How to Become a Teacher in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction strives to promote excellence for all students. As an educator, you can do just that! The following information will help you become a teacher in Wisconsin.

Choose What You Want to Teach

The first step is to choose what you want to teach. There are a few different options including elementary school, middle school, high school, and special education. Before you become a teacher in Wisconsin, it is important to think about what type of students and subject(s) you would like to teach. If you are not sure yet, ask yourself if you have passion for a single subject. For example, if you are an expert in Math, you can become licensed to teach high school or middle math. However, if you prefer to teach multiple subjects, you can consider becoming a licensed elementary school teacher. The choice is yours.

Complete Your Education Requirements for Teaching in Wisconsin

Like other states, Wisconsin requires that licensed teachers possess a minimum of a Bachelor's Degree and complete a educator preparation program from an approved institution.

Complete a Teacher Preparation Program

To become licensed to teach in Wisconsin, one must complete an approved educator preparation program.

Educator preparation programs in Wisconsin usually combine curricula and fieldwork. Curricula refers to the coursework that candidates will take including classes on pedagogy, subject-based teaching methods, classroom management, differentiated instruction, and more. Fieldwork includes classroom observations and student teaching.

As a student teacher, candidates will gain teaching experience in a host classroom under the supervision of a mentor teacher. Student teachers have the opportunity to plan and teach lessons, monitor classroom behavior, conduct and analyze assessments, as well as communicate with parents. Many times, candidates will be asked to put together a portfolio at the end of the student teaching experience.

If you do not have a Bachelor's Degree yet, you can complete the educator preparation requirement concurrently as you work towards a Bachelor's Degree through a joint program. However, if you do have a Bachelor's Degree, you can complete an alternative or post-baccalaureate educator preparation program.

You can complete an online or on campus teacher preparation program, as long as it is approved by the state of Wisconsin and accredited by CAEP (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation).

Alternative Teacher Certification in Wisconsin

Alternative Route Pathway

An Alternative Route Pathway is available in Wisconsin for individuals who have decided to change careers, college graduates who later decide they want to become teachers, or licensed Wisconsin educators who want to obtain additional licensure in a Wisconsin shortage area. Interested candidates should identify a program that is approved by the state by looking through the Index of Approved Alternative Route Programs.

Teaching Certificate From Another State

Do you have an out-of-state teaching license? If you have completed an educator preparation program outside of Wisconsin and have completed the testing requirements of that state, you may be eligible for an initial Wisconsin teaching license. It is recommended that candidates apply for the Wisconsin license that most closely matches their out-of-state license. Since each state has its own licensing requirements, applicants for a Wisconsin educator license who completed a teacher preparation program out of state will not usually have fulfilled all the statutory requirements for a Wisconsin educator license. You may need to take a few extra classes or exams. If you are otherwise eligible for a Wisconsin license, you may be issued a license with stipulations.

Pass the Required Tests for Wisconsin

Basic Skills Test

The next step to obtaining an initial teaching license in Wisconsin is to pass the required examinations. In Wisconsin, teaching candidates must pass a Basic Skills Assessment. The Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics is necessary for admission to a teacher preparation program in a Wisconsin college or university. Individuals enrolling in an alternative program must pass competency tests in communication skills as well.

Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test

In addition, candidates applying for initial licensure as an elementary teacher (grades K-5, EC, EC-MC, MC-EA), a special education teacher, reading teacher, or reading specialist, must pass the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test with a score of 240 or higher.

Subject Tests

Teacher candidates must pass the applicable content area assessment for the desired area of licensure. In other words, the PRAXIS II test should be taken specific to the grade level and subject you wish to teach. This exam is used to assess an applicant's subject matter competency in their desired area of certification, as well as teaching pedagogy.

Apply for your Wisconsin Teaching License

Application Requirements

Once you have gone through all the preceding steps towards teacher certification, you should be ready to apply for an Educator License by submitting an application to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

In Wisconsin, educators can apply for an Initial License and Renewal License in teaching using the Educator Licensing Online (ELO) system. The ELO system allows individuals to provide the necessary information, supporting materials, and payment needed to process their license applications.

