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Careers in Art Education

Art teachers help introduce students to important concepts related to design and spatial relations, while also encouraging artistic self-expression. Find out how you can become qualified to teach art in your state.

Becoming an Art Teacher

The steps to become an art teacher in any state are relatively similar. Usually the first step requires an approved education with a teacher preparation program, after which you must take state exams and apply for your license.

Art teachers typically work on earning their teaching certification while they are in the latter stages of their teacher prep program. The state will issue the actual license once all the necessary requirements have been met. Although each state’s process will vary, the educational requisites for every state is a minimum of a bachelor’s degree — either in an art related degree program, or in education (depending on the level of school you teach).

The teacher preparation component is often interwoven into the degree program. There are, however, separate teaching programs that may be taken apart from a degree. These can be part of a master’s degree or PhD for students who are returning to school. There may also be instances where some schools have a fifth year bachelor’s program adding an additional year to a typical bachelor’s degree to allow for the necessary teacher’s preparation coursework.

Going to School

Earning a bachelor’s degree in art along with a teacher preparation program is usually where most students begin. Sometimes students will choose to continue their education earning a master’s degree rather than a bachelor’s degree. They will usually do this for a variety of reasons including the fact that some states now expect teachers to be highly qualified. Many students realize that when the time comes to renew their license, they may need a master’s degree so they complete that requirement in the beginning. Another reason is earnings. Teachers will often start out higher on the pay scale if they start out with a master’s degree. Also it is often much easier for most students to complete their education prior to starting a full-time career.

Choosing Your Art Teacher Preparation Program

These programs are designed so that you are fully prepared to take over a classroom as the teacher once you are offered a fulltime position. The programs have several sections, each designed to teach you the various skills you will need to be an effective teacher. When you have completed your program you will graduate with your degree along with an initial certification.

If you are going to school for the first time, your goal is likely to take the most direct route to obtaining your teaching certification. When you look at the programs offered, most often you will find many schools offer a bachelor’s degree/teacher preparation program package. These are typically the most efficient. They will allow you to complete all the necessary coursework needed to earn a degree as well as learn all the things you will need to know about being a teacher.

If you have already earned a degree and are trying to decide how to earn a teaching certification, there may be other options for you. You may be able to incorporate a full-time teaching position with a teacher preparation program. Many states recognize the value of older students wanting to enter the teaching profession after having another career. You will be able to complete a master’s or PhD degree program as well.

Art and Core Competency Exams

After you graduate, you will typically have to take state exams. These exams are a way to show that you are competent in all the areas that will make you an effective teacher according to the state that will license you. Every state has its own requirements, but more often than not, they all will expect similar tests to be taken.

There are several testing series used: The National Evaluation Series (NES), Praxis, and others. Each one covers basic skills in reading, writing, and math. A second section most states require teachers take is a content knowledge test in art. This test will cover the following:

  • Art making and use
  • Art history
  • Art theory

All of these tests are available on various schedules and at specific testing centers. You are advised to check well in advance so that you will be prepared when the time comes. Some tests are only offered a few times a year. Each test is offered separately, or you may take them all together; taken together will be several hours of testing. Once your exams are complete and you have passed, you will be ready to apply for your state license.

Apply For Your State License

The final step in your certification process is to apply for your state license or certificate. There will be a checklist of paperwork and items that you will need to send in along with your application. The typical items will include:

  • An official copy of your degree
  • Proof of student teaching
  • Fingerprint and background check
  • An application fee

Each state has an online site that allows you to sign up and process part of your application via the web.

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