Education & Scholarships

8 Steps to Becoming a Certified Teacher: A Guide to Unleashing Your Teaching Power

8 Steps to Becoming a Certified Teacher: A Guide to Unleashing Your Teaching Power

8 Steps to Becoming a Certified Teacher: A Guide to Unleashing Your Teaching Power.

To teach in any state, you first need to earn a teacher certification. Learning more about this credential and how to earn it can help you prepare to teach in your state and areas of interest.

In this article, we explore what teacher certification is and how to become a certified teacher in eight steps.

What is teacher certification?

Teacher certification is a credential that proves a teaching candidate has completed a state’s necessary requirements to instruct students in a classroom. This process is open to all prospective educators that want to work at any level of pre-elementary, elementary, secondary and some post-secondary institutions. Teacher candidates can earn certification in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Most teacher certification programs have coursework, practicum and testing requirements.

Some states have alternative paths to certification for candidates who choose to enter the classroom later in life or after a fulfilling career in another industry. Each state may have different types of teaching certifications or levels of certification. For example, Alabama offers three levels of certification: Class A, AA and B, for teachers with different levels of education. Some other education personnel may also earn teacher certification for their roles, including private tutors and instructional support staff.

How to become a certified teacher

Follow these steps to become a certified teacher in your state:

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

Teacher candidates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia complete a bachelor’s degree before earning their certification. Most candidates complete a degree in an education specialty, such as early childhood education, secondary education or special education from a National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) institution. This is often the most thorough way to complete the rest of your teacher certification requirements.

Some states may accept a bachelor’s degree in any field but add additional certification tests or requirements for candidates who didn’t complete an education program in college. Other states may require a certain grade point average (GPA) or letter grade in certain courses to become an eligible candidate for teacher certification.

2. Complete student teaching

Most teacher education programs in the United States have a practicum or fieldwork component required for graduation. This student teaching portion of your preparation allows you to enter the classroom before earning your certification and work with a mentor teacher to get field experience. Most student teaching takes place in K-12 institutions, depending on your certification level and specialization. Some student teachers for early childhood education may also work in preschool or daycare settings as part of their practicum requirements.

The length of a student teaching practicum varies, but most often they last for one semester, about 15 to 17 weeks.

3. Pass the required tests

Most states require teacher candidates to pass at least one knowledge and skills test to earn their certification. Most teacher preparation programs from accredited schools require students to take and pass these tests before graduation. Here are some of the most common tests to pass for certification in each state:

  • Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (CASE)

  • Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching

  • Praxis II in a desired subject area or specialization

  • Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA)

  • SAT

  • ACT

  • State-specified knowledge and competency tests

Check with your state’s Department of Education for the most up-to-date testing requirements.

4. Earn a master’s or doctoral degree

Most teacher certification programs require just a bachelor’s degree to enter the classroom, but some state certifications or subjects require more education. Some states may require a master’s degree after a few years of teaching to earn a higher level of certification and allow for educator advancement. Check with your state education licensing board to determine if a master’s or doctoral degree is the right choice for your subject area, specialty or licensing level.

5. Consent to a background check

Some states require fingerprinting and a background check as part of your certification application. These background checks may include both state and federal reviews for criminal activity and child abuse. Other states may not require a background check to earn your teacher certification, but individual schools and institutions in that state require them when applying for teaching positions.

6. Apply for a state teacher certification

No matter the requirements for teacher certification, candidates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia submit applications to the state body that regulates education to complete their certification. In most states, that’s the Department of Education or a state education board. The application process for teacher certification may vary from state to state. Most require proof of graduation from an accredited teaching program, proof that you’ve completed your student teaching or practicum requirements and a copy of your test scores.

Depending on the state, certification level or subject area, you may add additional application requirements as needed. Some certification applications also come with a processing fee.

7. Enter a mentorship or evaluation program

Some states require multiple levels of certification and licensure. For example, the state of Pennsylvania awards a Level I certification that expires after a few years if candidates don’t complete other requirements to earn their Level II certification, which is the permanent teaching certification in the state. These additional requirements often include completing an approved mentorship program in an approved school district, teaching in the classroom for a set number of years or hours as verified by an administrator and passing a set number of semi-annual or annual teaching evaluations.

Not all states have this requirement, so it’s important to check with your state’s regulatory education body to learn of these special circumstances.

8. Complete the required continuing education courses

To keep your teaching license current, most states require teachers to complete continuing education credits periodically. You may earn these credits by taking online or in-person courses, attending education events, taking part in teacher in-service or professional development training or returning to school to earn another degree. Continuing education requirements vary by state and certification level. Refer to your state’s education regulatory body for specific requirements.

