How to Get a Teaching Certificate in 2023

Published On: May 10th, 2023·By ·

A teaching certificate represents the pact between you and your state, proving that you satisfy all the requirements and standards of a certified teacher. No teacher is allowed to teach without certification. Exceptions occur only in special situations, such as states issuing emergency teaching credentials. 

Each state’s education department reviews your teaching certificate to ascertain whether you are a product of the declared teaching standards and requirements. With a teaching certificate helps you stand out among the competition anytime you’re looking for employment.

In this article, we'll expound on different certification options and routes you can take to teacher certification.

What Is a Teaching Certificate?

A teaching certificate is an official digital or printed document issued to you as evidence of successfully completing a teacher certification program. It proves that you satisfy all the requirements and standards of a certified teacher within a specific state.

Only instructors with a teaching certificate are mandated to teach elementary, intermediate, and high school learners. All states demand that all teachers get certifications to instruct in a public school. Also, certain private schools opt for certified teachers more than uncertified ones.

You can undertake various teaching certifications. This may include an elementary and middle school teacher certification, a teacher certification for particular subject areas, a secondary school teacher certification, and a national board certification. All the certifications vary based on the school district's needs and education level.

Why Teaching Certificate Matters

Teaching is one of the noblest professions you can practice. Great teachers make a significant impact on their students' lives. Pursuing teacher licensure is the first step to being a great teacher.

A teaching certificate guarantees the public and professionals that an educator meets the precise teaching standards of a state and is experienced enough to teach and direct students. 

Having a teaching certificate gives you a chance to stand out. It gives you an edge in the competition because it is state accepted and legal. Today we have numerous teaching programs have been developed due to the ever-growing access to the internet. 

Before you’re allowed to teach any class, you must equip yourself with the most appropriate knowledge and skill set.

Requirements for a Teaching Certificate

The requirements for a teaching certificate differ from one state to the other. Each state has a board of education tasked with defining the requirements for teacher certification.

Prospective educators go through tests and background investigations before or while undertaking a certification. Background checks like criminal records are a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of learners and future teachers.

Although teaching certificate requirements vary based on state, here are some of the standard requirements for a teaching certificate:

  • Completing a bachelor's degree program
  • Completing a teacher preparation program
  • Passing the writing, reading, and math basic skills test
  • Passing the subject knowledge test in line with the particular subject area you desire to teach
  • Passing the background and/or fingerprint check

The Traditional Route to Teacher Certification

Labor statistics show that about 80% of prospective teachers use the traditional route to teacher certification. The traditional involves getting degree program to earn a teaching certificate.

Being certified through a degree means you go through the required coursework offered by a university or college and finally participate in a student teaching experience exercise.

To gain a student learning experience, you can either intern in a school or in your learning institution. Most internships are unpaid and may cover 14 weeks to a year. 

Types of student learning experiences include indirect, direct, group-level, individual-level, and blended or hybrid learning experiences. The types serve different purposes and have varied traits. 

Let’s look at the traditional route to teacher certification:

Earn a bachelor's degree

Future teachers taking the traditional certification route must first earn a bachelor's degree from an officially recognized and accredited college or university. You select a degree course after a review of the grade and subject you want to teach. Most degree courses take four years to complete.

The subject and grade level also determine the essential skills and knowledge you acquire. For example, elementary-level courses may need you to cover all core subjects, including science, math, literature, and social studies.

Complete a teacher prep program

A teacher preparation program allows you to prove your proficiency by putting into practice what you learned while undertaking your degree.

You can complete an educator preparation program after a bachelor's degree or simultaneously while taking a degree program. The program might run for four years or less, depending on whether you have finalized your degree.

An educator preparation program exposes you to the actual practice of teaching and defending the effectiveness of the skills and knowledge passed down to you. It also helps you transition smoothly into any working space as an experienced and caring educator.

