How to Become a Teacher: A Guide for International Students

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By Sakina Taher
Last updated on August 11, 2023

Do you want to inspire students and serve as a role model? Consider getting a bachelor’s in education and pursuing a career in teaching!

A teacher teaching a geography class

Good teachers are in demand, all around the world. If you are an international student interested in getting a bachelor’s in education, there are many US universities eager to enroll applicants like you. As an education major, you will learn how to teach students with different needs and personalities, and how to communicate with them through creativity and leadership. 

Read on to learn more about the requirements for how to become a teacher in the US, what it’s like to study education, education programs you can consider, and your career prospects as an educator, including jobs in teaching.

What Are the Skills Required to Become a Teacher?

Around the world, teachers are often experts or professionals in the subjects they teach, with their colleagues and students trusting not only their knowledge, but their ability to pass on that knowledge to others. Teachers can strongly influence a student’s love of learning, especially for elementary and secondary school students. As such, teachers must not only develop expertise in their chosen focus area (e.g., math, science, literature, etc.), they must also have a variety of supportive skills to help students grow. 

As a teacher, the exact skills and characteristics you need will vary based on the subjects you plan to teach, but several are required across disciplines: 

  • Adaptability — Keeping students engrossed in a classroom environment requires constant adjustments. You may schedule your lessons and daily activities, but your plans may change if certain students need specific attention. It is important to be able to pivot quickly, make decisions fast, and be flexible to the needs of your classroom. 

  • Enthusiasm — Teaching requires energy and consistency. If you are passionate about what you are teaching and make your classes easy to understand, you can connect with your students and create a positive learning environment. 

  • Patience — Having a good temperament is essential when working with students of all ages. There can be times when your students submit assignments late, are restless during class, or ask the same question several times. The ability to remain calm and patient while managing the situation is vital to ensuring students can learn effectively and with confidence. 

  • Social skills — Teaching is a social profession requiring frequent interactions with students, parents, colleagues, and community members. Learning to communicate effectively in a variety of situations, and with many different personalities, improves the learning environment.

A career in teaching gives you the chance to make a positive impact on society by inspiring future generations and creating the professionals of tomorrow. If you are wondering how to become a teacher, it is important to understand the different steps involved.

How Do I Become a Teacher?

If you think you want to pursue jobs in teaching, the first step is to decide what you want to study and which subjects you want to teach (e.g., mathematics, language, science, special education, etc.). Based on your career objectives, there may be specialized education degrees and licensing exams. Here’s a closer look at the steps you need to take to become a teacher.

  • Step 1: Apply for a bachelor’s degree program —Consider enrolling for a bachelor’s degree in the field of your choice (e.g., biology, art history, math), or a bachelor’s in education that focuses on your preferred subject area. With a bachelor’s degree, you can gain the foundational knowledge needed to pursue a teaching career. Shorelight universities offer bachelor’s in education programs covering a wide range of subjects including languages, economics, science, and elementary education.

  • Step 2: Identify any additional certifications required — After earning your bachelor’s degree, in order to apply for teacher jobs, you may be required to demonstrate basic general knowledge and skills in mathematics, reading, and writing. Consider examinations such as the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA) from Pearson, the Core Academic Skills exam offered through ETS, or the Praxis tests.

  • Step 3: Gain practical experience — Most bachelor’s in education programs require at least one semester of in-person training, also known as student teaching. In-class teaching while still enrolled as a student gives you an opportunity to practice managing a classroom while receiving assistance from veteran instructors and your college professors.

  • Step 4: Complete a licensing exam — Many states in the US also require teachers to have a license by a state or national accredited body, such as National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification. Public schools require teachers to obtain a license, while private schools may have different teacher jobs criteria. Being certified is not always mandatory (depending on the country where you want to teach), however, obtaining your certification can help you access jobs in teaching with higher salaries.

Training as a teacher in the US can prepare you to teach anywhere in the world: You can learn how to teach students from a wide range of cultural backgrounds with varying perspectives on education. Your professors and advisors can support you with research and resources to help you prepare for your career.

