Are Alternative Certifications the Future of Educator Prep Programs?

By Michelle Dzisiak
woman in front of laptop in kitchen working on alternative certification educator prep program

It’s a sunny August day, the first day of a new school year. An anxious buzz vibrates through a playground full of students as they wait outside their school building, eager to reconnect with classmates, excited to meet their new teacher, and keen to adjust to the routines of a new grade.

But, when the school bell rings, hundreds of students are left behind with no one to greet them at the door. No one welcomes them in or offers them guidance on where to go. There is no teacher ready to teach them.

The sad reality is that the American education system is facing a crisis.

The demand for teachers continues to drastically outpace the supply.

The number of eager aspiring teachers enrolled in educator preparation programs is declining for many reasons. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education released its second comprehensive report on the state of teacher preparation, noting the many challenges facing traditional educator preparation programs.

Costs associated with further education, the inability to maintain employment, and the need to expand training specialties in specific areas are just a few of the barriers preventing more people from enrolling in teacher preparation programs across the Nation.

But, what are the solutions to get teachers into classrooms?

How can we avoid a generation of students lacking the educational leaders they need? How can we continue to support aspiring teachers and remove the barriers that prevent them from filling empty roles in our schools?

The teacher shortage is a complex, systematic problem- with no single solution. 

Alternative Certification Programs (ACPs) provide a solution that eliminates barriers for aspiring teachers, like time and cost to the classroom. ACPs are one way we can continue to build a healthy pipeline of new teachers.

Alternative Certification Programs (ACPs) offer a nontraditional route to certification through universities, school districts, education service centers, community colleges, and private entities.

These programs provide a faster and more affordable pathway to teacher licensure.

Compared to traditional certification pathways, which can take 2 to 4 years to complete and typically cost around USD $30,000, alternative teacher certification can be completed in just six to nine months and cost far less - with an average cost of USD $5,500.

This significant difference in time and cost is why ACPs are growing in popularity among career changers and new grads. Finances are a significant barrier to entry into the teaching profession. A lower cost-to-classroom ratio is one-way ACPs are helping to ease some of the financial burdens for aspiring teachers.

ACPs cost less overall, and the flexible nature of these programs also means candidates can work. At the same time, they’re enrolled in the program.

For candidates who need to work to support themselves or their families, taking 2-4 years away from an income is simply not an option. Luckily, ACPs offer a way around this challenge as many candidates maintain a full-time or part-time job while earning their teaching license.

In addition, due to the asynchronous, online learning style ACPs offer, candidates can work during the daytime hours and complete online coursework during evenings and weekends.

For aspiring teachers who need to maintain employment while furthering their education, ACPs programs offer a massive opportunity that traditional educator preparation programs do not.

“It’s very difficult for folks who can’t rely on family resources, who are going to have to go into debt to think about going into a career that is less well-paid than others, to do a clinical experience that traditionally they’re not paid for, that takes away time they could be doing a part-time job,” said King, the co-author of the AACTE report. “The economics of it are challenging.”

- Madeline Will, Education Week

Although the vast number of teaching roles remaining vacant across the nation is a major concern, it also means opportunities for aspiring teachers as schools use pre-service teachers to fill vacant positions.

ACP candidates are often able to find a paid clinical placement opportunity for the in-class experience module of their program requirements.

By fulfilling the clinical placement aspect of their teacher preparation as an emergency hire or long-term substitute, candidates can earn a teaching salary and gain valuable in-class teaching experience while concurrently earning their teaching license.

The practical, in-class experience candidates gain while earning a salary is an added benefit unique to ACPs.

The world needs more great teachers, and one of the simple answers to a complex, systematic problem is to create more teachers.

Alternative Teacher Certification Programs allow all individuals who are passionate about teaching and who have what it takes to be a great teacher to pursue their dreams by eliminating barriers such as time and cost without sacrificing the quality of instruction.

Considering becoming a teacher?

Klassroom’s nationally accredited, state-approved Teacher Certification Program certifies, develops, and places amazing teachers just like you at the head of classrooms around the country. 

How do we do it? Our program is 100% online, so you can study on your schedule. And our program allows you to work while you earn your teaching license. We’re removing the barriers to becoming a teacher because we believe in teachers.

Become a U.S. licensed teacher in just 9 months with Klassroom


AACTE’s National Portrait Sounds the Alarm on Declining Interest in Education Careers

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