Montana Art Teacher Certification and Job Requirements

Montana has made a commitment to the arts by adopting content standards that integrate visual arts as part of the core curriculum. As the Montana Office of Public Instruction notes, the arts cultivate the whole child, building many kinds of literacy while developing intuition, reasoning, creativity, imagination, and dexterity into diverse forms of expression and communication.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction is the state’s licensing agency. To become an art teacher in the state, complete the following steps.

Complete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Prep Program
Apply for a Certificate/License
Maintain and Upgrade Your License
Pursue Graduate Work



Step 1. Complete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Prep Program

The first step to becoming an art teacher in Missouri is to earn a bachelors degree from an accredited school and complete an approved program of teacher education. You must also complete a supervised teaching experience either as part of your teacher prep program, or complete one year of teaching experience in a state accredited elementary and/or secondary school district.

Your degree should include 30 semester credit hours in a content major (arts or education) plus 20 semester credit hours in a content minor; or 40 semester credit hours in a broad content major such as arts education. Because arts teachers in Montana are certified to teach at the K-12 inclusive, you will need to demonstrate preparation at both the elementary and secondary levels. Detailed information on particular course requirements will be available on the website of prospective schools.

Montana currently has nine post-secondary campuses offering teacher education programs approved by the Montana Board of Education for teacher certification. A detailed list of programs at each of the nine schools may be found here.

Note that unlike other states, in Montana tests are only applied as part of the teacher prep programs, rather than as separate requirements. You will take a multi-dimensional content test embedded in your teacher prep program as a condition of your licensure recommendation from the school.



Step 2. Apply for Your License

Montana offers the following types of licenses for art teachers:

  • Class 1: Professional K-12 endorsement in Art
  • Class 2: Standard K-12 endorsement in Art
  • Class 4: Career and Technical Teacher in the Graphic Arts
  • Class 5: Alternative License

Standard License

If you’ve graduated with a bachelor’s degree and are following a traditional route to licensure, the first license to apply for is the standard license, which is good for five years. Montana requires a paper application with a notarized signature, which can be downloaded here. Fingerprints and a background check must also be provided.

Career and Technical License

The Class 4 license requires 10,000 hours of work experience, although degrees, licenses and industry standard designations may replace some of these hours. A paper application can be downloaded here. These licenses are valid for five years.

To qualify for this license, you must provide documentation of art-related experience, which may include detailed description of the duties performed during employment; or for self-employed individuals, examples of projects completed, letters of verification, profit and loss statements, certificates of completion of appropriate technical programs or related college degrees and coursework, and industry certification, and other options.

Alternate License

In some cases you may apply for a Class 5: Alternative License as an entry-level license if you have a bachelor degree but need to complete a teacher prep program. These are only available once in a teacher’s life.A paper application can be downloaded here.



Step 3. Maintain and Upgrade Your License

Standard licenses are good for five years. To renew, you must complete a combination of college credit and OPI renewal units:

  • 3 semester credits and 15 OPI renewal units; or
  • 4 semester credits; or
  • 4 quarter credits and 20 OPI renewal units; or
  • 5 quarter credits and 10 OPI renewal units; or
  • 6 quarter credits

Renewal applications can be found here. Instructions on getting pre-approval for renewal credits are here.

Professional License

You can upgrade to a Class 1 Professional License, valid for five years, after meeting the following qualification:

  • A master’s degree in professional education or visual art from an accredited college or university
  • Verification of three years of successful K-12 teaching experience as a licensed teacher
  • A Class 2 Standard Educator License, or meeting the qualifications of the Class 2 Standard Educator License

To renew a professional license, you must complete 60 OPI renewal units or any combination of OPI renewal units and semester/quarter college credits. Renewal applications can be found here. Instructions on getting pre-approval for renewal credits are here.



Step 4. Pursue Graduate Work

Graduate work helps you advance up Montana’s licensure classes, may provide a pay raise, and expands your skills. Post-baccalaureate programs in the state that are relevant for arts education include:

  • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
  • MFA in Art Education
  • MFA in Art History
  • MFA in Ceramics
  • MFA in Drawing
  • MFA in Painting
  • MFA in Photography
  • MFA in Printmaking
  • MFA in Sculpture
  • Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Master of Education in Education (M.Ed.)
  • Master of Science in Health and Human Development
  • Education Specialist (Ed.S.)
  • Doctor of Education in Education (Ed.D.)


Montana Art Teacher Salaries

According to the National Education Association, the average starting salary for teachers in Montana (as of the 2012-2013 school year) is $27,274, significantly lower than the national average of $36,141.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide data on art teacher salaries as a separate unit, but tracks salaries for elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers as larger categories. The department reports the following annual mean wages and employment numbers as of May 2013:

Occupation Title EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Elementary School Teachers4,630$47,910
Middle School Teachers1,940$48,810
Secondary School Teachers3,490$49,480


However, teacher salaries can vary significantly by location. A sample of the median salaries and employment figures as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for some major cities appears below:

Occupation Title EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Billings, MT
Elementary School Teachers670$49,510
Middle School TeachersEstimates not released$39,410
Secondary School Teachers730$54,210


Missoula, MT
Elementary School Teachers280$46,010
Middle School TeachersEstimates not released$34,130
Secondary School Teachers300$54,190


There is no statewide salary schedule, and salaries vary by school district based on negotiations with the union. In the Billings school district, teacher salaries start out at $36,099 for those with a BA and $41,252 for those with an MA. The complete salary schedule may be found here.

Further information on postsecondary art teacher salaries in various areas of the state can be found in the following table provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Area Name
Annual Median Salary
Southwestern Montana nonmetropolitan area

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