Every state has its own system for certification. It can seem a bit confusing to new students trying to navigate the process. To make it even more complicated, each state uses license, certification, licensure, certificate, and certified all to describe the same thing. As a new teacher you will need to have a state issued license or certification in order to teach in a public school.
Every state will have various levels of licensing as well. Each level typically denotes a certain number of hours of training and/or education you have completed. The states will give titles to each level often calling the first one provisional, temporary, initial, etc. the first stage of certification will be issued typically as part of a teaching program. These licenses are often nonrenewable and have certain deadlines for completing requirements of the program. Once you have completed all the requisites of the state license board, you will then move to the next level or stage in licensing.
Applying for Certification
When the time comes for you to apply to the state board of education for your license, you will need to follow several steps. Most state licensing boards have two parts to the application process. Part of it will be online and the other will be by mail. The application itself is often found online where you can fill it out and send it in.
You will have to send in documents, however, by mail. The documents required will be items such as:
- College transcripts
- Proof of school employment
- Exam scores
- Fingerprint card
- Student teaching documents
You will need to be prepared to have all of the documents ready ahead of time or your application will be delayed. You will also need to have completed a background check and obtained a copy of your fingerprints. All of these steps can take weeks to process. It is best to keep a checklist so that if you have a tight deadline you will allow yourself plenty of time to accomplish all the steps.
Renewing Your License
The second stage of licensing is typically renewable every five to seven years in most states. Some states may be longer and some a bit shorter. Most states have set standards for professional development and continuing education that you will have to complete before your license comes up for renewal.
Professional Development courses are counted in points. Each state will have a set number of points you will need to earn during the renewal period. A point is the equivalent of six semester hours of college courses. The courses you choose will usually be specific to topics related to art, curriculum development, and methods in teaching.
There are many areas that may be available to earn points. You might earn credit by publishing in magazines or trade journals. You may also be able to attend certain conferences or training sessions. You are also able to seek a higher degree. In fact, many states offer teachers with PhDs a professional level of licensing which may have more benefits than other levels.
National Board Certification
National Board Certification is recognized to be an advanced credential by some states. It doesn’t take the place of a state issued license but it does complement it. The National Board Certification is available by going through an assessment program for teachers in K-12 who have an undergraduate degree and have at least three minimum years of fulltime teaching. The certificate is designed to award teachers who have become highly qualified.
American Board for Certification
The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) is an alternate route for those who want to earn a teaching credential and teach in eleven states in private schools and in some public school pilot programs. The program is specifically designed for students who already have a degree and want to go through the teacher preparation process.
Foreign Teaching Credentials
Teachers coming in to the United States who want to teach in public schools but don’t want to go through another licensing process will have to have their foreign license evaluated. There are lists of agencies that handle foreign licenses. These are private organizations that have been approved to carry out private evaluation and are located at various places around the in the United States. Each state’s Department of Education will have their own list if they allow this credentialing process.
Credentials by Reciprocity
Some states have a system in place that allows teachers to carry their credentials over from one state to the other. If this is the case, that state will have a license or certification that will allow reciprocity. Sometimes all that is required is a background check, proof of your current state license, your education, employment, a full application, and pay a fee. Other times there may be specific courses that you have to take that are unique to the area due to high levels of cultural influences that require specific language or culture training, or other specialty classes. Other times you may be required to complete a list of requirements depending on which state you are transferring to.