April 13, 2022 | Patrick Gallant
It’s not a surprise that you need a teaching license to teach.
But, how do you get a teaching license? And are there options to fast-track the teaching certification process?
Just as there is no single path in life, there is no single route to obtaining a teaching license.
Options vary state-by-state, with alternative and fast-track programs available.
If you want to get a teaching license, it’s worth shopping around to find the program that’s right for you.
Virtually, all programs require a Bachelor’s degree and a clean background check, but beyond that, there are dozens of options.
In this guide, we’ll cover the following questions:
- What is a teaching license?
- How do you get a teaching license?
- What is the difference between a teaching license and a teaching certificate?
- Can I transfer a teaching license to a different state?
- Can I transfer my teaching credentials to another country?
- Are there alternative certification options?
- How do alternative certification programs work?
- Are there accelerated routes to teacher certification?
1. What is a teaching license?
A teaching license is a document that says you are qualified to teach.
It’s like a driver’s license, but for teaching!
A teaching license works on a state-by-state basis. They are granted by the state and only work in the state that granted them.
It’s important to note that each state offers different kinds of teaching licenses. One license might qualify you to teach elementary school, while another one qualifies you to teach Special Education.
If you want to move, there are programs for transferring your teaching license to another state.
This is called “teaching license reciprocity,” and is covered below.
It’s also important to be mindful that teaching licenses have a limited shelf life.
They expire every few years, so you will have to repeatedly renew your license throughout your career.
2. How do you get a teaching license?
Each state has its own requirements for granting a teaching license.
In most cases, you need at least a Bachelor’s degree, and a clean criminal record.
Other common requirements include:
- An Education degree.
- A Master’s degree.
- A certain number of hours spent teaching.
- Extra, specific coursework.
However, states vary widely in their requirements.
Take California, for example. California has some of the strictest requirements in the US.
Teachers need to:
- Obtain a Bachelor’s degree.
- Perform 600 hours of student teaching.
- Demonstrate basic skills with scores from the SAT, the ACT, AP exams, or other state-approved exams.
Arizona, on the other hand, requires only a Bachelor’s degree and some extra coursework.
In any case, applying for a teaching license takes several weeks and costs a small fee.
In some cases, for example, military spouses, applications can be expedited.
3. What is the difference between a teaching license and a teaching certificate?
In most cases, the terms mean the same thing.
Some states may prefer to use one or the other.
Wisconsin uses “teaching license,” while Michigan uses “teaching certificate.”
Be aware that there are credentials called “certifications” that are not full licenses, but may have other uses.
A TEFL certificate (Teach English as a Foreign Language) proves your competency in teaching English in foreign countries.
For some countries, that’s all you need to teach English. Other countries require additional credentials.
4. Can I transfer a teaching license to a different state?
Yes! But, it depends on the state.
This practice, called “teaching license reciprocity,” allows you to apply for a new license in another state.
You can use your existing license as proof of competency.
Teaching reciprocity makes it easy to move states. But you will have to complete more paperwork and sometimes take additional courses.
The teaching license reciprocity system is managed by NASDTEC, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification.
States choose to opt into this agreement to make it easier for teachers to move around.
Not all US states have opted into NASDTEC’s system. The following three are not involved at all:
- New York
- New Mexico
- South Dakota
Additionally, not all states have fully opted in.
Most states partially accept the agreement, meaning they will take licenses from some states, but not others.
States offering full license reciprocity include:
If you plan on moving to another state, do your research to find out how to transfer your existing teaching license.
To do this, you can visit the individual state requirements page.
5. Can I transfer my teaching credentials to another country?
Yes! But, similar to the US state teaching reciprocity, pay attention to the details. Moving countries may require a visa or residence permit, so the process will be more complex.
US teachers moving to Canada will need to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Education, as well as complete a certain number of student teaching hours.
If you are qualified as a teacher in the UK, you can use your Qualified Teaching Status (QTS) to teach abroad.
6. Are there alternative certification options?
Yes! There are many. You don’t always have to follow the standard path.
States develop alternative or non-teacher certification programs to help with the teacher shortage.
They are a way for talented people without Education backgrounds to become teachers.
In most cases, you will need at least a Bachelor’s degree, but that’s where the similarities end.
Every state has its own set of alternative certification programs, and they differ widely.
Some of these programs are online, while others have in-person components.
7. How do alternative certification programs work?
Typically, they work by giving you a provisional license so that you can start teaching students right away.
Once you have enough demonstrated hours as a student teacher, you can receive a full teaching license.
Different states have different alternative certification programs.
To find out what options are available in your state, you should look at your state’s alternative certification requirements.
Take Arizona, for example.
Arizona has several programs, including:
- Teaching Intern / Teacher in Residence Certificate Pathway
- Career and Technical Education Certificates
- Alternative Certification Programs from various Arizona universities
New York has a different set of programs:
- Transitional A Certificate, for people with an associate’s degree.
- Transitional B Certificate, for people with an undergraduate degree in their preferred teaching subject.
- Transitional C Certificate, for people with a graduate degree in their preferred teaching subject.
- Transitional G Certificate, for college professors wishing to transition to K-12 teaching.
8. Is there an accelerated route to teacher certification?
There are several options for fast-track teaching certification.
These are all considered alternative certification programs. They don’t follow the standard route to certification.
Like other alternative certification programs, accelerated routes grant prospective teachers provisional certificates.
They can then use these certificates to obtain enough student teaching hours for a full certificate.
Fast track teaching certification programs are often offered by Colleges.
Check your local state college to see if they offer such an accredited program.
If you want a fast online option, check out the American Board online teaching program.
This program, designed for college graduates, offers a teaching certificate in as little as 7 months.
Successful graduates can teach in 12 states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Florida, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
The many paths to teaching credentials
Potential teachers have a wide buffet of options to choose from when it comes to obtaining a teaching license.
Possibilities vary from state to state, but as long as you have a Bachelor’s degree and a clean criminal record, there are options available for you.
When choosing the right pathway that feels aligned to you, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the requirements for my state?
- How fast do I need to obtain a license?
- Are there alternative programs that fit my profile?
Then do your research, pick a program, and apply!
Are you thinking about becoming a teacher or making a career change?
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