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Troops to Teachers: Requirements & Tips for Veterans to Become Teachers

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Entering the civilian workforce after a career in the military can be daunting, to say the least. The high level of skill and expertise that service members possess may be undervalued and translate inadequately to many civilian jobs. This is not the case in the field of education.

In fact, military members have proven to be excellent recruits and highly valued partners in education. If you are looking to start a second career that has great pay and fantastic benefits, teaching is an excellent job that service members are certain to excel in.

Troops to Teachers

Troops to Teachers (TTT) was established in 1993 to help transitioning service members and veterans begin new careers as K-12 school-teachers.

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Since its inception, Troops to Teachers has helped facilitate more than 21,000 veterans to successful transitions for careers in education. In the fiscal year 2018, Troops to Teachers reported 3376 approved program participants and 394 participants hired into their new career in education.

TTT is managed by Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) which is a division of  the Department of Defense. Current, separated, and retired members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Reserve components, and National Guard may be eligible for TTT services.

TTT helps participants meet the education and licensing requirements for teaching and assists with job placement. Other program benefits include counseling, mentorship, and financial assistance. Participants may even be eligible for an additional $10,000 in yearly stipend and bonus funds while fulfilling a 3-year teaching obligation at low-income schools.

To fully utilize all aspects of TTT including financial aid, a program applicant must apply for the program within 3 years of separation from military. However, many services such as counseling and job placement assistance are available to program participants regardless of timing. TTT is dedicated to helping participants successfully transition their unique military skills set of leadership, training, and core values into a productive career in education.

The goals and benefits of TTT are expansive: reducing veteran unemployment, training highly qualified individuals to teach, support for low income schools, filling vacancies in critical need subjects, increasing the number of male teachers, and providing positive role models for students.

While the program was originally designed to recruit quality teachers and help foster positive growth at low income schools, the program has expanded greatly. TTT now supports participants in instructional positions and non-instructional positions such as administration, school counselors, school nurses, media specialists, teacher aides, and other K-12 paraprofessionals. While monetary incentives are offered for teaching at low income schools, participants in TTT can utilize the program to work at a variety of types of schools throughout the US, its territories, and even Canada!

Getting Started

Requirements for teaching licensure vary from state to state. In general, the baseline requirement for teaching any academic subject (math, science, English, humanities, etc.) is a bachelor’s degree. It is not uncommon for those seeking to become a teacher to enter a bachelor’s program that has a teacher education and certification component built in. Therefore, there is no need to seek additional certification after completion of the inclusive bachelor’s.

For those that already possess a bachelor’s degree, there are a wide variety of teacher certification programs available. From distance learning to the traditional brick and mortar educational institution, those seeking to become a certified teacher can earn a standard (undergraduate) certification or a graduate level certification via a master’s program. Teachers with master’s certification or degree earn approximately 15% more than their counterparts with an undergraduate education.

If hunkering down for a degree or certification straight out of the service isn’t a post-military separation goal, there are plenty of options to get you into the classroom as a teacher but keep you out of the classroom as a student (at least for a while). Alternative routes to certification are non-traditional pathways for those who have not completed a formal teacher education program. While alternative routes vary greatly by state it is commonplace for these alternative certification pathways to account for participants’ previous education and experience. Many states and school districts offer in-house components of teacher training under their alternative routes to certification. Provisional licensure and emergency waivers are also common when a school or district has a severe shortage of educators in a critical need area (such as math, science, or special education).

For those seeking to teach career or technical education, a bachelor’s degree is typically not required. Although a vocational teacher would see a huge pay increase with a college degree, by and large, vocational educators are eligible for alternative routes to certification (if certification is required at all). The industry standard for vocational teachers is 30 units of college or the equivalent (such as a trade school) plus 5 years or more professional experience in the vocational field.

Vocational teachers are in demand as traditional academic platforms are seeing a pendulum shift towards integration of the practical arts. There is a growing need for qualified educators to instruct students in highly focused and specific career paths. Vocational teachers help develop students’ skills and focused preparation for the workforce of their choice. Vocational offerings are varied and include such subjects as: health care, auto repair, welding, agricultural education, cosmetology, computer technology, architecture and construction, hospitality and tourism, law and public safety, and business education.

Ready to embark on a new career in education? If you are a current member of the Armed Forces or have an honorable discharge, connect with Troops to Teachers to get started: apply, counsel, certify, teach.

Top 4 Tips for Veterans To Become Teachers

1. Decide where you want to live and work.

Although most states have reciprocity agreements even these have stipulations and may require extra schooling and/or testing. It is always easiest to get certified and licensed in the state you intend on working in. This is made all the more accessible by online and distance learning options through various educational institutions.

2. Determine what subject(s) you want to teach, what types of schools you want to work in, and what types of students you are motivated to teach.

There are so many variables when it comes to teaching. What subject you teach can determine what licensure you need and even your pay rate (critical need areas are ubiquitous with bonuses and pay rate bumps). Schools even within the same district can have different requirements for teachers; for example, a charter school may not require state licensure while a neighboring school may require teachers to receive a graduate degree within 7 years of beginning employment. Schools and students also vary greatly, from magnet schools with focuses on Performing Arts or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), to Title I schools, to Bureau of Indian Education schools. Determine what your ideal teaching scenario would be and strive to achieve this, or get somewhere close. There is a huge difference between teaching AP math to 12th graders at a magnet STEM school and teaching elementary education on a reservation. Teach what, where, and who resonates the most with you.

3. Use Troops to Teachers resources

Use your Troops to Teacher resources to determine what schooling and licensure you would need and if this is compatible with what, where, and whom you would want to teach; how much you desire to earn; how much time you want to dedicate to school; etc. You will never go wrong with post-secondary education! In addition to the GI Bill there are a wealth of scholarships, grants, and loan forgiveness programs for those seeking to become K-12 educators.

4. Let Troops to Teachers help you towards your new career!

Connect with and utilize all available resources to make the most of a successful transition to a new career in education.