A good teacher is one of the most important influences in a young person's life — most of us remember that one special teacher who inspired us in ways we couldn't have imagined. If you're someone who wants to share this experience with others, and you have a natural curiosity (and plenty of patience!) you may excel as a teacher. Here's how to become a teacher in Canada!
What is a teacher?
In Canada, teachers work in public or private schools, and occasionally other organizations like tutoring companies or non-profits, to educate, instruct, and guide the next generation according to a specified provincial curriculum.
Education is a provincially-regulated affair, meaning the standards and expectations vary province by province. In this article, we'll focus on Ontario. Most systems are similar, though certain differences will exist.
Teachers are typically divided into two or three groups:
- primary / elementary: younger kids, simpler subjects
- secondary / high school: teenagers, difficult subjects
What do teachers do?
Teachers create or source lesson plans for their subjects and classes to fulfill the provincial curriculum requirements.
A curriculum is a government document, created by the provincial Ministry of Education, which lays out what students must be able to do by the end of the year in a given class. For example:
Teachers use these curricula to guide their lesson planning. Then, teachers execute these lessons in classrooms full of kids, doing their best to assess each student's strengths and weaknesses. Many teachers also volunteer their time to assist with clubs and sports. Teaching can be a demanding job!
Teachers may teach in English, French, or both, depending on their subject areas! Whether you want to become a primary or secondary school teacher, the process is similar. Check out how you can become a teacher:
How to become a teacher in Canada
Want to help shepherd the next generation? Becoming a teacher takes some work, but it can be incredibly rewarding. Here's how to prepare for your career as a teacher:
Step 1: Undergraduate education
There's no way around it: becoming a teacher requires at least a bachelor's degree of three to four years. Ideally, your degree will be related to the subjects you want to teach — a History degree for a History teacher, for example — but this isn't mandatory. Many teachers wind up covering courses they never took in university!
Most students will take a bachelor's degree program, graduating in four years, and then be ready for teacher's college (more on that below). There's a faster way, though: concurrent education programs.
Concurrent education programs
Some Canadian universities offer concurrent education programs, which let you earn two degrees at the same time, plus engage in practical classroom teaching experiences. After graduation, you'll get your teaching certificate!
One of your two degrees will be a Bachelor of Education (BEd), while the other is in your subject area of choice (ie History, above). You'll decide which level(s) you want to cover when you're teaching; primary, senior, etc.
Concurrent education programs typically take about six years to complete: four for your two bachelor's degrees, and two for teacher education and training. These programs can be quite competitive, so you'll need goo grades and a strong application to make the cut. Still, there's no faster way to become a teacher in Canada!
Step 2: Teacher's college
Teacher's college is an informal term for a post-graduate program in education that you'll need to complete to become a teacher. Most teacher candidates will need to do one or two years in teacher's college after graduating from a bachelor's degree program.
The exception is students who completed a concurrent education program, which is already longer than a standard bachelor's degree. Students who graduate with a concurrent education degree should be able to skip this step and go right to the next, qualifying as a teacher.
For the rest of the class, you'll need to enrol in teacher's college! In Ontario, this process takes two years. Elsewhere, such as at the University of PEI, it only takes a single year.
Teacher's college is a post-graduate program that equips you with a Bachelor of Education alongside your undergrad degree. Alternatively, you can go for a full Master of Teaching, such as that offered by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
Either way, you'll learn more about teaching and learning, and get a chance to test your skills in real classroom environments, thanks to frequent practicum placements. In most cases, you'll further specialize in your target age group as well.
Step 3: Qualifying as a teacher
Next up, you'll need to be licensed as a teacher. This is a mandate of your provincial Ministry of Education, which may have a College of Teachers — the professional authority that oversees local teachers, and, confusingly, NOT the same thing as teacher's college — but the basic rules are consistent.
To be eligible to apply to your local Ministry of Education or College of Teachers, you'll need the following:
- completed undergrad degree of at least three years, from a legitimate institution
- completed one- or two-year teacher education program (teacher's college)
If you completed a concurrent education program, you'll already have your Bachelor of Education alongside your undergrad degree, so you'll have effectively completed the teacher's college requirement alongside your undergrad.
You'll also need a few documents to support your application. Here are some of the most common:
- Criminal record background check
- Academic transcripts from university and teacher's college
- Statement of professional standing (you'll get this from teacher's college)
You can apply for your teaching license online, and expect to hear back in about two weeks. There may be an application fee associated with submission! Being a member of your College of Teachers may involve membership dues of roughly $200 per year.
Congrats! Once you're accepted by your local teaching authority, you're a licensed teacher. Great job! Now it's time to find a job — more on this below!
Bonus: Internationally-educated teachers
If you trained as a teacher overseas, and want to teach in Canada, your credentials may be recognized by your local Ministry of Education. Each country of origin has its own rules and restrictions, so there's no one-size-fits-all guide here, but in general, you'll need the following:
- Academic records and transcripts from undergrad through teacher's college
- Statement of professional standing from the jurisdiction(s) you're certified to teach in
- Teaching certificate photocopy from each of the above jurisdictions
You'll still need to contact your local Ministry or College of Teachers to learn more, but if you've got a strong record of achievement as a teacher, you may be able to continue your career in Canada!
Step 4: Finding a teaching job
Now, it's time to find a position as a teacher! If you're lucky, you may find a full-time position right away.
Many new teachers start out in supporting roles: short-term supply, or longer-term coverage for another teacher. Your best bet in these cases is to make a good impression on school staff and admins in hopes they'll bring you on full-time when they're able.
In many parts of Canada, you may have an easier time finding a job if you're able to teach French! French is among the most in-demand subjects for Canadian teachers.
Canada's home to several websites to help new teachers find positions. Which you can access may depend on the province you want to teach in. And remember, there's always the Canadian job bank that indexes positions across the country.
You may also want to consult the websites of school boards near you — if you reach out directly, staff there may be able to point you to local teaching opportunities.
The salary for new teachers will vary depending on where and what you teach, but you can expect roughly $50,000 to $55,000 annually to start. Some teachers with seniority and experience may eventually earn over $100,000 per year, but the average across the profession is roughly $86,000 per year.
Learn more about salary and job expectations as:
You made it! Becoming a teacher means taking on a challenging profession, but the impact you can have on the next generation is unparalleled. As a teacher, you can continue to build your skills through professional development, and even move into administration (becoming a principal or vice-principal) as you develop your expertise. This may even mean further education!
For now, though, try to shadow current teachers, or volunteer with kids in your community, to help build your skill set. Best of luck in your journey to becoming a teacher in Canada!
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