10 Best Teacher Certification Programs in North Carolina 2024

Published On: January 7th, 2024·By ·

It's an exciting time to switch careers to teaching, and we're here to lend our support. Those looking to get certified by the state must complete a teacher preparation program from an accredited school. But while there are many options, not all approved alternative certification programs in North Carolina are equal. 

We understand how daunting it can be to sift through all the options. Each prospective teacher has unique needs regarding flexibility, location, budget, and goals. To help make your new career journey a little easier, we've rounded up the best teacher certification programs in North Carolina. 

To come up with our top ten, we examined the over 70 approved teacher preparation programs in the state. We rated them based on their course objectives, program length, financial commitment, special services and support, accessibility, flexibility, and track record of enabling candidates to reach their career goals. 

Simplek12 wants you to achieve your teaching dreams. Why wait? Let's get started on the path to success. 

Teacher holding certificate

Teacher Preparation Programs in North Carolina

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) will only grant teacher certification to candidates who have completed one of their approved teacher preparation programs. 

Teacher preparation programs generally fall into two categories: 

  • Traditional
  • Alternative

Traditional teacher preparation programs are for candidates who enter college to become an educator. These programs are typically in-person, 4-5 years long, providing the full university student experience while obtaining a bachelor's degree. They typically favor younger people who recently graduated high school and have little to no previous job experience. 

Alternative teacher preparation programs are for candidates who already have a bachelor's degree. These programs are typically 1-2 years long, far more flexible, and can often be completed while working or raising a family. People in these programs often have job experience and view teaching as an exciting career change. 

Some institutions offer both traditional and alternative programs, including those that offer advanced degree options. However, there are also online licensure programs in North Carolina that are geared for maximum flexibility and accessibility that are perfect for candidates who have hectic lives full of additional commitments. 

Which teacher preparation program is perfect for you depends on your desired certification experience, personal commitments and circumstances, and career goals.  

  1. Teachers of Tomorrow

Teachers of Tomorrow is built upon the ethos that every child deserves a great teacher. They believe this can be accomplished while providing teaching candidates with an affordable, accessible, and flexible certification program for $5,000. Thus, with over 80,000 certified teachers to date, they have become the nation's leading alternative teaching certification program. 

The North Carolina Teachers of Tomorrow program is tailored to meet the NCDPI's precise requirements. Highlights include:

  • 100% online and self-paced. 
  • AAQEP accredited
  • Zero application fee
  • Flexible and affordable payment plans
  • Personalized service and support
  • Exam preparation materials and study resources
  • Resume builder and review services
  • Program and field advisors
  • In-classroom support
  • Candidates typically complete the program in 1-2 years
  • Can teach while completing your coursework

2. Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University's Reich College of Education serves around 2,400 students yearly across their bachelor's, accelerated master's, and additional higher education degree programs. 

It takes 4-5 years to obtain a bachelor's or accelerated master's through their traditional program. In-state tuition as of November 2023 is $8,081, excluding housing and meal plans, and out-of-state is $25,077. 

Alternatively, they offer online Residency Licensure programs for those with a degree. These take 1-2 years to complete, and, depending on the program, the fees range between $3,963-$5,443 per year in-state and $14,470-$22,439 per year for out-of-state.

3. Duke University

The prestigious Duke University provides the traditional pathways to teaching and an in-person accelerated MAT program for those interested in high school education and who already possess a bachelor's in the subject they wish to teach (i.e., English, math, or science). 

The traditional pathways provide a bachelor's degree with a minor in education and elementary or secondary education licensure. It takes 4-5 years to complete, and full tuition for the 2023-2024 academic year is $63,450. 

The accelerated MAT is $49,990 for the 2024-2025 academic year. The 12-month program typically comprises 15 students and is split between pedagogical expertise and a 27-week internship. An MAT does provide an edge when applying for jobs and offers opportunities to pursue pathways to high-earning administrative roles, such as becoming a principal. 

4. East Carolina University

East Carolina University's College of Education has an A+ rating, offering traditional 4-5 year undergraduate educational degrees, graduate degrees, and alternative licensure pathways, including online and fast-track options. 

Undergraduate tuition for 2023-2024 is $7,515 in-state and $23,793 for out-of-state, and their graduate degrees and alternative pathways are priced similarly. ECU provides a helpful chart so you can calculate the full costs of attendance depending on your degree and circumstances.  

One of their most affordable options is joining the Teach for America at East Carolina University program. The 100% online course is 4 semesters, spread over 2 years, and costs $1,705 (excluding Praxis/Pearson and edTPA fees). 

