Though both personal computers and high school computer science courses have been around for the better part of three decades, requirements for new high school teachers in this field are hardly uniform across the country. There are some general guidelines, of course, but students would do themselves a favor to research state requirements individually before they pursue degree programs and certifications in the field.
Start with a Relevant Undergraduate Degree
As many as 20 states currently do not grant a teaching licenses specifically in computer science, computer programming, or other high-tech fields. That means teachers will have to burnish their credentials outside of the certification exam in big states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, and more than a dozen others. The best way to do this is by pursuing an undergraduate major in computer science, computer programming, or an engineering field with extensive use of personal computers and emerging technologies.
Students who are specifically looking to enter education after graduating from an undergraduate degree program should choose a minor in education. This minor is often pursued by those looking to teach more mainstream subjects, like math and English. Courses focus on managing high school classrooms, dealing with learning disabilities, and creating effective lesson plans for students at all levels. This minor will prepare the student to better meet a classroom’s needs immediately after graduation.
After Undergrad: Consider a Master’s in a Technology-Related Field
A large number of states, even those that do not currently offer official certification to computer science teachers, do require graduate-level education in order for teachers to keep their jobs after three, five, or ten years of teaching in a classroom setting. For those aspiring to teach computers and programming to high school students, it might be a good idea to pursue either a Master’s in Computer Science or a Master’s in Education. Plenty of programs exist that can help a prospective teacher burnish their credentials, further their understanding of the classroom, and retain their competitive edge when applying for new jobs.
Research Teacher Certification Possibilities
After obtaining either an undergraduate degree in the field or finishing a graduate-level program, teachers will need to become certified in their state of residence. In the 20 states where teachers are not currently certified in computer science, a general PRAXIS examination will likely do the trick. In the 30 states that do offer a so-called “computer science endorsement,” teachers will generally need to schedule both a PRAXIS examination and an official examination that tests their knowledge of personal computers, programming languages, the Internet, and more.
With these tests completed, teachers will simply need to await a final score from the organization administering the exam. Every state requires a different score to obtain official teacher certification, so be sure to research requirements prior to sitting for these relatively expensive exam sessions.
A Growing Field, But a Tough One to Nail Down
Computer science is easily one of the most important subjects in today’s schools, and the number of job opportunities for teachers in this area is only increasing. Despite this growth, however, requirements remain disparate and even radically difference from state to state. With a solid undergraduate major in computer science, computer programming, web development, or engineering, teachers will set themselves up for the benchmarks, test scores, and educational credentials needed to land a position as this area continues to solidify into an officially certified teaching position.