Become a Teacher in Tennessee

Tennessee Highlights

Avg. Elementary School Teacher Salary $49,470
Avg. Secondary School Teacher Salary $50,570
Vacation Weeks per Year17
Pupil/Teacher Ratio 15.09
Expenditure per Pupil $8,630

Teacher salaries are provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics report.

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Tenessee Teacher Shortage Areas

A teacher shortage area is defined by the U.S. Department of Education as “an area of specific grade, subject matter or discipline classification, or a geographic area in which … there is an inadequate supply of elementary or secondary school teachers.” The Department allows states to identify their own teacher shortage areas, but encourages them to follow a prescribed methodology based on unfilled teaching positions, teaching positions filled by instructors with irregular certifications, and positions filled by teachers certified in other subject areas.

  • English (Grades 7-12)
  • ESL (Pre-K-Grade 12)
  • Mathematics (Grades 7-12)
  • Science (Grades 7-12)
  • Social Studies (Grades 7-12)
  • Special Education (K-Grade 12)
  • World Languages (Grades 7-12)

Steps to Becoming a Teacher in Tennessee

Important Note: Education licensure requirements, statistics and other information are subject to change. makes its best effort to keep content accurate; however, the official sources are the state education departments. Please confirm licensing requirements with your state before applying for licensure or renewal. Last updated: 10/24/2016

To earn an initial teaching certification in the state of Tennessee, teaching candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • Step One: Complete a bachelor’s degree and other prerequisite coursework required.
  • Step Two: Complete a state-approved teacher preparation program.
  • Step Three: Pass required exams.
  • Step Four: Submit a Tennessee teaching credential application.

Continue below for more information.

Earn Your Tennessee Teaching Credential

To earn your Tennessee teaching credential you will have to complete the appropriate amount of undergraduate coursework and standardized tests, as well as an accredited certification program.

To learn more about earning your Tennessee teaching credential, visit the state Department of Education. Read more about getting your teaching credential in general on the Teach and CertificationMap websites.

Tennessee teachers start out with an Apprentice Teaching Practitioner License, which is valid for the first three years and may be renewed once. After at least three years of teaching experience, teachers can apply for their Professional Teacher License, which is valid for six years and may be renewed an indefinite number of times. If you already hold a valid teaching credential from another state, you may be eligible to earn your Tennessee credential through the interstate reciprocity.

Step One: Prerequisite Coursework in Tennessee

Teacher education programs typically consist of two elements: curricula and fieldwork. Curricula generally includes instruction on fundamental skills, pedagogy (the science of teaching), and preparation for researching, designing and implementing learning experiences in a particular field of study. Fieldwork often includes field observations, internships, student teaching, or a combination of all three.

To teach in the United States, certified teachers must generally possess a bachelor’s degree, at the least. Some states require that specific credit hours be earned for instruction in various specialty areas. Tennessee does not list specific course or credit hour requirements, but every college or university teacher preparation program will have requirements of its own. Contact your teacher preparation program or the Tennessee Department of Education for more information.

Step Two: Tennessee Teacher Certification Programs

To earn your teaching credential you will have to complete the appropriate amount of undergraduate coursework and standardized tests, as well as an accredited certification program. A list of accredited teacher preparation programs in Tennessee can be found on the state Department of Education’s website.

Step Three: Required Tests for Tennessee

To become a certified teacher in Tennessee, you must successfully complete the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators tests, in addition to any relevant Praxis tests for Specific Licensure Areas. You can find a full list of tests that Tennessee teachers need to take on the Praxis website.

You can learn more about the Praxis exams by visiting the Praxis information page provided by Teachers Test Prep, where you can also access free online Praxis Practice Tests and Praxis Study Guides, plus a variety of paid Praxis Test Prep options for those who need additional help, including live prep classes, one-on-one tutoring, and on-demand online prep.

