How to Become a Teacher in Your State

Marisa Upson
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Updated April 17, 2024
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As a K-12 teacher, you have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on your students. If you’ve decided to pursue this noble profession, this information can act as a compass, helping you chart your path.

The requirements to become a teacher vary by state, grade level, and subject matter. Determine where you want to practice and the grade you’re interested in teaching. Here, we’ll cover the traditional route for first-time teachers.

One thing you can count on: All states require teachers in preK-12 public schools to obtain a teaching license.

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What Is a Teaching License?

Each state issues a teaching license, also known as a teaching certificate, certification, or credential. These are specific to grades or your area of expertise. For example, an elementary teacher certification usually covers grades K-6.

States issue temporary, initial, or conditional teaching licenses to first-time teachers. Depending on the state, these are usually good for 1-3 years, and are nonrenewable.

After demonstrating your proficiency as a teacher and possibly taking one or more courses, you can apply for a standard or permanent teaching license. These licenses are typically renewed every 3-5 years.

Many states initiated three-level licensure. The third level requires additional experience and, in some cases, a master’s degree in education or any field.

Endorsements are attached to your teaching license. These designate the areas you’re qualified to teach. Some examples of teacher endorsements include elementary K-8, early childhood, special education, English as a second language, biology, math, music, and physical education.

Each state offers multiple pathways to licensure and different licensing levels as you progress in your career.

Who Needs a Teaching License?

Every state differs in terms of obtaining a teaching license, so make sure to check your state’s licensing requirements. Generally, preK-12 public school teachers are required to hold a license. In some cases, those with a bachelor’s degree pursuing alternative licensure may start teaching while fulfilling additional requirements toward earning their certification.

Requirements in private schools vary. Many do not require teacher certification. Some, however, like those in Alabama, require a teaching license. Even in private schools without this stipulation, earning certification may give you an advantage in your job search.

College professors and private tutors typically do not need a teaching license. If you’re considering teaching abroad, most international schools require a U.S. teaching license. However, many English language teaching positions may not require certification.

Overview of Teaching Requirements in the United States

While the requirements to get your teaching license vary by state, the following steps are often required before you can apply for the credential:

Bachelor’s Degree: All states require, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college. Commonly, prospective teachers earn a bachelor’s degree in education. If you’d like to teach at the middle or high school level, you may earn a bachelor’s in a specific subject area.

State-Approved Educator Preparation Program: Many state-approved bachelor’s in education programs offer a route to earning your degree and initial certification. These incorporate the educator preparation program.

Student-Teaching Experience: These above programs also include the required student-teaching experience. The number of hours needed varies by state but usually ranges between one or two semesters.

Before gaining this practical teaching experience, you may need to pass a criminal background check. In some states, you must also pass your certification exams.

Pass State-Specific Exams: Every state requires potential teachers to take exams, though the requirements vary significantly. These may be state exams and nationally standardized tests from organizations like Pearson NES or ETS Praxis. Common exam requirements include the Praxis Core and Praxis Subject Assessments.

Did You Know…

In the 2020 to 2021 school year, 51% of public school teachers held a master’s degree.

Teaching Requirements by State

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Alabama Teaching Certification

Teacher certification in Alabama requires completing a state-approved educator preparation program and earning your bachelor’s degree. You also need a recommendation from your college. Passing scores in the Praxis Core and subject area tests, the Foundations of Reading test, and the Educative Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) are also required. There is a mandatory background check.

Alaska Teaching Certification

To be a teacher in Alaska, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a teacher education program. You also need to attend four approved mandatory trainings. Additional requirements include taking an approved Alaska studies course and a multicultural education/cross-cultural communication course. You must also pass a basic competency and a Praxis content area exam.

Arizona Teaching Certification

Arizona offers about 18 preK-12 teaching certificates. Each certification possesses unique requirements.

For instance, the elementary education certificate requires a bachelor’s degree and completion of a state-approved teacher preparation program or two years of full-time K-8 teaching experience and completion of specific coursework. Arizona offers numerous ways to meet its requirements for the professional and subject knowledge exams.

Arkansas Teaching Certification

You must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved educator preparation program to teach in Arkansas. Additional requirements include passing the Praxis basic skills assessment and the Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) exam. You must also pass a background check and the subject assessments corresponding to your area.

California Teaching Certification

California requires you to hold a bachelor’s degree, complete a state-approved teacher preparation program, and receive a recommendation. To satisfy the basic skills requirement, you can complete coursework in an approved teacher preparation program, earn qualifying scores on the ACT or SAT, or pass various exams, such as the California Basic Educational Skills Test.

Colorado Teaching Certification

To teach in Colorado, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program. You can demonstrate subject area competency by completing 24 credits or passing the approved assessment relevant to the subject. Prospective elementary and special education teachers must also pass the state’s elementary education content exam.