What Are My Career Prospects as a Teacher?

According to U.S. News & World Report, there is a shortage of teachers in the US, with prospects projected to grow by 4 to 5% for kindergarten, elementary, and high school teachers from 2021 to 2031. 

Teachers are also in high demand in many countries around the world, and as a teacher you will be able to access a wide range of education careers. Here are some careers you can pursue as a teacher and their average annual salaries in the US, Brazil, China, and India: 

Pre-K teacher

Average salary in the US


Average salary in Brazil


Average salary in China


Average salary in India


Elementary school teacher

Average salary in the US


Average salary in Brazil


Average salary in China


Average salary in India


High school teacher

Average salary in the US


Average salary in Brazil


Average salary in China


Average salary in India


Special education teacher

Average salary in the US


Average salary in Brazil


Average salary in China


Average salary in India


Source: SalaryExpert, 2022

While most teaching positions require a bachelor’s degree, some roles require you to specialize in a certain discipline or field. Depending on the degree, this may require a significant investment of time and funds to achieve, so it is important to choose carefully ahead of time.

Which Topics Does a Bachelor’s in Education Cover?

A bachelor’s in education degree is designed to teach students how to be competent educators who know how to supervise and guide students across different age groups. During your bachelor’s in education program, you can expect to learn about many teaching methods and learning styles, how the education system works, and ways to create an inclusive classroom environment, among similar topics. 

In the US, most bachelor’s in education programs provide the theoretical knowledge and skills needed to become a teacher, along with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience through in-classroom teaching as you near completion of your studies. 

The age group you plan to teach will also affect the type of qualifications you need to pursue jobs in teaching. Becoming a kindergarten or elementary school teacher usually requires a degree in early education, while qualifying as a secondary school or high school teacher may require a bachelor’s in education with a concentration or minor in a subject you want to teach. 

If you choose to teach children with special needs and disabilities, a degree in special education can be beneficial. You can also teach English as a second language (ESL), which typically requires a bachelor’s in education, in addition to an internationally recognized Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or Teaching of English as a Second Language (TESL) certificate. If you need support deciding which type of teacher you want to become, remember that your Shorelight advisor is always ready to help.

By studying in the US, you access many types of degrees that provide you with these qualifications and more, including valuable first-hand teaching opportunities and the chance to learn from expert professors and instructors. 

Bachelor’s in Education Programs in the US

Universities in the US have well-rounded education programs where you can gain a firm foundation of teaching knowledge and skills. This includes the opportunity to put your theoretical learning into practice, enabling you to gain real-world training before graduation.

Shorelight universities offer comprehensive education degrees that prepare students to pursue teacher jobs and other careers in education. Programs are internationally accredited, provide practical learning exposure, and are taught by expert faculty. Here are just a few possibilities for international students.

Auburn University 

The College of Education at Auburn University offers degrees in early childhood education, foreign language education, and collaborative teacher education, among many other concentrations. Ranked #76 in Best Education Schools by U.S. News & World Report, Auburn University is a great choice to work toward your professional goal of becoming a teacher. 

Western Oregon University

Founded in 1856, Western Oregon University has many years of expertise in preparing students to become leaders in education. The university offers a wide range of education programs ranging from American Sign Language studies to integrated science teacher education, and more.

Gonzaga University

Ranked #83 in National Universities by U.S. News & World Report, Gonzaga University’s School of Education offers a Bachelor of Education in Physical Education and a Bachelor of Education in Special Education. Gonzaga also provides other certification programs designed to enhance your teaching skills in a global setting. 

Find your best-fit bachelor’s in education program with our School Match tool >

Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education is a great way to begin your journey toward becoming a teacher, and Shorelight counselors can support you in identifying and selecting which US university is the best fit for you. Your advisor can also assist with visa support, post-graduation Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment, and much more. 

Becoming a teacher is a noble pursuit because you take responsibility for educating and guiding the minds of the next generation. With the support of your Shorelight advisor, you can work toward becoming a life-changing educator!

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