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Featured Online Programs

Explore your career options in education:

Boost your credentials: in this 8-week online course, you'll engage deeply with the most relevant research on effective and engaging teaching methods in the higher education context. Refine your own practices, portfolio, and teaching philosophy and set yourself apart as effective educator.

BehaviorAnalysis@Simmons is the highly respected Master of Science in Behavior Analysis program delivered online from Simmons College. The program prepares students for leadership roles in the rapidly growing field of applied behavior analysis.

Counseling@NYU offers an online master of arts in Counseling and Guidance program, with concentrations in school and bilingual school counseling to prepare students to become collaborative leaders elementary, middle, and high schools across the country. Part-time and full-time options are available to fit student schedules.

Vanderbilt University's Peabody College offers an online Master of Education in human development counseling with a specialization in school counseling for students interested in becoming school counselors and making a meaningful difference in K–12 settings.

The Master of Arts in Teaching degree (MAT) is for aspiring teachers who want to gain the skills and knowledge they need to become great educators.

The online Master of Science in Teaching program prepares aspiring teachers (grades 1-6) for initial teaching certification or dual certification in teaching and special education.

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Alternative Certification in Tennessee

Individuals who have graduated from an accredited college or university, but possess a bachelor’s degree in an area other than education and have not earned a traditional teaching certificate, can still teach in the state of Tennessee by earning an alternative certification and fulfilling requirements set forth by the state.  For more information, contact the Tennessee Department of Education.

Southeast Region Troops to Teachers is one example of an alternative certification pathway in Tennessee. The program is dedicated to assisting military personnel transition into new careers as public school teachers in high-needs schools.

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Benefits of a Master's Degree in Tennessee

It is no longer enough to have years of teaching experience. Following the No Child Left Behind Act, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and other academic quantification measures, the careers of teachers increasingly depend on the results they produce in the classroom. A master's degree in the field of education can give you more educational theory and classroom skills, as well as additional hands-on student teaching experience with a mentor.

After a master’s program, you may be able to achieve better results in the classroom and have more job security, as well as higher pay. Teacher salary schedules vary by district in Tennessee, but taking Cumberland County as an example: Teachers there earn $2,760 more in their first year just for holding a master’s rather than a bachelor’s, according to district Teacher Salary Schedule.

Learn more about the benefits of a Master of Arts in Teaching vs. Master of Education on  

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Certification Reciprocity in Tennessee

Tennessee Department of Education may award Practitioner Licenses to out-of-state applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree, have completed a preparation program approved by the State Board of Education, and have verified content knowledge. To inquire about your specific situation, contact the Tennessee Department of Education.

For more information, see the reciprocity page.

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Financial Aid in Tennessee

Tennessee residents are eligible for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and the TEACH Grant, which offer financial aid to students in return for agreements to teach in high-need schools.

Learn more about how to finance your master's degree on

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Tennessee Teacher Salary and Incentives

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Tennessee ranked 36th in the nation for teacher salary in 2013, with the average in-state being $48,289. Salary schedules in Tennessee vary by district, but, on average, elementary school teachers in the state can expect to earn $49,470 and secondary school teachers $50,570, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Tennessee Teacher Benefits and Retirement

Retirement and disability benefits are provided for Tennessee teachers through the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS). According to TCRS, members are eligible for retirement after completing 30 years of service at any age, or at age 60 after at least five years of service, as well as reduced benefits at age 55 with five years of service.

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Professional Development for Tennessee Teachers

A variety of professional development resources for educators in Tennessee are provided by the Tennessee Department of Education. Professional development opportunities offered by the department include study councils, guidebooks, and programs, like The Jason Foundation, which provides suicide prevention training for educators at no cost.

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Tennessee Teaching Jobs

The Tennessee Department of Education directs educators looking for teaching jobs in Tennessee to Teachers-Teachers, an online database of postings for educational positions. Users can search by position, grade level, location, and other filters to narrow results. Troops-to-Teachers is another recruitment program for Tennessee teachers.

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