Connecticut Teaching Certification

To teach in Connecticut, you need to hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved educator preparation program. You also must pass assessments to prove your subject knowledge through an approved provider. For instance, if you want to add the physical education endorsement, you need a passing score of 169 on the Praxis Physical Education Content and Design test.

Delaware Teaching Certification

Delaware requires you to hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program. You must also pass the relevant Praxis subject-specific and Core academic skills tests. Applicants must also disclose any criminal conviction history when applying.

Florida Teaching Certification

To teach in Florida, you need to hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program. You must also pass the relevant subject area exam, and general knowledge and professional education tests. You receive your teaching license once you’ve passed a criminal background check and accepted a job offer.

Georgia Teaching Certification

To teach in Georgia, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC)-approved teacher preparation program. Before you start your incorporated student teaching, you must pass a criminal background check and the educator ethics assessment by Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GASE). You must also pass their subject-area content tests.

Hawai’i Teaching Certification

You must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved teacher education program to teach in Hawai’i. Their provisional license requires clearing the Hawai’i Teacher Standards Board professional fitness check and meeting content knowledge and basic skills requirements. Additional requirements are met by getting a recommendation from the education program or passing Praxis Core, PLT, and content exams. A background check is required.

Idaho Teaching Certification

To teach in Idaho, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete an educator preparation program. Out-of-state programs also qualify if accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation or the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation. You must also pass the applicable Praxis subject assessments. A background check is required.

Illinois Teaching Certification

As a teacher in Illinois, you need to hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved education preparation program. Required certification exams include content tests in applicable subjects from Pearson and a language proficiency test. The Illinois State Board of Education has waived the edTPA requirement through August 31, 2025.

Indiana Teaching Certification

To become a teacher in Indiana, you need a bachelor’s degree and completion of a state-approved teacher preparation program. The licensing advisor from the school you attend recommends certification. You also need a valid CPR card and a suicide prevention certificate, training that’s usually provided in Indiana’s teacher preparation programs. You’re also required to pass pedagogy and appropriate content tests.

Iowa Teaching Certification

Becoming a teacher in Iowa requires completing a state-approved teacher education program and obtaining your bachelor’s degree. The institution where you completed your program must recommend you to the Board of Educational Examiners. Additionally, applicants looking for endorsement in early childhood or elementary education must pass the appropriate Praxis II exams.A background check is mandatory.

Kansas Teaching Certification

You need to hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program to become a teacher in Kansas. The state’s recency requirement means you need a minimum of eight credits or one year of accredited teaching experience within six years of applying. Required testing includes content assessment for any endorsement areas and PLT. A background check is required.

Kentucky Teaching Certification

To teach in Kentucky, you need to hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved educator preparation program. Additional requirements include 200 hours of field experience prior to student teaching. Kentucky also offers numerous alternative routes to certification. Required Praxis exams include core academic skills, PLT, and applicable subject assessments.

Louisiana Teaching Certification

To become a teacher in Louisiana, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program. These programs include 180 hours of field experience and student teaching, residency, or an internship. Required Praxis exams include PLT, Core academic skills, and content exams in certification areas. A background check occurs when you are hired.

Maine Teaching Certification

To teach in Maine, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved educator preparation program. In June 2021, the state removed the requirement for passing Praxis Core skills and subject assessments for certification. These exams are now optional. A background check is required.

Maryland Teaching Certification

To become a teacher in Maryland, you must earn a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved educator program or an out-of-state program that results in certification in that state. You must also pass the Praxis Core exam and subject assessments relevant to your grade level and endorsements. As of July 2025, the PLT is no longer required. Instead, you must pass the edTPA or the Praxis Performance Assessment for Teachers (PPAT).

Massachusetts Teaching Certification

You must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete an approved educator preparation program to gain teacher certification in Massachusetts. You must also pass the applicable Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure® (MTEL). These exams include communication and literacy skills and subject matter tests.

Michigan Teaching Certification

To teach in Michigan, you need a bachelor’s degree and completion of a state-approved educator preparation program. Prospective elementary and secondary teachers must complete six or three credits in required reading courses, respectively. You must also pass the applicable Michigan Test for Teacher Certification content exams.

Minnesota Teaching Certification

Minnesota implemented a four-tier licensing process. Tier Two requirements include holding a bachelor’s degree and enrolling in a state-approved teacher preparation program or earning a master’s degree in the content area and having a job offer. Tier three offers several paths to licensure, including completing the preparation program or three years of experience at tier two and passing appropriate Minnesota pedagogy and content exams.

