How to Become a Teacher in Pennsylvania [2023 Guide]

Erika Riley
Updated June 10, 2024
Edited by
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How to Become a Teacher in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania requires teachers to complete a certification program approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). Many bachelor’s programs from colleges and universities hold PDE approval.

Bachelor’s degree-holders can obtain Pennsylvania teacher certification through an alternative pathway, offered by intermediate units throughout the state. Candidates may also complete a teacher intern certification program.

Teaching requirements vary by school setting. PDE offers a separate private academic teacher certification for educators at private institutions. However, teachers at religious schools do not need certification.

This page covers how to become a teacher in Pennsylvania, including PDE’s various certification paths.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching in Pennsylvania

question-mark-circleHow long does it take to become a teacher in Pennsylvania?

The time necessary to obtain certification depends on the candidate’s path. Bachelor’s degree programs typically require four years. Alternate certification pathways for bachelor’s degree-holders can take 1-3 years.

question-mark-circleHow do I become a teacher in Pennsylvania?

To become a teacher in Pennsylvania, candidates must complete a PDE-approved learning program, pass certification exams, and submit an application.

question-mark-circleCan you teach in Pennsylvania without a teaching degree?

Pennsylvania offers certification routes for candidates with non-education degrees. Individuals can teach in religious schools without a degree.

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Finding an Accredited Teaching Program

Learners researching schools should search for accredited institutions. Accreditation indicates that an outside agency has vetted the school and affirmed its programming’s quality. Most accredited institutions only accept transfer credits from other accredited schools.

The U.S. Department of Education oversees several accrediting agencies that vet institutions. Students can find an institution’s accreditation status through the Department of Education’s online database.

Schools can pursue institutional accreditation. Previously, some accreditation agencies only vetted schools in certain regions. However, institutional accreditation agencies can now accredit schools throughout the country.

Individual programs may receive accreditation from field-specific agencies, such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Pennsylvania Teaching Requirements

Candidates for Pennsylvania teacher certification must have completed an approved educational program, pass examinations, and submit an application to PDE.

Pennsylvania offers professional and temporary credentials. PDE can issue emergency permits when a public school cannot fill an open position with a qualified, fully certified candidate. Only bachelor’s degree-holders qualify for emergency permits.

Prospective teachers should not apply for an emergency permit unless instructed to do so by a school. Because emergency permits are used to quickly fill jobs, candidates cannot obtain this credential in advance.

Candidates for permanent certification must hold a bachelor’s degree in education from a PDE-approved program. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in another field can complete an alternate program. Candidates take an examination and submit an application. Pennsylvania educators renew their certification every five years.

Pennsylvania Teacher License

To become a teacher in Pennsylvania, candidates apply for certification through PDE. Certification requirements vary by state. However, Pennsylvania teacher certification requires a bachelor’s degree from a PDE-approved program. Candidates with a non-education bachelor’s degree can pursue an alternative teacher certification program, which requires supervised student teaching experience.

To obtain Pennsylvania teacher certification, candidates must pass two examinations: the basic skills test and a subject matter test. The basic skills test covers reading, mathematics, and writing. The subject matter test pertains to the individual’s teaching area. To pass, candidates must obtain a composite score of 521 in the three basic skills tests. Passing scores for the subject matter tests vary.

Lastly, candidates apply through Pennsylvania’s online system. Applicants upload proof of a bachelor’s degree and a completed teacher education program, submit passing test scores, and pay a processing fee. PDE takes a few weeks to process applications.

Continuing Education Requirements in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania educators with public school certification must complete ongoing professional education in accordance with Act 48. Teachers submit professional education documentation every five years to qualify for certification renewal.

Educators must earn six semester credits every five years. They can also complete six credits of PDE-approved continuing professional education (CPE) courses or 180 hours of approved CPE, activities, or learning experiences. Teachers can also fulfill Act 48 requirements through a combination of these methods.

PDE offers free online continuing education courses. Teachers may also access CPE opportunities from school districts, intermediate units, and colleges and universities. Educators may complete activities and courses in their teaching area or in topics such as instructional methods, technology, and classroom management.

Pennsylvania Teacher Reciprocity Agreements

Teachers who have earned licensure or completed educational requirements in another state can apply for a Pennsylvania teacher certification by reciprocity. Requirements for out-of-state teachers vary depending on the individual’s education level and licensure.

The National Association Directors of Teacher Education and Certification Interstate Agreement allows teachers in 50 states and territories, including Pennsylvania, to receive reciprocity. Member states recognize teaching certifications from other participating states.

Additional Teacher Certifications

Pennsylvania offers additional teacher certifications beyond the public school teaching credential. Those wishing to teach trades or occupational skills can obtain a career and technical certification. Available certification subjects include agriculture, carpentry, and law enforcement.

Candidates who wish to teach an occupational skill but have not yet completed a preparation program can apply for a career and technical intern credential, which allows holders to teach for up to three years. Applicants must have four years of wage-earning experience in their teaching area, acceptance to a preparation program, and passing exam scores. The candidate’s institution must recommend them for the intern credential.

Individuals with 18 credits of career and technical teacher education and at least two years of wage-earning experience in their field can apply for a career and technical instructional I credential. After teaching for three years and completing 42 credits of career and technical teacher education, professionals can apply for a level II credential.

Pennsylvania Teacher Salary

Pennsylvania teachers’ salaries depend on factors including professional experience and school location. According to data from the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the Solanco School District pays the lowest starting salary, which is $21,854 annually. Teachers working in the Athens Area School District earn the highest starting salary, $59,945 per year.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Pennsylvania is currently experiencing teacher shortages in areas including gifted education, art and music, career and technical education, and mathematics. Additional teacher shortage areas include health and physical fitness, science, and special education.

Resources for Teachers

This resource from the U.S. Department of Education provides information on topics such as agricultural education, trade and industry education, and English as a second language. These guides can help teachers and education students learn about career paths in the field.
Pennsylvania PBS offers free curated content aligning with state standards. Teachers can access materials in subjects including STEM fields, history, and emotional learning.
The Pennsylvania Professional Development System offers resources for adult education teachers. Visitors can access job listings, webinars, and databases of adult learning programs.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania helps teachers find historical primary resources to supplement lessons. Educators can search the online database for resources related to lesson topics.
The Pennsylvania State Education Association provides webinars, book discussions, and wellness events. Professionals can use these resources to further their education or apply to classroom teaching.

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