Is a teacher allowed to teach a subject he has not studied?

Allowed - yes. Is it wise? Depends on the individual. If a teacher is comfortable taking a subject they have no qualification in, I say - go for it. I had a friend who is a gifted musician. Could play anything. He was a music teacher - but didn't like it. He LOVED History, and left the Music depart to teach History. He had no quals. Would you prefer someone with a degree, or a passion?

I have qualifications in Mathematics, Science, ICT (Computing), Religion and Physical Education. I have not taught Science or PE. I have, however, taught Geography, History and English when I lived in England - no quals. A couple of the support staff came to me after I'd been teaching History for three months and said they loved my classes. Why? Because I was so excited by it all. I was! I had only just read about it - and in some cases, on the weekend I'd gone out to see the site of the Battle of Naseby where Oliver Cromwell won his first battle. It was England - you can do stuff like that. During the holidays, I went to Ireland and saw where the same guy battled the Irish in the Boyne Valley. In my books, enthusiasm and a bit of self learning trumps a sheet of paper from a Uni - and I've got several sheets of paper I've never used.


Not in my state. A teacher may not be hired or assigned to teach a subject for which he does not hold a teaching credential, and the state will not grant a credential unless the teacher has majored or minored or concentrated* in the subject. So an English major, French minor could get a credential to teach English and French. He could get a credential to teach history or mathematics, or physics. Theefore a public schol district could legally hire him to teach English and/or French. It could not legally hire or assign him to teach history, mathematics, or physics.

At one time the state granted life diplomas/ general credentials allowing one to teach any subject. I know; I have one, but that ended long ago. (Yes, I am old!)

*Diffent colleges name these differently, but by any name they mean the most classes one takes in a particular subject. For example and from memory, as a History Major I took classes in the history of the fertile crescent, the history of Greece, Rome, the Byzantines, Europe in the Middle Ages, Europe form the Renaissance to the 1900s, Moderned American history, the history of England, the history of Canada, the history of South America, geography classes and, of course, American history. Also, as required education and methods classes on how to teach students what I had learned. Based on that the States of Ohio and California granted me credentials to teach history in their high schools.


In California the steps to becoming a teacher in a subject are

  1. Bachelor's degree.
  2. take the CBEST / CSET tests. CBEST is a general reading/writing/arithmetic test, CSET is for specialized knowledge for single subject (middle school + high school) teachers. Your degree does not limit which CSET tests you can take. So long as you pass the CSET for the subject you want to teach, you can move forward.
  3. You must go through the process of becoming a teacher, which includes some educational theory, general and specific(to your subject) educational methods.
  4. If you pass the summary assessment for your credential program, congrats! you can now teach that subject.

Generally speaking the answer is no. Some charter schools will have unlicensed teachers instruct classes in which they have no license or endorsement. This is a poor situation and a disservice to the students. Usually a teacher must have extensive training in their subject discipline and must prove their knowledge with a series of tests prior to being licensed and being able to teach in a class setting.


During my time as university lecturer I have quite often taught subjects outside my own area of expertise. Its just a matter of researching the subject syllabus and preparing adequately. I enjoyed these "asides" as they broadened my knowledge and tested my flexibility.

Perhaps it would be different in school but at university its quite normal to work WITH a student to develop knowledge and understanding, rather than just being there as a source of facts.

As a teacher I feel you should be able to apply your skill in teaching to most subject areas.


Allowed or not, it happens sometimes with consequences.

When so many physics and mathematics teachers went into IT about 25 years ago, it left 54% of those teaching physics, for example, without physics in their degree.

A program was set up to help these teachers who, for no fault of their own, were expected to teach physics. I was part of the program and met teachers who were staying up to 1am to prepare the next day's lesson. And then there were bits of imagination in their lessons - and one result is that very few students now want to study physics.


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