WRITTEN BY kian northcote • 6 min

Kian Northcote is a freelance journalist and writer with a background in education.

Photo of woman holding up certificate that says "Teaching license reciprocity".

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Teaching license reciprocity is a tricky subject, and there’s a good reason for that. 

The state you teach in has a major impact on your training, teaching experience, classroom experience and qualifications as a teacher. That’s why much of the American education system is governed at the state level. 

Certified teachers can be licensed at the state level, meaning you can get certification from Ohio State University. Sadly, that license does not mean that when you graduate, you’re all set to head down to California to start your teaching career. 

But if California is your dream destination, not all hope is lost because of a little thing called teacher certification reciprocity. 

If you’re planning to teach out-of-state, it’s a concept you need to understand.   

Fortunately, we’ve got you covered with this detailed guide on what license reciprocity is, why it’s necessary, and how you can prepare for it.  

Let’s start at the top.

What is teacher certification reciprocity?

Woman researching Teaching license reciprocity.
Teaching license reciprocity can be a long, complicated process. But some states have adopted a system which allows teaching licenses to transfer much easier from state-to-state.

Teacher Certification Reciprocity, or Teaching Credential Reciprocity, is an agreement between states that allows individual states to recognize each other’s different teaching credentials. 

And it outlines requirements and which types of educator certificates and which style of certificates other states will accept.

In theory, it means educators can transfer their teaching license to all 50 states (and a few Canadian provinces too). 

But this doesn’t necessarily mean you can relocate to another part of the country and start teaching right away. There’s a little bit of bureaucracy involved. 

First, you may need to meet additional requirements before you can apply for a new license in your desired state.  

That’s where the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement comes into play. We can’t cover it in full here, but there are two key takeaways:

  1. Although states have their own individual agreements, NASDTEC operates nationwide and streamlines the application process, helping both recruiters and teachers identify specific state guidelines so that a license can transfer efficiently.
  2. But, it’s important to remember that the agreements between states are still unique and do not necessarily allow for two-way reciprocal acceptance. 

Still confused? Here’s an example:  

You might hold a teaching certificate in Connecticut, which will allow you to apply for a license in Georgia, but it doesn’t work both ways. 

If you have a Georgian license, you won’t automatically be allowed to transfer your license in Connecticut until you’ve fulfilled a more stringent set of requirements.  

This is because the laws around license reciprocity usually vary from state to state, so the NASDTEC Agreement is useful. 

Complicated, right? 

Thankfully there’s a way you can view all state requirements, which makes it easier for teachers who are looking to relocate.

Once you determine that you (hopefully) meet the requirements, then you’ll need to apply for the teaching license at the teaching license agency of the state you wish to teach in. 

At the end of the day, it’s up to the teaching license agency to approve and issue your new license. 

Why does teaching certification reciprocity exist? 

Long-story-short. Teacher shortages

Teacher Certification Reciprocity is one of the solutions to the nationwide teacher shortage, with figures from 2018 revealing a deficit of around 112 000 teachers across the US.  

Reciprocity can help to address this issue because it allows for greater mobility between states. It enables state teachers to transfer their teaching licenses to other states, where staff shortages in specific subjects can be more pronounced.  

Young and newly qualified teachers can benefit from full reciprocity because they are more likely to relocate and seek positions in more challenging environments. 

But it’s not just new teachers who can take advantage of a more transparent license system.

An age-old problem with state-specific teaching licenses is that more experienced educators who’ve moved out-of-state are often unwilling to renew their licenses due to the level of bureaucracy involved. The process requires a large time commitment.

The NASDTEC Agreement can rectify this situation, but there is work to be done with some teachers still reporting irrelevant and often unnecessary course requirements as an additional hurdle to gaining teacher certification in a new state. 

Put simply. Our profession cannot afford to lose teachers because it’s too difficult to renew a license in a different state.  

Man on computer researching Teaching license reciprocity.
State teachers looking to move across the country will need to meet a set of additional requirements before they can get a new state teaching license issued.

Which states have teaching license reciprocity?

All 50 states in the US now include some form of teaching license reciprocity. 

But it’s important to note that New York, New Mexico, and South Dakota aren’t signed up to the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement, which can make certifying your teaching license in those territories more challenging. 

