CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Prospective teachers in Virginia will soon be entering the classroom a year sooner, thanks to some new legislation.

Governor Ralph Northam made the announcement on Monday, June 24.

Starting this year, prospective teachers enrolled in Virginia public universities - including the University of Virginia - will now only need a four-year bachelor's degree instead of a five-year master’s.

Lawmakers hope this change will help solve the commonwealth’s teacher shortage.

“You can’t educate a child if you don't have a teacher in the classroom,” Delegate Steve Landes, who represents Virginia’s 25th District, said.

Amidst a state-wide teacher shortage, Virginia lawmakers are rolling out a new program to help get teachers in the classroom sooner.

“It used to be many school systems had a hard time recruiting math or science teachers or some special field or subject matter, but now we’re seeing it across the board from elementary school to middle and high school a shortage in all fields and all levels,” Landes said.

On Monday, Governor Northam announced the final approval of a new program at seven Virginia public colleges.

The program now allows students to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree in education as opposed to a five-year master’s degree.

“Think of it just as accelerating the process by a year and kind of intensifying the process to have them being far more focused on becoming a professional teacher,” Bob Pianta, the dean of UVA’s Curry School of Education, said.

Landes, who is also the chair of the House Education Committee, helped introduce this legislation. He and Pianta agree this new degree program will allow more students the opportunity to become teachers.

“Many students may choose to not head down this career path because it’s lengthy, more expensive, so that will immediately enable a larger number of applicants to come into our programs,” Pianta said.

While this change cuts down on time and expense, administrators are assuring students it will not cut down on the level of preparation they receive.

“Math teachers are still going to be taking courses in math in the College of Arts and Sciences and learning math, so we’re not going to sacrifice the rigor of academic content that they’re exposed to,” Pianta said.

Students will still be able to earn master’s degrees at UVA’s Curry School but thanks to this new program, they can begin teaching after just four years and complete their fifth year online.

Lawmakers believe this change in legislation can cut the teacher deficit in Virginia in half.