The Educated Educator: Teacher Certification

 

Teacher certification is the process by which a prospective teacher becomes licensed to teach and culminates in being awarded a teaching certificate/license. This certificate is usually required to be considered for a teaching job. While each state has its own requirements, the process is similar everywhere. The following are general guidelines and requirements to becoming certified as a teacher.

Education

Teaching certification generally requires the teacher candidate to hold a bachelor’s degree as well as complete a teacher preparation program which includes student teaching. The teacher preparation portion is included in many bachelor’s and master’s degree programs or can be taken separately. These programs are offered by many brick-and-mortar and online universities. The fastest way to teacher certification is to complete a bachelor’s degree which includes teacher preparation, content area knowledge, and student teaching.

Endorsement Areas

The endorsement area is the subject, or content area, which the teacher is licensed to teach. It usually corresponds to the candidate’s major area of study in his/her bachelor’s degree. Depending on the state and discipline, endorsements can be earned through education, experience, or through taking a certification exam. Some examples of endorsement areas include English Language Arts, Technology, and Elementary Education. Multiple endorsements can be awarded to a teacher candidate who can prove mastery of multiple content areas and can be a good resume booster.

Certification Exams

The content area tests are sometimes unique to state, but there are also national exams known as Praxis exams. The Praxis I exam is often required as a prerequisite to a teacher preparation program and tests basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. The Praxis II exam (or equivalent state-specific exam) tests knowledge of the content area for endorsement. These tests are designed to determine if a teacher candidate has acquired a sufficient level of mastery in their subject area.

Alternative Licensing

In most public schools in the United States, a teaching certificate is required to be considered for a teaching job. However, in some areas where teachers are in high demand (e.g. rural or inner city areas), it is possible to be hired without a certification and earn an alternative license by working in a school as a full-time teacher for a period of time, usually one school year. Teacher candidates should be aware that some schools do not regard alternative licenses as highly as standard licenses.