What Subject Should You Teach? How to Decide

by David Recine | Jan 25, 2019 10:45:00 AM

So you want to become a teacher. But what subject should you teach? This is a big decision because different subjects require different teacher training. Ideally, you should pick a subject to teach before you actually start taking classes to become a teacher.

which subject

What Would You Enjoy Teaching?

The best teachers have a passion for their subject. So teaching what you love should be top priority in your decision. Think of a subject that you were very good at back when you were in school — maybe a subject you still love to study. For some this can be English. For others, it can be math or science. The subject you love could even be a less “core” subject, such as music, art, business, or psychology.

What Can You Actually Get Hired to Teach?

Certain subjects are very far from the core subjects of math, science, and the language arts. Finding gainful employment in these “off-core” areas may be difficult or impossible. For example, most school districts don’t offer full time work teaching children philosophy or sculpture.

Other subjects that are a little “off the beaten path” can be taught full-time, as long as you’re not picky about where you teach. If you want to teach something like art or music, you may need to carefully look for a school district that’s currently hiring for those subjects. Or you might need to patiently wait until a job in that area opens up in your school district of choice.

And if you want to teach a less common foreign language such as Portuguese or an elective like theater, your choices may be more limited. Unfortunately, only certain individual schools will offer such work at all. And even if it’s offered, the work available may or may not be full-time.

This does not mean that you shouldn’t choose a subject you love! But with some subjects, you may need to teach your passion part-time, while teaching in a more common content area full-time. This brings me to my next point….

What if You Want to Teach Multiple Subjects?

The best way to teach multiple subjects is to become an elementary school teacher. Elementary teachers are generalists in every subject. They teach math, science, English, and so on at the grade school level. In fact, the Praxis treats elementary school as a subject in its own right, with content area exams for elementary education instead of tests for individual elementary school subjects.

If you want to teach more than one subject to older students, you’ll likely need to get multiple teaching licenses. This isn’t as hard as it sounds! Once you get an initial license through a teaching degree or post-bac courses, gaining an additional license may only take a few extra classes. Often, classes for an add-on teaching license can be done online after you’ve started teaching.


What Subject Should You Teach if You Already Have a Non-Teaching Degree?

If you already have a degree in something other than education, consider teaching in your degree area. With a degree in something like biology or English literature, you can get licensed to science or language arts relatively quickly with a Master’s Degree or post-bac in education. 

Other degrees have a less obvious connection to a K-12 schools subject, but are still useful. A social work degree may qualify you for a post-baccalaureate certificate and teaching license in psychology or social studies. A degree in finance might allow you to become licensed to teach math or business.

To see if your already-completed bachelor’s degree will allow you to teach a school subject, check with your local teacher’s college or your state’s department of education.

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