5. High Point University

High Point University's Stout School of Education provides traditional pathways to teaching in addition to a bachelor's to master's program that only adds one additional year. Tuition for the 2023-2024 academic year costs $46,458, excluding food and housing. 

A more affordable option for those with a bachelor's degree is their teacher residency licensure program. The courses are provided through a flexible, online, face-to-face model. The 12–16-month program costs $1,890 per term and takes 3-4 terms, depending on if you want to teach elementary, middle, secondary, or special education. 

6. Meredith College

Meredith College's education department works with 20 North Carolina schools to provide guided work experience while obtaining their liberal arts degree with teaching licensure. They also offer an early MAT program for those in their final undergraduate year and M.Ed. and MAT programs. Full-time tuition for 2023-2024 is $43,936, excluding housing and food. 

While expensive, the award-winning teaching program has a 91% pass rate and a 100% job placement rate. 

7. North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University's College of Education provides traditional undergraduate and graduate programs in addition to their NC TEACH alternative licenser. Undergraduate fees for 2023-2024 are $272.29 per credit hour for in-state and $1,225.29 for out-of-state. Graduate fees are $525.50 per credit hour in-state and $1,635.17 for out-of-state. 

The NC TEACH licensure is for bachelor's degree holders who want to work as teachers while studying. You must be hired to teach to take part in the program. It costs around$5,274 for in-state and $20,868 for out-of-state. Classes are mostly online, with one Saturday in-person session a month. The courses are completed in three semesters. 

8. Pfeiffer University

Pfeiffer University's education department offers the traditional route to teaching with various BA and BS degrees in education and an MAT option. It's a good option for those who want a cozy campus and small class sizes. Full-time undergraduate tuition for 2023-2024 is $16,290 per semester, excluding housing and meals, and graduate tuition is $680 per semester hour. 

9. Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University's College of Education offers 19 undergraduate degree programs and minors and 17 graduate degree and certification programs. The traditional undergraduate route costs $3,658.40 per semester for 2023-2024 in-state and $5,658.40 for out-of-state. Graduate students pay $5,281.40 in-state and $10,640.90 for out-of-state. 

The school has a 17 to 1 student/faculty ratio, making it a nice option for those seeking a personalized traditional university experience. There are also attractive financial support packages for those who qualify for their MiSTERS education program. 

For those already holding a bachelor's degree, WCU does allow candidates to apply for teacher certification enrollment. The exact tuition depends on the courses required. 

10. Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem State University's Faculty of Education provides various bachelor's of science and master's degrees in education. The historically black university is one of the frontrunners in providing black STEM educators. While most of their degree options are in-person, they do have a BS in birth-kindergarten education in their distance-learning offerings. 

The school tuition for 2023 is $117.86 per hour in-state undergraduate and $546.37 out-of-state, $129.59 per hour in-state graduate and $635.26 out-of-state, and $114.90 per hour in-state distance learning and $474.92 out-of-state. 

Steps to Obtain the Teacher Certification in North Carolina

Prospective teachers in North Carolina must meet the state's specific requirements to teach. 

Steps to obtain teacher certification in North Carolina include:

  1. Get a bachelor's degree. All fifty US states require a minimum of a BA or BS to teach full-time. Obtaining a degree in education from a North Carolina-accredited institution is recommended for those pursuing the traditional route. 
  2. Decide the grade level and specialty you wish to teach. Teaching licenses specify which grade levels an applicant is qualified to teach, subjects (i.e., math, social studies, or English), and any specialty (i.e., special education). 
  3. Complete a teacher preparation program. Ensure the program you choose is approved by the NCDPI and that it offers training in the grade level, subject, and any specialty you wish to teach. 
  4. Pass required teaching exams. North Carolina requires that candidates pass the Praxis Core, all relevant Praxis Subject Assessments, and the Pearson Foundations of Reading and General Curriculum exams. You may be exempt from some exams depending on your ACT or SAT scores. In addition, check your teacher preparation programs' requirements, as some insist you pass the exams before taking part in the course.  
  5. Submit your teaching license application. Ensure you have all the NCDPI required documents, filled out the correct forms, and have a credit card ready before applying through their online licensure system
  6. Start applying for teaching jobs. Read this helpful step-by-step guide to getting hired in North Carolina. 

Certification Options for Teachers in North Carolina

North Carolina has a teaching shortage, as experienced throughout the United States. To make it easier for people with a bachelor's degree or higher to enter the field of education, the state has alternative certification options for teachers. 

Residency License

The North Carolina Residency License is for one year and can be renewed twice, providing a total of three years. 