Alternative paths to teacher certification

Aside from completing the traditional requirements in each state, here are a few options for alternative paths to earning your teacher certification:

Transfer your certification to another state

If you’ve earned a teaching certification in one state, you can often transfer your credentials to another without completing that state’s entire certification process again. Over 40 states have reciprocity agreements with at least one other state to transfer a certification. Most of these reciprocity agreements are provisional and require teachers to complete additional tests, teaching hours or mentorship programs to earn certification in the new state within a few years of teaching.

To find out which states have reciprocity agreements, check with your state’s Department of Education. Most states don’t accept teacher certification from another country, such as Canada.

Complete an accelerated certification program

In some states, candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than education may be eligible for an accelerated certification program. This allows teacher candidates to earn their certification while already teaching in the classroom. The requirements for an accelerated certification program are different in each state that offers this path.

Earn a private or charter school certification

Some states offer alternative certification paths for teachers who work in private and charter schools. Because some charter schools are independent public schools governed by a board of trustees, they can choose to hire teachers with or without state certification. State governments don’t regulate private schools, so they can set their own standards when hiring teachers. Some states offer private and charter school certification options that prove a teacher has credentials to be in the classroom but hasn’t completed the full state certification requirements.

Get a substitute teacher certification

Some states offer substitute teacher certification for all grade levels and adult education. These certifications may come as licensure or permits and stay valid for a finite amount of time. Some substitute teacher certifications qualify for renewal each year or after a specified period to allow you to continue teaching in this capacity.

Request emergency teacher certification

Some states offer emergency teacher certification for candidates who haven’t completed all the necessary state requirements. This often happens in states with a teacher shortage and allows candidates to bypass the licensing requirements to get into the classroom immediately. Emergency teacher certification may be more common for certain high-demand subjects or specializations, such as bilingual education or special education.

13 Online Teacher Jobs To Consider Today


Distance learning has become more and more popular is today’s world, and there is a need for online teachers now more than ever before. Whether you want to teach kindergarten, middle school or college students, there are ample job opportunities for those wishing to teach online. There are several online tutoring positions available as well. In this article, we’ll take a look at what it means to be an online teacher, 13 online teacher jobs to consider pursuing and steps to take to become a distance learning teacher.

What is an online teacher job?

An online teacher, sometimes referred to as a distance teacher or remote teacher, is an instructor who teaches students through online platforms. Some online teachers work only in distance learning, while others may work as distance teachers part-time and work as an in-person teacher the other part of the time.

Remote teaching opportunities provide a greater level of flexibility for teachers and instructors and more possibilities in terms of where and how they teach. For example, an online teacher can teach students who are located in another state or even country. Online teachers are in high demand, and in today’s world many teachers even prefer a distance learning position.

Online teachers can work either full-time or part-time. Common teaching positions available online include:

  • Adult education online instructors

  • Course developers

  • College teaching faculty members

  • Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers

  • Subject matter experts

  • ESL online instructors

  • Instructional designers

13 online teacher jobs

The following are a few of the many online teacher jobs to consider pursuing:

1. Online adult education teacher

National average salary: $30,902 per year

Primary duties: Online adult education teachers provide teaching services to adults wishing to expand their current level of education. Many online adult education teachers teach adult basic education as well as pre-GED and GED courses to prepare individuals for the GED exam. These teachers plan and preparing class lessons, monitoring students’ performance, managing the online classroom and creating an environment that supports online learning. Online adult education teachers typically need a minimum of bachelor’s degree in education or a related field and a valid teaching certification.

2. Online kindergarten teacher

National average salary: $35,541 per year

Primary duties: Online kindergarten teachers perform much of the same duties as traditional kindergarten teachers. Common duties include planning, preparing and implementing lessons for kindergarten-aged students, teaching children using various means such as art and reading and implementing activities and instructional methods that encourage children to learn. Online kindergarten teachers typically need a bachelor’s degree in early childhood or a related field and a teaching license.

3. Online preschool teacher

National average salary: $37,918 per year

Primary duties: Online preschool teachers oversee the learning and development of preschool-aged children. Common duties for these teachers include developing learning programs that engage preschool-aged children, using various educational techniques to motivate and entice children to learn and keeping track of student progress. They may also report the progress of each child to the child’s parents. Online preschool teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field and a valid teaching license.

4. Online middle school teacher

National average salary: $46,812 per year

Primary duties: Online middle school teachers vary based on the subjects they teach, but many handle duties that include designing lesson plans, creating and grading assignments, engaging students during class time and assessing student performance and offering help when needed. They also may provide feedback to students on their progress and track attendance of online students. Online middle school teachers must posses a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field and valid teaching certificate in the state they live.

