Most teachers enter the profession soon after completing a teacher education program that is part of a four-year college degree. However, about 35,000 people a year become certified to teach later in their work lives after pursuing other career paths. Many of those who make the change have had successful business careers prior to entering the teaching profession.
To change careers from business to teaching, you must obtain a state-issued teaching certificate. Each state has its own rules for teacher certification. If you have a bachelor's degree and do not want to earn a second degree in teaching, you can usually become a teacher through your state's alternative teacher certification program. (See the Resources section for a detailed study of Alternative Teacher Certification procedures by the National Center for Educational Information (ncei.com/part.html .)
Investigate your state's requirements for alternative teacher certification. The National Center for Alternative Certification, a national, not-for-profit clearinghouse for information about mid-career entry into the teaching profession, provides state-by-state information, including the names, phone numbers and email addresses of contact personnel for each state's alternative certification programs. (See Reference 1 for the State Contacts for Alternative Teacher Certification -- teach-now.org/statecontacts.cfm )
Request both printed and on-line information about the certification procedures for your state. When this information arrives, read it carefully and follow the instructions to the letter. Teacher certification is a formal process governed by precise rules. Don't disqualify yourself by failing to understand and follow the application process.
Prepare a resume that stresses any training or teaching your may have done in your business career. It is important for you to be able to convince a school principal that your previous experience has some relevance to the school setting. Stress any transferable skills that you have.
Check with the college that granted your degree to verify the procedure for requesting a transcript. You should request a personal copy of your transcript. This usually costs a few dollars and may take a week or two. This unofficial transcript can help you remember the names of those courses taken so long ago.
Request official transcripts to be sent directly to school districts. School systems will not accept transcripts unless they come directly from your college or university.
Work with the school district as you apply for alternative teacher certification. Since school systems hire teachers at the district level, that is where you will have to submit your application and go through your initial interviews. You can begin the application process before you are state-certified to teach, but you will not be able to teach before you are certified. In the best situations, the school district will work with you to complete the certification process.
With your alternative teaching certification in hand, you may apply to any district within the state for a teaching position. In many states, there are job fairs for new teachers, and these are excellent venues for you to make contact with school districts that need teachers. However, do not be shy about going into a school district office and making a direct application for a teaching position.
Prepare thoroughly for your first teaching assignment. Typically, you will participate in a summer orientation program before school starts, and you will work with a mentor during your first year in the classroom. In addition, you will be expected to complete some specified, college-level courses on educational theory and practice. Since the transition between business and teaching can be rocky, make good use of the training and mentoring the school system will make available to you.
Tips & Warnings
- Seek opportunities to volunteer in schools before committing to a change.
- Be careful not to show a negative response to the inevitable differences between the school culture and the business culture of your previous job.