Mississippi Teaching Certification

To teach in Mississippi, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and receive a recommendation from your completed state-approved educator preparation program. Testing requirements include passing the Praxis Core or the ACT or SAT equivalent. Earning a 3.0 GPA in certain coursework also meets this requirement. You also need to pass the appropriate subject assessments and PLT.

Missouri Teaching Certification

Getting your teaching certification in Missouri requires a bachelor’s degree and completion of a state-approved teacher education program. To gain admission into these programs, you need to pass the state’s general education assessment. You also need a recommendation from the institution for licensure. Additionally, you must pass the appropriate Missouri content assessment. A background check is required.

Montana Teaching Certification

To qualify for a Montana class two educator license, you must earn your bachelor’s degree and complete an educator preparation program. The program must be accredited by the NCATE, CAEP, MACTE, or a state board of education-approved accreditation. You must also complete a free online course. Additionally, you need to pass the appropriate Praxis Subject Assessment, receive a passing score on your student teaching portfolio, or earn a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Nebraska Teaching Certification

To obtain your initial teaching certificate in Nebraska requires a bachelor’s degree and completing a state-approved educator preparation program. You must also complete specified training in human relations and special education. Passing the appropriate Praxis content test is required for each endorsement.

Nevada Teaching Certification

Toobtain a standard teaching license in Nevada, you need a bachelor’s degree and the completion of a state-approved teacher preparation program. The required Praxis tests include the Core skills and the exams for specific licensure areas. Licenses for junior high and high school require passing the PLT. A background check is mandatory.

New Hampshire Teaching Certification

To obtain teaching certification in New Hampshire, you must earn a bachelor’s degree and attend a state-approved licensure program. You must also pass a basic academic skills assessment and Praxis subject area content tests. Some endorsements also require Pearson’s Foundations of Reading exam. A criminal history check is required.

New Jersey Teaching Certification

Teaching certification in New Jersey requires completing a state-approved teacher preparation program and earning a bachelor’s degree. Testing requirements include passing the Praxis Core basic skills and the appropriate subject tests. You can also meet the basic skills requirement by scoring in the top third percentile on the ACT, SAT, or GRE.

New Mexico Teaching Certification

New Mexico requires you to earn your bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and complete a minimum number of credits in the core area. Depending on the subject, you may also need to pass the Praxis PLT and a content assessment. A current background check is required.

New York Teaching Certification

New York offers several pathways to teaching certification. The standard approach includes earning your bachelor’s degree and completing an approved teacher preparation program. You also need a recommendation from the institution. You can attend a comparable program in another state that possesses a reciprocity agreement with New York. Required tests generally include the Educating All Students exam and Content Specialty Tests.

North Carolina Teaching Certification

To gain teaching certification in North Carolina, you must complete an approved educator preparation program and earn your bachelor’s degree. The state also requires passing the edTPA and PPAT assessments and the appropriate grade-level and subject area exams.

North Dakota Teaching Certification

To acquire North Carolina’s initial teaching license, you must earn your bachelor’s degree and complete an approved teacher preparation program. These programs include the required mental health competency course. The American Board also offers a competency-based program leading to licensure. Required exams include Praxis Core and tests for specific licensure areas. A background check is required.

Ohio Teaching Certification

The first step in obtaining Ohio teaching certification is enrolling in a state-approved educator preparation program and earning your bachelor’s degree. Ohio requires a minimum 2.5 GPA. Additional requirements include at least 12 credits in the teaching of reading and three as it relates to the content area. You must also pass an exam in your subject area. Ohio requires a background check for all new applicants.

Oklahoma Teaching Certification

The traditional path to Oklahoma teaching licensure is completing a state-approved teacher education program and earning your bachelor’s degree. You must pass two competency exams and receive a clear national criminal history record. Required tests include content exams applicable to your subject and the PPAT.

Oregon Teaching Certification

To obtain an Oregon teaching license, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program. You also need to pass subject-matter tests for any endorsement areas. Students must undergo a criminal background check before student teaching.

Pennsylvania Teaching Certification

The first step to becoming a certified teacher in Pennsylvania is enrolling in a teacher education program approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Once completed, gaining the institution’s recommendation for certification ensures you’ve met all the licensure requirements. This includes passing the Praxis Core and tests for your specific certification areas.

Rhode Island Teaching Certification

Becoming a teacher in Rhode Island involves completing a state-approved educator preparation program and graduating with a bachelor’s degree. Additional requirements include taking the Oral Proficiency Interview, which assesses how well you speak. You must also pass the Praxis Core exams and the tests for your specialty area.

South Carolina Teaching Certification

Obtaining your teacher’s certificate in South Carolina requires earning a bachelor’s degree and completing a state-approved teacher education program. You must pass Praxis subject area assessments and an approved pedagogy assessment. The latter may include the PLT, PPAT, or edTPA exam. A background check is required.