Fulfill the student teaching requirement

Student teaching requirements contrast for each state. The requirements help ascertain if a teacher meets the state's set teacher certification standards and is aware of and uses accepted and updated teaching techniques. You can review your state's requirements by searching through various websites such as The National Council on Teacher Quality.

The National Council on Teacher Quality website has a database hosting numerous teacher prep programs with other vital information like testimonials, stats, and rankings.

Referencing requirements makes it possible for some teachers to transfer their teacher certification when they change states. States allow teacher certification or license transfer through a reciprocity agreement.

Earn a master's degree if required

Some certification specializations or states necessitate taking a master's degree. For example, if you plan to teach post-secondary students, you must take a master's degree.

A master's program takes about two years, more or less. The duration differs due to the different specifications of various degree courses. Taking the degree part-time or full-time also affects the time taken to finish the degree.

Pass your state's required exam for teachers

Each state has standardized exams for teachers that you must pass to get your teaching certificate or license. Taking praxis exams is a must in 40 states, making it the most common exam.

Teachers undertake praxis exams in their junior years in preparation for their senior years. Some states allow teachers to skip the exam until the point of applying for their licensure.

The assessment areas of praxis exams vary from one state to the other, but a common trend indicates that most exams test the professional skills and content of the teacher. Note that praxis exams are costly. Prepare thoroughly by going through guides and attending workshops.

Apply for state teacher certification.

Before seeking certification, please learn your state's requirements because they vary. Satisfying all the other steps of the process is a must before applying for a certificate through the state’s department of education. Certification costs change from state to state, with a typical range of $40 to $200.

Teaching certificates' validity is between one to five years. You must renew your certificate after some time following the renewal requirements. The renewal requirements are different for each state. For example, some states may need you to complete a graduate-level course or other specified courses.

Alternative Route to Teacher Certification

With the alternative route to teacher certification, you can complete your certification quicker or temporarily. Going through an alternative route allows you to teach without partaking in the traditional certification route. One of the most popular and trusted alternative teacher certificates is Teachers of Tomorrow. Teachers of Tomorrow is an organization devoted to help teacher obtain their teaching credentials fast and easy.

There are additional benefits going through alternatives teaching routes like Teachers of Tomorrow. Taking an alternative route gives you more flexibility. Also, some routes are quite affordable compared to the traditional path. Check with program providers and school districts to confirm available alternative routes and consult further. 

Some of the alternative routes to teacher certification include:    

Accelerated Certification Programs

Accelerated programs are available to Bachelor’s degree or above holders. They are fast-paced programs targeted at educators desiring to get their certifications faster.

The program requires students to keep teaching while taking their certification. This hybrid structure is demanding though time-saving. If you intend to use this route, set your goals right and be mentally ready to go through the extreme process. 

Private and Charter Schools

States do not regulate private schools. The schools can independently declare their standards. Some private schools hire uncertified teachers, while others only settle on certified teachers. You must check with private institutions to determine if they hire uncertified teachers.

Alternatively, charter schools offer educators chances to work as teachers despite state certification requirements. Since charter schools are independent public schools, they are not limited to the state's certification requirements. The public board of trustees running these schools creates the school’s standards.

While searching for a charter school to serve, you must countercheck to ensure that a charter school is independent of the state's certification rules because some do follow the state's certification requirements.

Emergency Teaching Credentials

Sometimes, states do experience a shortage of teachers. States solve the problem by granting emergency teaching licenses and circumventing state teacher licensing requirements.

Emergency teaching credentials are often offered to instructors capable of teaching high-in-demand subjects like science, math, bilingual education, or special education.

The state Department of Education is also obligated to grant emergency certifications to teachers willing to teach in schools in areas desperately in need of teachers, such as urban schools. You can call or email the state Department of Education to see if they offer emergency teaching credentials.

Transferring Teacher Certification to Another State

States currently offer teacher certification transfers for any teacher migrating into a specific state. This process is accomplished through a reciprocity agreement. The reciprocity agreement makes it easy for any teacher to transfer their certification details from one state to another without going through the certification process.