It’s also worth noting there are now eight states that also offer full teacher license reciprocity, as well as being signed up to NASDTEC. 

Full license reciprocity makes it much easier for teachers to transfer their license to a new state because it often means you’ll have a lot less new coursework to complete, and fewer assessments too. 

Heck, in some cases you won’t have to worry about either. Happy days.  

Below are the eight states that offer full license reciprocity. 

  • Mississippi
  • Illinois
  • Florida
  • Arizona
  • Hawaii
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • Oklahoma. 

You can also learn more about this topic by reading more resources about out-of-state reciprocity. 

And if you fancy kicking off your teaching near the Grand Canyon or in the Aloha State, then check out our online teacher certification programs for Arizona and Hawaii

Both of these certification programs are state-approved and can give you full certification in just a few short months at a much lower cost than the traditional route. 

Plus, as we’ve touched on in this section, you can transfer these teaching licenses to other states if you would rather live elsewhere later on. 

DID YOU KNOW

37 states and the District of Columbia have different requirements for experienced and inexperienced teachers. This helps limit barriers for candidates with lots of experience under their belt. 

Teacher moving across state for Teaching license reciprocity.
Teacher mobility is one of the most important aspects of teacher certification reciprocity.

How to transfer a teaching license to another state. 

If you already hold a teaching license and you’re looking to relocate to a state that does not have full teacher license reciprocity, it will involve more work, with the exact requirements varying from state to state. 

Let’s briefly go over how you can transfer your teaching license to another state if you’re a certified teacher in a different state. 

Your first port of call should be the Department of Education website for the state you want to move to.  You should then check whether they’ve signed up to the NASDTEC Agreement, and what their exact requirements are.

For example, let’s say you plan to relocate to Massachusetts.  Check out the interstate agreement for out of state applicants in Massachusetts. It includes all the information you would need. 

Typically, you may be required to show evidence of the following when you’re transferring your teaching license. 

  • Your teaching credentials: You’ll need to show that you’ve completed an approved educator preparation program. This could be your bachelor’s degree, for example. 
  • Police checks: Evidence that you’ve passed enhanced criminal background checks; the amount can vary from state-to-state.  
  • Teacher tests: Be prepared to provide evidence that you’ve passed all the necessary teacher tests in your home state. You may also need to take additional tests before you can start practicing in your new home. Most states require teachers to have passed a PRAXIS exam, but it’s also important to note that many states will allow you to teach on a temporary license before you take their state-specific teaching test. ‘Grace periods’ typically range from six months to one year. 
  • On the job experience: You may need to show evidence of substantial teaching experience before some states will grant you a teaching license. This is Nebraska’s case, where you need two years of teaching experience before you can get a full state license.
  • Fees: You’ll need to pay an application fee when you submit your documents to the relevant Department of Education. You will also need to pay to have documents certified, college transcripts obtained and you’ll be liable for those background checks too. 

Yep! transferring a teaching license can still be a tricky business. 

And what if you’re passionate about being an educator, but you’re less passionate about spending two or more years and thousands of dollars on a traditional pathway to teacher preparation, which may end up limiting where you can teach? 

Thankfully, there are alternative teacher preparation opportunities that are operated by individual states.  

These programs are aimed at college graduates in subjects other than education, and are not only more affordable than traditional pathways but can also offer full certification in numerous states. 

Alternative certification takes less than a year whereas a traditional education preparation program takes four.

License reciprocity needs to be more practical

Teaching license reciprocity can be complicated. Yes, the NASDTEC Agreement is making things easier, but the lack of a centralized system is frustrating for many teachers. 

Teacher education and certification reciprocity still have a long way to go before that can happen. 

Some states are not going far enough in vetting out of state applicants, while others require highly experienced educators to complete additional assessments and coursework without any kind of opt-out option. 

If you don’t meet guidelines for reciprocity, then your best bet is to look into an alternative teacher certification program in your desired state. 

Our society is more mobile than ever, but the teacher shortage has reached a crisis in the US, with many states struggling to employ educators.  

One way to help address this problem is to create a fluid license reciprocity system that’s not burdened by outdated or unnecessary bureaucracy and enables teachers to work in parts of the country where there is a real need.