5. Online high school teacher

National average salary: $49,171 per year

Primary duties: Online high school teachers oversee the learning of high school-aged individuals. Common duties for online high school teachers include creating curriculums and coursework for the subject they teach, managing online tests and assignments, grading assignments and offering feedback to students and promoting interaction between students in the class. Online high school teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree in education or a similar field as well as a valid teaching license.

6. Online curriculum developer

National average salary: $53,319 per year

Primary duties: Online curriculum developers are education professionals who work with teachers and school administrators to develop curriculum materials for students. Common responsibilities for curriculum developers include overseeing curriculum programs and projects, developing distance-learning materials to aid in learning, offering technical assistant to students and teachers and determining the most appropriate distance learning technology for a particular curriculum. Most online curriculum developer jobs require candidates to possess a master’s degree in education or a related field as well as a teaching certification in the state they live.

7. ESL online teacher

National average salary: $53,737 per year

Primary duties: Online ESL teachers offer instruction on speaking, reading and writing to individuals who do not speak English or who’s native language isn’t English. Common duties include creating lesson plans to assist in student learning, designing and implementing educational material, evaluating each student’s progress and maintaining consideration for cultural differences within the online classroom. Online ESL teachers must possess a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field.

8. Online tutor

National average salary: $54,000 per year

Primary duties: Online tutors provide tutoring services to individuals or groups in a virtual learning setting. They may tutor students in one particular area or offer tutoring services in several different subjects. Common duties for online tutors include grading student tests and assignments, answer student questions related to the topic being studied, assessing student progress and suggesting methods of improvement to students. Requirements to be a tutor vary, but many employers look for candidates with a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field.

9. Online college faculty

National average salary: $55,409 per year

Primary duties: Online college faculty are educational professionals who teach or offer support for online college courses. Common duties for these professionals include teaching assigned courses, evaluating instructional material, selecting texts to study, creating and providing students with a syllabus for the course and assessing student performance and offering feedback or help when needed. Most online college faculty positions require candidates to posses a master’s degree in education or a related area and several years of experience working as a teacher.

10. Online foreign language teacher

National average salary: $56,052 per year

Primary duties: Online foreign language teachers provide teaching services to students who wish to learn a new language. Duties include planning foreign language lesson plans, training students in reading, writing and pronouncing foreign languages, grading assignments and offering assistance to students when necessary. Most online foreign language teachers need a master’s degree to be eligible for this position.

11. Online test preparation tutor

National average salary: $61,944 per year

Primary duties: Online test preparation tutors specialize in a particular test, such as the ACT or SAT, and provide tutoring services to students wishing to prepare for these exams. These tutors teach students how to prep for the test, facilitate practice exams and teach various methods and strategies for test taking. They also provide help in any specific area that a student may struggle in, such as science or math. Most online test preparation tutor positions require candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree and have proven knowledge of the test they wish to tutor students on.

12. Online elementary school teacher

National average salary: $64,652 per year

Primary duties: Online elementary school teachers create curriculums for elementary-aged children and teaching this material using online video lessons or other online resources. They respond to student questions and comments, grade assignments and tests and keep records of student progress. Online elementary school teachers must possess a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field and a valid teaching license.

13. Online instructional designer

National average salary: $68,324 per year

Primary duties: Online instructional designers are education professionals who use learning principles to create the organization, appearance and functionality of learning materials and systems. They frequently work for non-profit or educational institutions with the most jobs for these professionals seen in online college settings. Duties include creating learning objectives, writing content for instructional material, working alongside subject matter experts to develop instructional systems and creating visual and audio media learning aids. Online instructional designers must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree but a master’s degree is often preferred.

Tips on getting a job as an online teacher

The following are a few key tips to consider when pursuing an online teacher position:

  • Determine your skills: Before you can decide which type of teaching job you want to pursue, you must first assess your skills. Knowing what you’re good at can help narrow down your options as to what subject or age group you want to teach. One way to determine your skills in relation to online teaching is to consider what subjects you excelled in when you were in school.

  • Decide what type of position you want to pursue. There are several online teaching positions available and knowing which one best suits your abilities and preferences is important. For example, if you want to only teach part-time, you may consider a job as a tutor or virtual adjunct professor. If you want to teach full time, consider a job as an online high school teacher.

  • Get familiar with online teaching technology. There are several different online platforms used for teaching classes virtually, and it’s important you’re familiar with them before accepting a teaching position. Research the different platforms available and practice using each until you feel comfortable.



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