Licensure & Certification



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.

Education and Training

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.

Licensure and Certification

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.

Other Qualifications

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.

Additional Certifications and Advancement

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 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
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: or
Arizona Department of Education
1535 West Jefferson Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Phone: (602) 542-4361
Toll-Free: (800) 352-4558
Fax: (602) 542-5440
Arkansas Department of Education
Room 304A
Four State Capitol Mall
Little Rock, AR 72201-1071
Phone: (501) 682-4204
Fax: (501) 682-1079
California Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901
Phone: (916) 319-0800
Fax: (916) 319-0100
Colorado Department of Education
201 East Colfax Avenue
Denver, CO 80203-1704
Phone: (303) 866-6600
Fax: (303) 830-0793
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: or
Delaware Department of Education
Suite Two
401 Federal Street
Dover, DE 19901-3639
Phone: (302) 735-4000
Fax: (302) 739-4654
Email: or
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: or
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: or
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: or
Hawaii Department of Education
Systems Accountability Office
Room 411
1390 Miller Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone: (808) 586-3283
Fax: (808) 586-3440
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: or
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: or
Indiana Department of Education
Statehouse, Room 229
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2795
Phone: (317) 232-6610
Fax: (317) 232-6610
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
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: or
Kentucky Department of Education
Capital Plaza Tower
First Floor
500 Mero Street
Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone: (502) 564-3141
Fax: (502) 564-5680
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
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: or
Maryland State Department of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: (410) 767-0100
Fax: (410) 333-6033
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: or
Michigan Department of Education
P.O. Box 30008
608 West Allegan Street
Lansing, MI 48909
Phone: (517) 373-3324
Fax: (517) 335-4565
Email: or
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: or
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
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
Montana Office of Public Instruction
P.O. Box 202501
Helena, MT 59620-2501
Phone: (406) 444-2082
Toll-Free: (888) 231-9393
Toll-Free Restrictions: area code 406 only
Fax: (406) 444-3924
Nebraska Department of Education
301 Centennial Mall South
P.O. Box 94987
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-5020
Fax: 402-471-4433
Nevada Department of Education
700 East Fifth Street
Carson City, NV 89701
Phone: (775) 687-9217
Fax: (775) 687-9202
New Hampshire
New Hampshire Department of Education
Hugh J. Gallen State Office Park
101 Pleasant Street
Concord, NH 03301
Phone: (603) 271-3495
Toll-Free: (800) 339-9900
Fax: (603) 271-1953
TTY: Relay NH 711
Email: or
New Jersey
New Jersey Department of Education
P.O. Box 500
100 Riverview Plaza
Trenton, NJ 08625-0500
Phone: (609) 292-4469
Fax: (609) 777-4099
New Mexico
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786
Phone: (505) 827-5800
Fax: (505) 827-6520
Email: or
New York
New York State Education Department
Education Building
Room 111
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12234
Phone: (518) 474-5844
Fax: (518) 473-4909
North Carolina
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
301 North Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
Phone: (919) 807-3430
Fax: (919) 807-3445
Email: or
North Dakota
North Dakota Department of Public Instruction
Department 201
600 East Boulevard Avenue
Bismarck, ND 58505-0440
Phone: (701) 328-2260
Fax: (701) 328-2461
Email: or
Ohio Department of Education
25 South Front Street
Columbus, OH 43215-4183
Phone: (614) 466-4839
Toll-Free: (877) 644-6338
Fax: (614) 728-9300
TTY: (888) 886-0181
Email: or
Oklahoma State Department of Education
2500 North Lincoln Boulevard
Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4599
Phone: (405) 521-3301
Fax: (405) 521-6205
Oregon Department of Education
255 Capitol Street, NE
Salem, OR 97310-0203
Phone: (503) 947-5600
Fax: (503) 378-5156
TTY: (503) 378-2892
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Phone: (717) 787-5820
Fax: (717) 787-7222
TTY: (717) 783-8445
Email: or
Rhode Island
Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
255 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903-3400
Phone: (401) 222-4690
Fax: (401) 222-6178
TTY: (800) 745-5555
Email: or
South Carolina
South Carolina Department of Education
1006 Rutledge Building
1429 Senate Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Phone: (803) 734-8815
Fax: (803) 734-3389
Email: or
South Dakota
South Dakota Department of Education
700 Governors Drive
Pierre, SD 57501-2291
Phone: (605) 773-5669
Fax: (605) 773-6139
TTY: (605) 773-6302
Email: or
Tennessee State Department of Education
Andrew Johnson Tower, Sixth Floor
710 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37243-0375
Phone: (615) 741-2731
Fax: (615) 532-4791
Texas Education Agency
William B. Travis Building
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701-1494
Phone: (512) 463-9734
Fax: (512) 463-9838
TTY: (512) 475-3540
Email: or
Utah State Office of Education
250 East 500 South
P.O. Box 144200
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4200
Phone: (801) 538-7500
Fax: (801) 538-7521
Vermont Department of Education
120 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620-2501
Phone: (802) 828-3135
Fax: (802) 828-3140
TTY: (802) 828-2755
Email: or
Virginia Department of Education
P.O. Box 2120
James Monroe Building
101 North 14th Street
Richmond, VA 23218-2120
Phone: (804) 225-2420
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (Washington)
Old Capitol Building
600 South Washington
P.O. Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200
Phone: (360) 725-6000
Fax: (360) 753-6712
TTY: (360) 664-3631
West Virginia
West Virginia Department of Education
Building 6, Room 358
1900 Kanawha Boulevard East
Charleston, WV 25305-0330
Phone: (304) 558-2681
Fax: (304) 558-0048
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
125 South Webster Street
P.O. Box 7841
Madison, WI 53707-7841
Phone: (608) 266-3584
Toll-Free: (800) 441-4563
Fax: (608) 266-5188
TTY: (608) 267-2427
Wyoming Department of Education
Hathaway Building
Second Floor
2300 Capitol Avenue
Cheyenne, WY 82002-0050
Phone: (307) 777-7675
Fax: (307) 777-6234
TTY: (307) 777-8546