Let’s start with the bad news, keeping in mind there is some good news to follow:
- You’re out of work because of an invisible foe that has shut down the world economy.
- Return to employment is not assured.
- There is a serious and growing qualified teacher shortage in South Carolina.
Now the good news: there’s never been a better time to become a teacher. If you have a bachelor’s degree, even in some subjects unrelated to pedagogy, you can create a career for yourself in education faster and easier than ever before.
You can even get certified online and get paid to learn.
The Extent of the Shortage
The state is hemorrhaging teachers. More than 5,000 teachers leave the system each year while teacher education programs produce fewer replacements, down 25% since 2012. The 2018-19 school year in South Carolina began with 621 teacher vacancies, and the problem is particularly acute in certain areas, like science, math, and special education. Combined with increasing demand, particularly in fast-growing Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties, the issue prompted the state legislature to boost salaries last year and initiate some reforms. The state projects teacher shortages of 774 in science alone by the 2027-28 school year.
In short, the school systems in our area need teachers and they are making it easier to become one. That is something to consider if Covid-19 has undermined your employment options.
There are numerous avenues through which non-teachers can quickly get trained, tested, and certified to teach in public schools. Through two related programs – Teachers of Tomorrow and TeachCharleston – anyone with a bachelor’s degree and experience in a wide variety of disciplines can quickly secure teaching jobs while they prepare for certification. (This program was suspended in April while schools were shuttered.)
Here’s how it works:
Candidates must take and pass a test in the subject area of their choice through the South Carolina chapter of the American Board to become eligible to teach. Test areas include biology, chemistry, physics, general science, math, and English.
Local school districts may hire candidates who pass the exam for one of their many openings in a host of subject areas facing shortages, most notably math, science, social studies, special education, art, business and computer technology, and Spanish.
After three years of in-classroom training and teaching, alternative certification candidates are eligible to take the Praxis exam in Principles of Learning and Teaching. Much of the learning and testing can now be done online from the comfort of home.
According to the American Board website, “You can become a teacher in South Carolina on your own schedule, without quitting your current job or going into debt. Our state-approved program is simple—study for and take two certification exams to earn your teaching certificate”
Numerous Other Shortcut Opportunities
This is the simplest, but not the only, transitioning path to a teaching career. Even without a bachelor’s degree, those interested in teaching non-academic high school courses, called career and technology education (CTE) courses, may qualify for CTE Work-Based Certification. CTE comprises agriculture, computer technology, family and consumer sciences (what was once called home economics), and industrial technology.
To be eligible for permanent positions in these areas, candidates with high school diplomas and relevant career experience may be hired provisionally while fulfilling professional development requirements, including coursework and in-services, over the next five years. More information may be found here.
The PACE program allows individuals to begin teaching right away under the guidance of mentor teachers. Those eligible have a college major and full-time work experience in a subject area of need and must complete coursework and credentialing, much of which is offered online. Candidates may qualify as fully credentialed teachers in three years.
Finally, those who seek to teach as a sideline to their ongoing career may become adjunct teachers with up to two courses annually. Certification for the adjunct position requires a bachelor’s degree with a major in the subject area or a passing Praxis exam score, plus at least five years of related occupational experience.
The South Carolina Department of Education offers guidance and resources to support those preparing for teaching exams, including 175 hours of online educator training.
Qualified educators are critical to the educational success of Lowcountry children and the area’s continued economic development. The Lowcountry Graduate Center supports both outcomes by offering graduate education and certificate programs for those already in the teaching profession, as it is one of the LGC’s highest priority employment sectors.