Steps to Teacher Certification

Being a teacher is a rewarding, yet challenging profession. Each state has certain requirements to make sure aspiring educators are prepared and qualified for the classroom. If you’re interested in taking on the incredible responsibility of becoming a teacher, there are common steps you must take to move forward on the traditional certification path.

Below we’ll go over the typical certification requirements for teachers, so you know what to expect as you begin your journey. Although each state has their own set processes, there are general commonalities you can follow.

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Select an Undergraduate Program

The first step on your path to becoming certified is to earn an undergraduate degree. If there’s a certain grade level or subject that you know you want to teach, you should pursue a major that complements your wishes.

For example, let’s say you want to teach 2nd graders. A major in Elementary Education is the appropriate approach to eventually reach this goal. If you want to become certified to teach a certain subject to older students, then major in the area you want to teach, such as English or history.

Becoming a certified educator also requires the completion of a teacher preparation program. These programs may be done while simultaneously earning a bachelor’s degree in education. Or, individuals can complete the program after earning a degree in a teachable subject area like math. The program is ultimately meant to supplement your major.

Classroom Experience

Certification programs in every state include teaching experience as a component. Depending on the state and the type of certification you’re seeking, there will be a required amount of student teaching hours that you must fulfill. In general, at least one semester, or 15 weeks, of student teaching are necessary.

State Mandated Exams

After you’ve completed the degree and student teaching prerequisites, most states require prospective teachers to pass a series of exams. All but four states use the Praxis series, which includes the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (Core) test, the Praxis Subject Assessments test and the Praxis Content Knowledge for Teaching Assessments test. Some states also require the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) exam, which is taken before student teaching experience.

For states that don’t use the Praxis tests, they may solely have their own assessments or a mix of their own tests and the Praxis PLT or Core exams. You can expect to pay between $150 and $300 for testing, depending on your state.

Applying for Certification

Once you’ve fulfilled all of the above requirements, you’re ready to apply for teacher certification. You will apply to your state’s Department of Education for the certificate, which can cost anywhere between $40 and $200. Additionally, most states require you to pass a fingerprint and background check as proof that you have no criminal history.

Once all of these steps are successfully completed, you will be a certified teacher. The first certificate often needs to be renewed every few years, and this usually requires continuing education coursework or graduate level course completion. Your state will outline what types of courses are acceptable.