Teachers have a lot of responsibility, and therefore becoming a teacher takes several steps. In general, to be admitted to a teacher education program in the US, students first apply for admission to the university or college. And only after completing a certain number of semester hours of course work (as determined by each institution) application is made to the teacher education program. This means you need to meet two sets of requirements: those for the institution and those for the teacher education program.
Admission requirements will differ depending on whether you are applying to a private or public institution, whether you are applying to a 4-year, 2-year or career college, and whether you are applying to a school using the Common Application. Schools -- particularly private versus public -- differ in their competitiveness, but each university or college usually has a rough threshold below which admission is unlikely. Therefore, students often apply to a range of schools. In terms of admission requirements, students applying to universities and colleges in the United States apply to the institution in general rather than to specific departments or programs. Entry requirements depend on the institution and the particular program; some programs allow direct-entry from high school, while entrance to others requires prior university study.
Depending on the size and values of the school, admissions criteria can vary from the formulaic and objective to more subjective factors regarding the student's "fit" for the institution. In general, students are assessed according to the following: overall academic grades and GPA, grades related to their intended major, core grade point average (English, academic math, laboratory science, foreign language, speech), class rank, SAT or ACT score, personal statement, personal background and experiences, and information provided by the high school counselor. Institutions give different weight to these criteria: for example, some universities and colleges do not require or even accept the SAT for admission. In some cases, preference may be given to students from the institution's state, and some states require proof of immunization against certain vaccine-preventable diseases.
Students with a record of scholastic excellence in their first 3 years of high school may qualify for early enrollment, which involves a recommendation from your principal, approval from your parents as well as scores on academic tests. Some students, rather than being rejected outright, are "wait-listed" for a particular school and may be admitted if another student who was admitted decides not to attend.
University and college semesters generally start in August or September for fall term and January for the winter term, and the application process itself usually begins in your senior year of high school. Generally this process involves submitting an online or print application form directly to the university or college by a specific deadline. Universities and colleges in the US usually have their own application forms, with the exception of institutions that use the Common Application. The Common Application can only be used to apply to member institutions (about 345 in the United States) which have agreed to use it. In the Common Application process, copies of online or print Application for Undergraduate Admission can be sent to any number of participating colleges. The same is true of the other required forms, which allows you to spend less time on applying for admission. Each member institution has a specific deadline for when they will accept the Common Application, and once a deadline has passed, you will no longer be able to submit your forms.
In both types of application you need to have your official high school transcripts sent directly to the institution from your high school, and you should be prepared to pay a non-refundable application fee of about $25-$50. Some schools will waive this fee if you use the online Common Application. Application deadlines are generally between November and January, and there may be specific deadlines for submitting your SAT score for scholarship consideration.
In addition, many universities and colleges have implemented a system through which students can apply at a time other than the most common deadline. This is called the Early Decision program, and it permits you to apply a few months early if you agree to attend the school if offered admission in mid-December. Early Decision does mean less choice, but it also means you only have to submit one application--if you get into your top choice. You can only back out Early Decision's binding agreement if the financial aid offered is not enough. Similarly, the Early Action program means you apply early and find out the results early, but you are not bound to the school if accepted. Within Early Action there are the single- and multi-choice subprograms: single-choice early action schools only allow you to apply early to one school while multi-choice early action schools let you to apply to many schools. Further, rolling admission is used by some schools with a large number of applicants. It means you can apply any time between the fall and spring and get your result a few weeks later. You therefore don't have to apply to all of your schools at the same time, but be aware: it means earlier applicants get first acceptance. So apply as soon as possible to your rolling admissions schools.
While students apply to the institution and not the College or School, each College or School still maintains requirements that applicants must meet. By the second semester of the sophomore year, any student who wishes to continue in a teacher education program needs to submit a written application for admission to the Teacher Education Program. Other requirements may include a writing sample, letter(s) of recommendation and test scores. Be sure to find out about deadlines early, since some programs require you to apply a year before the student teaching semester. Admission is competitive and there may be quotas; therefore, academically, you need to maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average (around 2.7) in order to be considered. For some teaching subject areas there may be additional requirements, such as completing a volunteer experience in a classroom setting. Teacher education candidates are also expected to comply with the state's Police and FBI background investigation requirements.
Many community and technical colleges allow students to apply directly to the degree and major they want. These schools also require high school completion, and may also have specific course requirements needed for admission to the program, such as a 'C' grade or better in English and math. Application requires you to complete an online application form and possibly an assessment test plus the health and security requirements outlined above.
No matter which way you apply, two things that are not required but highly recommended are a campus visit and interview with admissions counselor. If you are considering becoming a teacher then you know that knowledge is power, so be sure to seek out the people and resources that can help you get as much information as possible before you apply.
NOTE: Financial aid may be available for those who qualify. Job placement is not guaranteed.