To qualify for a Residency License, teaching candidates must:

  • Have a bachelor's or higher
  • Be enrolled in an NCDPI-approved educator preparation program
  • Completed coursework or passed the relevant exams for the licensure area
  • Be employed by a North Carolina school system

Emergency License

The North Carolina Emergency License is for one year and is nonrenewable. It is only issued to those who don't qualify for a Residency License. 

To qualify for an Emergency License, teaching candidates must:

  • Have a bachelor's degree or higher
  • Completed a minimum of 18 hours of coursework in their desired teaching area

If you cannot meet these requirements yet have a bachelor's degree, you might be eligible for a Permit to Teach. It is for 1 year and nonrenewable. 

Career and Technical Education (CTE) License

The North Carolina Career and Technical Education (CTE) License is similar to vocational licenses in other states and covers grades 6-12. The CTE allows candidates to obtain an Initial Professional Educator license based on work experience in seven umbrella areas and their dozens of subtopics. 

The main CTE program areas include:

  • Agriculture
  • Business, Finance, and Information Technology
  • Family and Consumer Sciences 
  • Health Science
  • Marketing
  • Technology Engineering and Design
  • Trade and Industrial

Initial Professional License (IPL)

The North Carolina Initial Professional License (IPL) is for teachers with fewer than three years of teaching experience. 

To qualify for an IPL, a candidate must:

  • Have a bachelor's degree or higher
  • Completed an educator preparation program and hold verification
  • Have received passing scores for their required exams

Alternatively, those with a valid and up-to-date out-of-state teaching license may apply. 

Applying for the IPL is done through the NCDPI online system. Go over the NCDPI's instructions before submitting, ensuring you have completed the correct forms for your grade level and area of teaching. 

Continuing Professional License (CPL)

After three years of teaching, North Carolina allows teaching candidates to convert their IPL to a Continuing Professional License (CPL). The renewable license is valid for five years. 

To qualify for the CPL, all required NCSBE teacher certification tests must be completed with a passing score in addition to having three years of teaching. Applying for a CPL is done through the NCDPI online system.

Cost of Teacher Certification Programs in North Carolina

The cost of teacher certification programs varies significantly. Some are for as little as $5,000, while some MAT programs cost tens of thousands. Online licensure programs in North Carolina are often the most budget-friendly, but some are restrictive in their course offerings. 

When comparing the costs of programs, keep in mind that they don't include exam fees, such as the Praxis II, or license application fees. Others may charge extra for additional content courses. Also, be aware that some study-at-your-own-pace programs may have yearly fees rather than a set price. 

  • Explain that the total program for residents is $5,274 ($879 per 3-hr class).
  • Mention that the cost for non-residents tt is $20,868 ($3,478 per 3-hr class). 
  • Explain that students enroll in 6 NC TEACH hours per semester. 
  • State that these costs do not include the Praxis II Exam or additional content courses if they are needed.

Average Salaries for Teachers in North Carolina

North Carolina is committed to providing quality education. That's why they are taking the teaching shortage seriously and are actively working to improve schools, support their educators, and put policies in place to retain teaching talent and make it easier for them to become a licensed educator. 

According to Salary.com, the average public school teaching salary in North Carolina is $54,946, but the range typically falls between $45,881 and $67,016. Various factors determine a teacher's salary, including:

  • Location of the school system
  • Local tax base
  • A candidate's education level
  • The number of years of teaching experience
  • Additional skills and qualifications

Job Outlook for Teachers in North Carolina

North Carolina's annual job growth for teachers is projected at 2.5 percent. Elementary school teachers come in even higher than their middle and high school counterparts, with growth in that area projected at 2.7 percent. Even more promising, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, believes the need for quality teachers in the United States will grow by 5% from 2001-2031.

North Carolina's teaching shortage has created the biggest demand for middle and high school math, science, and special education teachers. 

Become a Certified Teacher in North Carolina

North Carolina offers various pathways to become a certified teacher. Traditional pathways take 4-5 years and are an excellent option for candidates who still need to obtain a bachelor's degree. 

However, those who have a bachelor's degree or higher will find that alternative teacher pathways are the more attractive choice. They are typically completed in 1-2 years and are more affordable and flexible. In addition, programs like Teachers of Tomorrow allow you to work as a full-time educator while you complete your teacher preparation program. 

North Carolina needs more quality educators that are passionate about spreading knowledge and inspiring the next generation. If you are considering becoming a teacher, don't wait to start making a difference. Take a look at our top ten teacher certification programs in North Carolina and pick the best one for you. 

Which every pathway you choose, Simplek12 is here to help you make your teaching career dreams a reality.  

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