Many aspiring teachers don’t know that there are other ways to be awarded teacher certification without following the traditional program route. Traditional certification is earned after a prospective teacher completes a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education, participates in student teaching hours, passes state-mandated examinations and fulfills any other state requirements.
Alternative teacher certification is in place to help those who have not followed the traditional path to education or who discovered their desire to teach later in life, after already earning a degree. It was originally put in place to help fill critical teacher shortages, but now it is a widely accepted method. Below we’ll explore several of these alternatives to become a certified teacher in the U.S.
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General Prerequisites for Alternative Certification
First, it’s important to note that most states require candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree in order to pursue an alternative route. Preferably, candidates will major in the academic subject they wish to teach. A degree can help accelerate the process and completion of a teacher preparation program, but it’s important to check your state’s specific requirements.
Alternative Teacher Preparation Programs
Like educators on the traditional route, prospective teachers on an alternative route will need to attend a teacher preparation program. The main difference, however, is that alternative route educators will complete this program after earning a bachelor’s degree. Those who follow the traditional path usually complete this program during their time in college.
Because these individuals already have a bachelor’s degree, they can choose to earn a master’s as part of their alternative certification program. Earning a master’s in conjunction with a teacher preparation program usually takes approximately two years, whereas most certificate-only preparation programs take only one year.
Transitional Alternative Programs
Regional and national transitional alternative programs are another option for aspiring teachers. Unlike university-based teacher preparation programs, these transitional programs tend to place motivated, dedicated individuals directly into classrooms.
Teach for America offers a pathway to certification by taking recent college graduates and training them to teach for at least two years in under-resourced rural and urban public schools.
The American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence is approved in 11 states and allows prospective teachers to become certified through completion of an online program.
There are also many local programs available in each state. For example, New York offers the NYC Teaching Fellows program to prepare individuals to teach in urban schools. And Mississippi has a Teacher Corps that trains college graduates to teach at impoverished public schools in the state.
Career and Technical Education Teachers
Career and technical education (CTE) covers subjects such as health sciences, agriculture or information technology. CTE teachers may be able to substitute their real-world experience and prior education for the bachelor’s degree requirement. Oftentimes, they will work as full-time teachers with provisional certification under the guidance of an experienced educator.
Supplemental coursework in teaching strategies and standards, and successful completion of state exam requirements, may enable those with a provisional teaching certificate to advance to regular certification.
Provisional and Emergency Certification
For states with a critical shortage of educators or low-income school districts, limited teaching licenses are often an option. Emergency and provisional certificates allow those with sufficient experience and education to teach. They are temporary, short-term certificates and cannot be renewed, however they can help individuals launch their careers in education.