How to Get a Teaching Job by Fall: A Compre-hensive Timeline and Plan of Action
by Nina Silva
As graduation approaches, you may have searched for phrases like "how to be a teacher" and "what month do most new teachers get hired." Even if you've fulfilled all your degree requirements, you still have a hefty list of tasks left to accomplish to get your first job.
We'll review the steps you need to take to find a teaching position by the time school starts in the fall. Whether you're a rising senior or a recent graduate, this guide will help you map out your first few steps and set goals for your long-term to-do list.
Setting your timeline
So, what do you need to be a teacher, and what's your deadline? Check out our chart below for some of the most common steps that prospective teachers need to take. Don't panic if you are behind on this timeline, but do try to knock a few items off the list before you graduate.
Deadline (MBG: months before graduation)
Research license requirements
Write resume and cover letter
Obtain letters of recommendation
Submit license application
Submit elements as they become available
Set up School Spring account
Begin applying for jobs
Take required licensure exams
Practice interview preparation
Each state sets its specific licensure requirements, but these requirements tend to fall into the same four categories. These categories are teacher preparation programs, student teaching experience, licensure exams and the application to the state. Research your state's specific requirements to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Your resume should highlight when you earned your state license (or when you're planning to receive it).
- Teacher preparation program: For recent graduates, your teacher preparation program is usually your college degree. Some states require a content-specific education degree to obtain a teaching certificate in that area, while others will allow a wide variety of degrees under the right circumstances.
- Licensure exams: Many states require you to pass exams like the PRAXIS or MTELs to qualify for a teaching license. Like the SAT exam, these are standardized, subject-focused tests. States usually require reading, math and writing, as well as a content area test. Each state sets its own testing requirements.
Don't leave these tests to the last minute, because they usually aren't offered year-round. You may have a limited number of chances to pass each test, and it may take weeks or months to get your scores back. Additionally, these exams are expensive ($100-$350 each), and you have to pay each time you take it. To minimize cost and maximize efficiency, schedule your exams as early as possible, and stick to a study schedule.
- Student teaching: You'll probably fulfill this requirement as part of your degree program.
- Application: If you've been diligent about keeping track of your documents, submitting the license application is usually pretty simple. The state collects all your personal information and a fee to cover processing. Most state education departments now offer online portals to upload all this information, which makes it easy to track your progress.
Prepare your resume and cover letter
Your resume and cover letter are the two most important documents in your teaching application. They are the first thing the hiring manager looks at, so it's essential to make an excellent first impression. A well-crafted resume is your best chance at getting invited for an interview, while a general, sloppy or confusing resume will get you sent to the rejection pile.
To showcase your unique qualifications and experience as well as your passion for teaching, you'll need to invest some time and effort into these documents. They should be customized for each job, and based on the skills and experience outlined in the posting. You'll want to include keywords chosen directly from the job description verbatim, to form a strong connection between you and the role and to help beat automated resume software systems. Our Resume Templates and Cover Letter Templates allow you to generate both documents in no time at all.
Collect letters of recommendation
Letters of recommendation are a critical part of any teacher job application and putting together a good one takes time. Here's a quick guide to asking your professors, former employers or even coaches for letters of recommendation.
- When to ask: Figure out when you need to have the finished letter and subtract two to three months. Asking for a last-minute letter isn't very courteous and may affect the quality of the recommendation.
- How to ask: Find an opportunity to ask for a letter in person. A good letter of recommendation is not something a person can create in five minutes. You are asking for a substantial commitment of time and effort on their part, so be willing to commit the time necessary to meet and request a letter in person
- What to ask: Be direct and clear about what you need. Tell them:
"I am hoping to start applying for jobs on X date. Would you be willing and able to write a letter of recommendation for me in that time frame?"
- Ask about reminders: Great references are not always great time managers. When someone agrees to write you a letter by a specific date, decide together if and when they would like reminders from you.
- Sealed or unsealed: Sealed letters of recommendation are letters that are submitted directly to the school or portal through which you are applying. These letters never pass through your hands, meaning you are not able to read their contents.
Finding the right job for you
You can search for and apply for teaching jobs using many different sites and resources. Most school districts have online applications, so get your coffee and prepare for a computer marathon when it comes time to apply. Here are a few sites to get your search started:
- School Spring:
School Spring is the teaching job application equivalent to the Common App for college. You make a profile, add all your information and documentation, and then you can search for jobs all over the country and apply with one click. In some cases, schools will ask you to answer a few supplemental questions and provide your resume and letters of recommendation. You may be tempted to apply to 20 jobs in one sitting, but to stand out to hiring managers you should tailor your resume and cover letter to each specific position. School Spring also allows you to filter job postings by position type, subject, location or even subbing vs. full-time or part-time. This website is free, many schools post jobs on it, and it allows you to cast a wide net will minimal effort.
- School district websites:
Schools also post available positions on their district websites. Look under staff resources or search for "employment opportunities" if you have specific school systems in mind.
When is the best time to apply for teaching jobs?
You can start applying for teaching jobs as soon as you see one that has a start date after your graduation. You may be able to find these positions as early as five months before you graduate, so complete your licensing and other requirements as soon as possible. If you haven't completed all the requirements, list the expected graduation date and pending certifications you will have once you complete the program in your resume.
Begin preparing for your interview as soon as you start putting together your resume and references. It takes time to get comfortable putting your thoughts into words under pressure, and the only way to improve is to practice. Do your research and have answers to some difficult questions and questions for the interviewers prepared, along with answers to commonly asked interview questions.
Preparing for your first teaching job is a multi-step process. Let us lighten the load by helping you create a winning resume and cover letter that showcase your credentials and experience. Explore our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Examples today and check one more item off your list.