The following are required:

  • Official transcripts documenting the completion of a Bachelor's Degree and the completion of a state-approved educator preparation program in the licensure area
  • Non-refundable application fee, paid by credit card if paying online through
  • Verification of phonics coursework for Licenses in early childhood education, elementary education, reading teacher, and reading specialist
  • Verification of local Indian tribes and environmental education
  • Payment of non-refundable certification processing fee
  • Passing score on the required examinations

Contact Information

Wisconsin Department of Instruction
P.O. Box 7841
Madison, WI 53707-7841

Find a Teaching Job in Wisconsin

The next step for becoming a teacher in Wisconsin is to find a school to work in! Keep in mind that it is a good idea to make connections with principals and administrators while student teaching or interning. Those connections could help you get your first job as a teacher in Wisconsin, where you will have the ability to promote excellence for all students.

Teachers are able to view a current list of job postings for teaching positions by selecting the proper geographical and teaching criteria through the Job Center of Wisconsin website. With federally recognized shortages, teachers may earn loan deferment or forgiveness if their teachable subjects align with state need.

Private schools in Wisconsin also have gaps to fill throughout the 955 private schools across the state. These schools have a ratio of 13:1 on average, which means that staffing needs to accommodate approximately 10,000 teachers in private schools alone.

Professional Associations for Teachers in Wisconsin

Once hired, teachers can elect to join the state's teachers union(s) which in Wisconsin include the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) or the smaller American Federation of Teachers - Wisconsin (AFT-W).

Retirement Benefits for Teachers

When public school teacher is ready to retire, he or she will be eligible to begin drawing their pension through the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) in the form of a monthly annuity amount.

Teacher Shortage in Wisconsin by Subjects or Discipline (2014-2015)

The following list of teacher shortage areas in Wisconsin has been obtained from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education, Teacher Shortage Area (TSA) list for the 2014-2015 school year

  • Family and Consumer Education (FACE)
  • Technology Education
  • Special Education
  • Cognitive Disabilities
  • Cross Categorical
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Early Childhood-Special Education
  • Emotional/Behavioral Disorders
  • Learning Disabilities
  • School Speech and Language Disabilities
  • Visual Disabilities
  • English as a Second Language/Bilingual Education
  • Foreign Languages
  • Library Media
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Reading
  • Sciences

Number of Public School Teachers By Grade

The table below lists the number of public school teachers in Wisconsin by grade level during the 2012-2013 school year.

Grade LevelNumber of Teachers
Pre-kindergarten & Preschool Teachers2,083
Kindergarten Teachers3,260
Elementary Teachers23,315
Middle & High School Teachers28,543
Ungraded Class Teachers350

Data obtained from the State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey Data 2013

Number of Private School Teachers By Grade

There are more than 800 private schools with an estimated 8,600 private school teachers in Wisconsin. The table below details the number of teachers by grade level during the 2011-2012 school year.

Grade LevelNumber of Teachers
Elementary School Teachers5,786
Middle & High School Teachers1,218
Combined K-12 School Teachers1,561

Data obtained from the Private School Universe Survey (PSS) 2012

Continue Your Education and Professional Development

Experienced teachers gain many benefits from engaging in professional development opportunities with and by their colleagues. These ongoing and regular opportunities for learning translate to substantial gains in student academic achievement. It is simple, good teachers make good students! Ongoing professional development helps teachers improve their practice by educating them on how children learn, emerging technology in the classroom, new curriculum resources, assessment principles, and much more. The best professional development is ongoing, experiential, collaborative, and contains a self-reflective component.

Professional Development in Wisconsin

The state of Wisconsin's Department of Education uses a Professional Development Plan (PDP) model in order to provide a framework for professional development that is tailored to the individual teacher. The PDP is self-written and charts planned professional growth and evidence of the impact of that growth on student learning. Teachers who are seeking more direction regarding their PDP or resources to support it can contact their administrator for more information and resources.

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