South Dakota Teaching Certification

Requirements to gain teacher certification in South Dakota include holding a bachelor’s degree and completing an educator preparation program. The state-designated tests include the Praxis PPAT, PLT, and appropriate content exams. You must also complete the state’s youth suicide awareness and prevention training and an Indian studies course.

Tennessee Teaching Certification

To obtain teaching licensure in Tennessee, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete or be enrolled in an approved educator preparation program. You also need a recommendation from the program provider. The required Praxis tests include the PLT, Praxis Core, and content knowledge assessments for your specific endorsements. You must also comply with the Tennessee Literacy Success Act.

Texas Teaching Certification

To become a teacher in Texas, you need to earn a bachelor’s degree from a university accredited by an agency recognized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and complete an approved educator preparation program. The certification exams you need to pass include the appropriate core subject tests. A background check is required.

Utah Teaching Certification

Utah’s new licensing structure includes three levels. The professional license requires a bachelor’s degree and a completed university or alternate educator preparation program. You must pass the applicable Praxis Subject Assessment tests. A cleared background check and ethics review is required.

Vermont Teaching Certification

To obtain an educator license in Vermont, you must complete a state-approved educator preparation program through a bachelor’s or master’s degree program. You also need a recommendation from the institution. The institution also determines the required tests, which may include Praxis Core or a passing score on the SAT, ACT, or GRE, and the appropriate content tests. A background check is required.

Virginia Teaching Certification

The traditional route to becoming a teacher in Virginia requires earning a bachelor’s degree and completing an approved educator preparation program. You also need to complete a state-approved certification in child abuse and neglect recognition and intervention as well as emergency first aid, CPR, and AED training. Required tests include the Virginia Communication and Literacy Assessment, and appropriate Praxis tests for specific licensure areas.

Washington Teaching Certification

Becoming a teacher in Washington requires earning your bachelor’s degree and completing a teacher preparation program. The testing requirements include passing the WEST-B and WEST-E/NES content knowledge assessments and the edTPA. A background check is required.

Washington, D.C., Teaching Certification

To obtain your Washington, D.C., teacher credential, you need to hold a bachelor’s degree and complete an approved teacher certification program. If you’ve attended institutions outside the U.S., you must include a foreign credential evaluation report. You can demonstrate basic skills through a minimum 3.0 GPA or taking the Praxis basic skills exam. You must also pass the appropriate PLT and subject content knowledge exams. A background check is required.

West Virginia Teaching Certification

To apply for a teacher’s license in West Virginia, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete an approved teacher preparation program. You also need to pass the Praxis Core skills assessment and the appropriate PLT and content knowledge tests. Applicants for initial licensure must undergo a background check.

Wisconsin Teaching Certification

To obtain your teacher’s license in Wisconsin requires a bachelor’s degree and completion of an approved educator preparation program. You must also pass the Praxis Core skills assessment and the subject tests for specific licensure areas. A background check is required.

Wyoming Teaching Certification

The traditional route to teaching licensure in Wyoming requires earning your bachelor’s degree in education and completing a teacher preparation program that includes student teaching. You must also receive a recommendation for licensure from the institution you attended.

Applicants must demonstrate knowledge of the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions through coursework or an exam. Testing requirements include passing the Praxis exams for your specific licensure area. A background check is mandated.

Teaching License Reciprocity

States with reciprocity agreements may accept your teaching credential earned in a different state. The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification created the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement, a collection of 50 agreements that outline what licenses a state accepts.

The following eight states offer full reciprocity for fully licensed teachers: Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, and Oklahoma. These states require paperwork and a fee, but little, if any, additional assessments.

Some states require a certain level of experience. Others mandate extra training, additional coursework, or assessments. As states vary, it’s best to contact the state licensing board to determine specific requirements for reciprocity licensure.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Requirements in the US

Which state is the easiest to become a teacher in?

Florida offers a temporary teaching certificate that allows applicants to teach full time while completing the requirements for a professional license. Most states possess similar requirements for obtaining a professional teaching credential.

Can you teach in the US without a teaching degree?

The traditional route to teaching is earning a bachelor’s in education and completing an educator preparation program. However, most states offer alternative paths for people with bachelor’s degrees in other areas. These include certification programs to fill in the gaps or earning your master’s degree. Additionally, some private schools may not require a bachelor’s degree.

What state pays teachers the most?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2023, California offers the highest pay for secondary school teachers, with an average annual wage of $ 05,540. New York tops the charts with elementary school teachers, with an average annual salary of $94,600.

Which state has the lowest teacher salary?

According to the BLS, Mississippi has one of the lowest teacher salaries in the nation. As of May 2023, the average annual wage for an elementary school teacher was $48,840. Secondary school teachers in South Dakota see one of the lowest pay, with an average annual salary of $51,650.

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