If you find it hard to transfer your certification, consider confirming whether you can have a provisional teaching certificate. A state offers provisional teaching certificates to teachers certified in a different state, allowing them to teach while fulfilling the specified state requirements.

If you get a provisional certificate, it might take you two full semesters or more to complete all the certification requirements of your current state.

Types of Teaching Certificates

Other than alternative certification routes having different options to explore, there are also various types of teaching certificates to consider. 

Specific guidelines define who can sign up for the certificates. Qualified members include teachers who have adhered to the state requirements, such as finishing an education course and going through a student teaching experience program. The same teachers must also attest to passing state-mandated schooling examinations.

Your interests and state-defined requirements and options point you toward the most suitable certificate type to pursue. The certifications vary based on the grade level or subject matter. 

Here are varied types of certifications to consider:

Elementary and Middle School Certification

Aspiring teachers aiming to be generalist educators practice this certification. Teachers taking this certification can teach more than one subject or focus on one subject. Some certifications falling under the elementary and middle school certification category characterized by grade levels include:

  •  Early childhood teacher certification (kindergarten to grade 3 subjects)
  •  Elementary teacher certification (kindergarten to grade 6 subjects)
  •  Middle grades teacher certification (grade 5 to grade 9 subjects)

Teaching Certificates and Endorsements in Secondary Education

Any teacher aiming to teach grade 7 to 12 students must be a great fit for such a task. The enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act led to this requirement. To be highly qualified, you must go through a secondary school certification and get a subject area endorsement.

Intermediate and high school teachers with endorsements can teach subjects not outlined in their teaching credentials.

By default, undergraduate degree students taking an education course qualify for endorsements. But you can also get endorsements by studying specific courses and taking required exams.

Some secondary teacher certifications coupled with endorsements include:

  • Certification as a secondary teacher with an endorsement in history
  • Certification as a secondary teacher with an endorsement in mathematics
  • Certification as a secondary teacher with an endorsement in science

Teacher Certification for Specific Subject Areas

This certification focuses on the subject area and not the age of the future learners. Some career options for this certification are:

  •  Speech therapists
  •  Reading specialists
  •  School counselors

Professionals who have pursued any of these career options can teach kindergarten to grade 12 students with little to no hiccups. Some teacher certifications for specific subject areas encompass:

  • School nurse certification (K-12)
  •  Reading specialist certification (K-12)
  •  Special education certification (K-12)

Nationally Recognized Teacher Certification/Board Certification

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) oversees the allocation of the nationally recognized teacher certification to anyone wishing to instruct kindergarten to grade 12 learners. NBPTS has 25 types of certifications covering several grade levels and subject areas.

Because all states recognize national board certifications, teachers with the certifications enjoy benefits like higher wages. However, you must satisfy these requirements to take on a national board certification:

  • You must have a valid bachelor's degree and teaching credential
  •  You must have three years of professional experience
  •  You must put together a portfolio showcasing your classroom work
  •  You must pass an evaluation and written test of your teaching knowledge

Certificate vs. Certification

The terms certification and certificate are not synonyms as many may think; here is a clear distinction:


A certificate is an official document handed over to a student who satisfactorily finished any educational program. Completing a certificate program can aid you in getting ready to sit for a certification exam.


Trade groups award certifications to someone who has met precise professional criteria like holding a degree or serving in a profession for a set period. The same person must pass a certification exam.

Teaching Certificate Costs

The amount you pay to get a certificate differs from one state to another. The amount may vary depending on the state and desired grade, but the general costs may be: 

  • Testing fees may cost $120 -$300
  •  The Praxis Test marked price for registration is $50 plus $65-150 for distinct tests.
  •  Teacher licensing fees may cost $35-$200
  •  CPR – Heimlich Maneuver training with a pay of $35 licensing fee

Ready to Start Teaching?

Certifications empower teachers to teach in different classrooms. Without them, we would not have teachers helping students learn and grow.

If you are interested in teacher professional development, here are professional development courses for teachers created by expert educators to help you build a successful career.






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