The traditional route to becoming a public school teacher involves completing a bachelor’s degree from a teacher education program and then obtaining a license. However, most States now offer alternative routes to licensure for those who have a college degree in other fields. Private school teachers do not have to be licensed but still need a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree may not be needed by preschool teachers and vocational education teachers, who need experience in their field rather than a specific degree.
Many States now offer professional development schools, which are partnerships between universities and elementary or secondary schools. Professional development schools merge theory with practice and allow the student to experience a year of teaching firsthand, under professional guidance. Students enter these 1-year programs after completion of their bachelor’s degree.
All 50 States and the District of Columbia require public school teachers to be licensed. Licensure is not required for teachers in most private schools. Usually licensure is granted by the State Board of Education or a licensure advisory committee.
Requirements for regular licenses to teach kindergarten through grade 12 vary by State. However, all States require general education teachers to have a bachelor’s degree and to have completed an approved teacher training program with a prescribed number of subject and education credits, as well as supervised practice teaching. Almost all States require applicants for a teacher’s license to be tested for competency in basic skills, such as reading and writing, and in teaching. Almost all also require teachers to exhibit proficiency in their subject. Many school systems are presently moving toward implementing performance-based systems for licensure, which usually require teachers to demonstrate satisfactory teaching performance over an extended period in order to obtain a provisional license, in addition to passing an examination in their subject.
The Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, the most common type of certification, requires a mix of classroom training and experience working with children, along with an independent assessment of the teacher’s competence.
Nearly all States now also offer alternative licensure programs for teachers who have a bachelor’s degree in the subject they will teach, but who lack the necessary education courses required for a regular license. Many of these alternative licensure programs are designed to ease shortages of teachers of certain subjects, such as mathematics and science. Other programs provide teachers for urban and rural schools that have difficulty filling positions with teachers from traditional licensure programs.
In many States, vocational teachers have many of the same licensure requirements as other teachers. However, knowledge and experience in a particular field are important, so some States will license vocational education teachers without a bachelor’s degree, provided they can demonstrate expertise in their field. A minimum number of hours in education courses may also be required.
Private schools are generally exempt from meeting State licensing standards. For secondary school teacher jobs, they prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in the subject they intend to teach, or in childhood education for elementary school teachers.
In addition to being knowledgeable about the subjects they teach, teachers must have the ability to communicate, inspire trust and confidence, and motivate students, as well as understand the students’ educational and emotional needs. Teachers must be able to recognize and respond to individual and cultural differences in students and employ different teaching methods that will result in higher student achievement. They should be organized, dependable, patient, and creative. Teachers also must be able to work cooperatively and communicate effectively with other teachers, support staff, parents, and members of the community. Private schools associated with religious institutions also desire candidates who share the values that are important to the institution.
In some cases, teachers of kindergarten through high school may attain professional certification in order to demonstrate competency beyond that required for a license. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offers a voluntary national certification. To become nationally certified, experienced teachers must prove their aptitude by compiling a portfolio showing their work in the classroom and by passing a written assessment and evaluation of their teaching knowledge. Currently, teachers may become certified in a variety of areas, on the basis of the age of the students and, in some cases, the subject taught.
All States recognize national certification, and many States and school districts provide special benefits to teachers who earn certification. Benefits typically include higher salaries and reimbursement for continuing education and certification fees. In addition, many States allow nationally certified teachers to carry a license from one State to another.
With additional preparation, teachers may move into such positions as school librarians, reading specialists, instructional coordinators, or guidance counselors. Teachers may become administrators or supervisors, although the number of these positions is limited and competition for them can be intense. In some systems, highly qualified, experienced teachers can become senior or mentor teachers, with higher pay and additional responsibilities. They guide and assist less experienced teachers while keeping most of their own teaching responsibilities.
Preschool teachers usually work their way up from assistant teacher, to teacher, to lead teacher—who may be responsible for the instruction of several classes—and, finally, to director of the center. Preschool teachers with a bachelor’s degree frequently are qualified to teach kindergarten through grade 3 as well. Teaching at these higher grades often results in higher pay.
