What is Teacher Certification and How Does it Work?

If you’re interested in becoming a teacher, there are certain requirements you must fulfill before you can begin your work in the classroom. Certification is required in public schools across the nation so that educators can be properly prepared to teach and influence students. This job should not be taken lightly, which is why certification is a necessary part of the process.

Below we’ll go more in depth about what exactly teacher certification entails and how it works. We’ll briefly outline the process to obtain certification and explain how the programs are typically run. Additionally, you can review our pages on specific state-by-state requirements so you can begin your journey in education.

What is Teacher Certification?

Education is typically viewed as a state issue in the U.S. rather than a federal one. Because of this, each state sets its own standards and requirements for aspiring teachers. Each state’s requirements for teacher certification are put into place so that educators can be prepared for the profession’s inherent pressures, challenges and impact.

In general, teacher certification requires candidates to earn, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree, pass a series of Praxis exams, complete a teacher preparation program and pass a criminal background check. By passing these assessments and gaining classroom experience, prospective teachers have proof of their preparedness for their state’s Board of Education.

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What is Teacher Certification?

How Does It Work?

As we’ve mentioned, teacher certification requirements vary from state to state. The ultimate goal is to ensure all educators are adequately prepared to teach the nation’s youth. In general, the certification programs are run by colleges and universities. However, there are also non-profit organizations or school district programs for individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree.

A certification program will help equip aspiring teachers with the tools they need to create and implement effective lesson plans that fulfill the state’s required curriculum. Programs also teach individuals how to manage behavior in the classroom, assess the progress of their students and work professionally.

Once a prospective teacher has met all of their state’s criteria, they can apply for certification and begin work as an educator. Certification must be renewed every several years, which requires teachers to fulfill state-specific continuing education coursework.

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What is the Certification Process?

So what steps does an individual have to take in order to be qualified to apply for certification? First, prospective teachers must earn an undergraduate degree in education or in a subject that he or she wants to teach. They can complete a teacher preparation program simultaneously or after completion of their degree.

The teacher preparation program is in place to complement an aspiring teacher’s major and provide them with the opportunity to fulfill their student teaching requirement. Typically, individuals must spend at least 15 weeks, or one semester, student teaching.

Once these criteria are met, an aspiring teacher must pass their state’s required educator assessments. Most states use the Praxis series of three tests. Upon successful passage of these exams and a criminal background check, an individual can apply to the state Board of Education for teacher certification.