General requirements for teaching credentials include obtaining your Bachelor’s degree and completing a teacher education program. All 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico require their teachers be licensed to teach in public schools. However, the specific requirements for teacher certification vary on a state-by-state basis. The rules for licensure are set by each states’ board of education, and while most states require the completion of a standardized test (such as the Praxis Exam) to demonstrate subject competency and mastery of basic skills, other requirements are highly individualized. Some states require their teachers to have a degree in the subject they wish to teach. Others require teachers to receive certification for each individual subject they teach or even certification for the specific grade they plan on teaching. Teachers can be licensed in early childhood education (preschool through third grade), elementary education (first grade through sixth or eighth), middle school (roughly grades five through eight), secondary education (usually a specific subject area from seventh through twelfth grade) or a specific field, such as reading, writing, English as a second language or special education. Many states also require teaching experience as a student teacher under the supervision of a licensed teacher, which is often incorporated into a teacher education program. Most states have reciprocity agreements that recognize portions of a teacher’s licensure from other states, allowing educators a greater degree of flexibility in moving from place to place for work.
National Board Teacher CertificationNational Board Certification is a way for teachers to demonstrate exemplary knowledge of their field beyond that required for a license. Teachers can become National Board Certified in many different subjects. Many schools even offer benefits to National Board Certified teachers, including higher salaries, compensation for continuing their education and greater opportunities for advancement. Board Certified teachers are more easily able to become administrators, counselors and specialists, and the certification is offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Alternative LicensureStates offer alternative licensure programs for teachers who do not have the experience required for a traditional license. Teachers in these programs typically have their Bachelor’s degree, but may have not taken the necessary education courses to pursue standard teacher certification. These programs are ideal for recent college graduates who didn’t decide to become teachers until after they graduated, as well as for people changing careers. Most alternative licensure programs consist of working immediately in a classroom under the supervision of a licensed teacher, while simultaneously taking the appropriate education classes. Teachers in these programs work for about one or two years before they receive their teaching license. Alternative licensure programs are in place to compensate for shortages of teachers in certain subjects or to qualify more people to teach in high needs areas that have difficulty attracting and retaining teachers.
This is a general overview of the most basic requirements for becoming a teacher in the United States. All U.S. public school teachers must be licensed, and many teachers can become licensed even if they did not initially plan to become teachers. However, each state has its own very specific guidelines, and if you want to become licensed as a teacher, it is important that you know the exact requirements of your state. For a complete breakdown of each state’s individual teaching requirements, visit our teaching credential state pages.