For additional resources, contact your State Department of Education. They will provide information about certification programs and grants.Alabama Alabama Department of Education Gordon Persons Office Building 50 North Ripley Street P.O. Box 302101 Montgomery, AL 36104-3833 Phone: (334) 242-9700 Fax: (334) 242-9708 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.alsde.edu/html/home.asp Alaska Alaska Department of Education and Early Development Suite 200 801 West 10th Street P.O. Box 110500 Juneau, AK 99811-0500 Phone: (907) 465-2800 Fax: (907) 465-4156 TTY: (907) 465-2815 Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.eed.state.ak.us/ Arizona Arizona Department of Education 1535 West Jefferson Street Phoenix, AZ 85007 Phone: (602) 542-4361 Toll-Free: (800) 352-4558 Fax: (602) 542-5440 Email: ADEINBOX@azed.gov Website: http://www.ade.az.gov/ Arkansas Arkansas Department of Education Room 304A Four State Capitol Mall Little Rock, AR 72201-1071 Phone: (501) 682-4204 Fax: (501) 682-1079 Email: Ken.James@arkansas.gov Website: http://ArkansasEd.org/ California California Department of Education 1430 N Street Sacramento, CA 95814-5901 Phone: (916) 319-0800 Fax: (916) 319-0100 Email: email@example.com Website: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ Colorado Colorado Department of Education 201 East Colfax Avenue Denver, CO 80203-1704 Phone: (303) 866-6600 Fax: (303) 830-0793 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.cde.state.co.us/ Connecticut Connecticut Department of Education State Office Building 165 Capitol Avenue Hartford, CT 06106-1630 Phone: (860) 713-6548 Toll-Free: (800) 465-4014 Fax: (860) 713-7001 Email: AM.Lenkiewicz@ct.gov or email@example.com Website: http://www.sde.ct.gov/ Delaware Delaware Department of Education Suite Two 401 Federal Street Dover, DE 19901-3639 Phone: (302) 735-4000 Fax: (302) 739-4654 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Website: http://www.doe.state.de.us/ District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education (District of Columbia) State Board of Education Suite 350N 441 Fourth Street NW Washington, DC 20001 Phone: (202) 727-6436 Fax: (202) 727-2019 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Website: http://osse.dc.gov/seo/site/default.asp Florida Florida Department of Education Turlington Building Suite 1514 325 West Gaines Street Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400 Phone: (850) 245-0505 Fax: (850) 245-9667 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Website: http://www.fldoe.org/ Georgia Georgia Department of Education 2066 Twin Towers East 205 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive, SE Atlanta, GA 30334-5001 Phone: (404) 656-2800 Toll-Free: (800) 311-3627 Toll-Free Restrictions: GA residents only Fax: (404) 651-8737 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Website: http://www.gadoe.org Hawaii Hawaii Department of Education Systems Accountability Office Room 411 1390 Miller Street Honolulu, HI 96813 Phone: (808) 586-3283 Fax: (808) 586-3440 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://doe.k12.hi.us/ Idaho Idaho State Board of Education Len B. Jordan Office Building 650 West State Street P.O. Box 83720 Boise, ID 83720-0027 Phone: (208) 332-6800 Toll-Free: (800) 432-4601 Toll-Free Restrictions: ID residents only Fax: (208) 334-2228 TTY: (800) 377-3529 Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.sde.idaho.gov/ Illinois Illinois State Board of Education 100 North First Street Springfield, IL 62777 Phone: (217) 782-4321 Toll-Free: (866) 262-6663 Toll-Free Restrictions: IL residents only Fax: (217) 524-4928 TTY: (217) 782-1900 Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.isbe.net/ Indiana Indiana Department of Education Statehouse, Room 229 Indianapolis, IN 46204-2795 Phone: (317) 232-6610 Fax: (317) 232-6610 Email: email@example.com Website: http://www.doe.in.gov Iowa Iowa Department of Education Grimes State Office Building 400 East 14th Street Des Moines, IA 50319-0146 Phone: (515) 281-3436 Fax: (515) 281-4122 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.iowa.gov/educate Kansas Kansas Department of Education 120 South East 10th Avenue Topeka, KS 66612-1182 Phone: (785) 296-3201 Fax: (785) 296-7933 TTY: (785) 296-6338 Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.ksde.org/ Kentucky Kentucky Department of Education Capital Plaza Tower First Floor 500 Mero Street Frankfort, KY 40601 Phone: (502) 564-3141 Fax: (502) 564-5680 Email: email@example.com Website: http://www.education.ky.gov Louisiana Louisiana Department of Education 1201 North Third P.O. Box 94064 Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9064 Phone: (225) 219-5172 Toll-Free: (877) 453-2721 Fax: (225) 342-0781 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.louisianaschools.net Maine Maine Department of Education Burton M. Cross State Office Building 111 Sewall Street 23 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333-0023 Phone: (207) 624-6600 Fax: (207) 624-6601 TTY: (207) 624-6800 Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.maine.gov/portal/education/ Maryland Maryland State Department of Education 200 West Baltimore Street Baltimore, MD 21201 Phone: (410) 767-0100 Fax: (410) 333-6033 Email: email@example.com Website: http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/MSDE Massachusetts Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education 75 Pleasant Street Malden, MA 02148-4906 Phone: (781) 338-3111 Fax: (781) 338-3770 TTY: (800) 439-2370 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Website: http://www.doe.mass.edu/ Michigan Michigan Department of Education P.O. Box 30008 608 West Allegan Street Lansing, MI 48909 Phone: (517) 373-3324 Fax: (517) 335-4565 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Website: http://www.michigan.gov/mde/ Minnesota Minnesota Department of Education 1500 Highway 36 West Roseville, MN 55113-4266 Phone: (651) 582-8200 Fax: (651) 582-8724 TTY: (651) 582-8201 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Website: http://education.state.mn.us/mde/index.html Mississippi Mississippi Department of Education Central High School 359 North West Street P.O. Box 771 Jackson, MS 39205 Phone: (601) 359-3513 Fax: (601) 359-3242 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/ Missouri Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education 205 Jefferson Street P.O. Box 480 Jefferson City, MO 65102-0480 Phone: (573) 751-4212 Fax: (573) 751-8613 TTY: (800) 735-2966 Email: email@example.com Website: http://dese.mo.gov/ Montana Montana Office of Public Instruction P.O. Box 202501 Helena, MT 59620-2501 Phone: (406) 444-2082 Toll-Free: (888) 231-9393