science?

Each institution's link provides a list of nationally recognized programs in specific content areas.

I live in one state, but am relocating to another state. What should I do to be able to teach in the state where I am relocating?

One of the many benefits of graduating from an NCATE accredited institution is that graduates generally find it easier to apply for licensure if they move out of state. Graduates of NCATE accredited schools are often able to transfer their existing teacher qualifications from state to state based on NCATE's Specific Reciprocity Agreement. Most states also require a satisfactory score on the state licensing exam. In states without an NCATE specific reciprocity agreement, the state may have additional requirements. Contact your State Contact for more information.