Do you need a teacher certificate?

05/05/2016

The simple answer is, yes.

While the requirements tend to vary by state and ultimately depend on your program of choice, every individual who wants to teach is required to have a teaching certification.  

The aspiring teacher (a.k.a. you) can get a teacher certificate through either the more traditional route, by receiving a bachelor's degree in education, or through an alternate route. The process for getting an alternative teaching certificate depends on the program and the area in which you choose to teach.

Most programs are divided into one of three types of degree tracks:

  • elementary education
  • secondary education
  • special education

Typically, programs will also offer specializations within each of these categories. For example, an art teacher or physical education teacher normally gets his or her certificate in either elementary education or secondary education; whereas a teacher who specializes in theater, foreign languages, or home economics will likely have a degree in secondary education.


Other areas that need a teaching certification are early childhood education, early childhood special education and English as a second language (ESL), just to name a few.  

There are two main types of teaching certificates: traditional and alternative.

Getting Your Traditional Teaching Certificate

As stated above, this type of teaching certificate is obtained while receiving your bachelor's degree, usually at a four-year college or university. Most colleges and universities in the US offer an education degree program (Path to Teach can help you find a highly rated one) for students who choose to major or specialize in education.

For example, in Florida you must complete a state-approved teacher preparation program and pass all three portions of the Florida Teacher Certification Examination (FTCE).  

  • FTCE Subject Area Examination
  • FTCE General Knowledge Test
  • FTCE Professional Education Test

If you complete the approved teacher prep program, but do not pass one or more portions of the Florida Teacher Certification, you will be granted a Temporary Certificate, which is valid for up to three years. This allows you to complete the certification exams while teaching full time.


Again, the requirements for this type of program are different from state to state.

Find colleges in your area which offer an education degree program using the search box on the left side of the screen.

Getting Your Alternative Teaching Certificate

Unlike a traditional teaching certificate, an alternative teaching certificate is normally earned after you have already received your bachelor's degree. Often, people seeking these certificates have worked full time, perhaps in a completely different field.  

Again, the requirements are different in each state. But aspiring teachers who choose an alternate route have the ability to earn their teaching certification in a variety of fields and can take part in either an alternative teaching certificate program, a teaching residency program, or can obtain an emergency teaching certification.

To use Florida again as an example, the requirements to obtain an alternative teaching certificate for Florida are as follows:

  1. the aspiring teacher must have a Bachelor's degree to be accepted into the program and to receive a Temporary Educators Certificate

  2. from there, since the program is competency-based and requires no college coursework, you will be tested in the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices to find out the areas that must be improved upon. These practice areas include: assessment, communication, human development & learning, and many others.

  3. you'll then receive hands on learning prior to being assigned a classroom.

  4. once given a classroom, you will have additional training based upon your performance.

Looking for an alternative certification program near you? Do a search on the left side of the screen. Be sure to select "Alternative Path to Teaching."


— Katie Flanigan
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