How to Become a Teacher in Montana
From great benefits to an unmatched opportunity to make a real impact in the word, becoming a teacher is a great choice for a profession. It takes a special kind of person to get into this line of work, but if you have what it takes, it could be the best decision you ever make.
The following steps will help you plan your path to becoming a teacher in Montana.
Choose What You Want to Teach
The most important step of all is to decide what level and subject you are passionate about teaching. Do you think you would excel as a teacher in an elementary school environment? Elementary school instructors teach multiple subjects at a fundamental level. Do you prefer a middle school or high school environment? Secondary school teachers usually have a specialty or passion for a single subject, like Math or English. Are you interested in special education? There are different requirements for each of these credentials. The Montana Office of Public Instruction has more information on teachers and students in the state, which could help you in making an informed decision.
Earn a Bachelor's in Education to Meet the Requirements for a Teaching Certificate in Montana
In order to become a licensed teacher in Montana, you will need to hold a bachelor's in education at minimum and complete an accredited professional educator preparation program in an area approved for endorsement in Montana.
In most accredited colleges or universities in Montana, you can earn your teaching license and bachelor's degree simultaneously. Inquire with your institution of choice to find out if you have the option to complete a blended program. This blended program will put together all of the coursework you will need to complete a professional educator preparation program and a bachelor's degree. This type of program is ideal for candidates who know from early on that they want to teach.
Complete a Teacher Preparation Program
As mentioned above, to become a licensed teacher in Montana, you will need to complete an accredited professional educator preparation program.
Teacher education programs generally consist of two elements: curricula and fieldwork. Curricula refers to the college level classes you will need to take at your Montana institution. These classes tend to focus on pedagogy, teaching methods, classroom management, lesson plan design, differentiated instruction, and more. Fieldwork usually incorporates classroom observations, internships, and/or student teaching. During student teaching, you will work with a mentor teacher to teach lessons to students for a set period of time. The exact curriculum depends on your college or university.
If you already have a bachelor's degree in non-education field, you can complete an alternate or post-baccalaureate educator preparation program. Keep in mind that many institutions of higher education even offer a joint master's degree and teacher education program.
Alternative Teacher Certification in Montana
There are alternate routes to becoming a licensed teacher in Montana.
Teacher Certification Reciprocity
If you have certification to teach in another state, you may still be able to teach in Montana. Montana has reciprocity agreements with many other states. However, the entire licensure process for Montana must also be completed. Note that you might not be able to qualify for full licensure in Montana if you received your license through an alternate route or testing in your home state. This is due to the state's definition of a "highly qualified teacher." If this is the case, the Licensure Division will inform the educator of the requirements necessary for full certification.
Class 5 License
If you have not completed all of Montana's requirements to become a teacher, you can apply for a Class 5 Provisional License. This license is for people who have not yet completed all of Montana's requirements, particularly an educator training program. The Class 5 license is valid for three years. Before the end of three years, the individual must complete any remaining requirements in order to become fully certified.
Pass the Tests Required for Teacher Certification in Montana
At this time, teaching candidates are not required to pass tests as part of Montana's teacher licensure process. However, teachers do need to pass certain exams in order to become a "Highly Qualified" teacher in Montana.
Montana asks that new teachers pass the Praxis II examinations in order to meet Highly Qualified Status and to become licensed to teach in the following areas:
- Elementary K-8
- Art (All Grades)
- Reading (All Grades)
- Secondary Education (5-12):
- Earth Science
- Government/Political Science
- Physical Science
- World and U.S. History
- World Languages (All Grades)
Apply for your Montana Teacher Certification/Teaching License
The Department of Education in Montana will require you to submit the following when you apply to become a teacher:
- Completed application form
- Documentation to support the form, including your college transcript(s) from every college or university you have attended
- Application fees
- Copies of any teaching certificates you have, if applicable
- Official statement of status eligibility
- Records of employment
- Fingerprints and background check
Montana Office of Public Instruction
Attn: Educator Licensure
P.O. Box 202501
Helena, Montana 59620-2501
Phone: (406) 444-3150
Find a Teaching Job in Montana
Once your application processes, you will be ready to become a licensed educator in Montana! As a licensed educator, you will be ready to begin your career as a teacher.
Finding a Teaching Job in a Montana Public School
The state of Montana is always sourcing new teachers to work in schools throughout the state. Currently the state is facing a shortage of teachers, administrators, and educational support staff. The state Department of Education, through the Office of Public Instruction, has created a database site called Jobs for Teachers to facilitate job postings both for potential employees and employers.
Once hired, public school teachers join a union such as the Montana Education Association and Montana Federation of Teachers (MEA-MFT). Labor unions assist teachers in a variety of ways throughout their career. Teachers find membership to be largely beneficial.
At retirement, teachers are able to draw from the state's Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) which handles retirement, disability, and survivor benefits for retirees and their families.
Finding a Teaching Job in a Montana Private School
Montana has more than 120 private schools. Many teachers prefer to work in a private school due to the smaller class sized with a pleasant ratio of 10 students to 1 student. Private schools may have different requirements than those of public schools. If you wish to work in a private school, it would be best to contact them directly.
Teacher Shortage in Montana by Subjects or Discipline (2021-2022)
The following list of teacher shortage areas in Montana has been obtained from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education, Teacher Shortage Area (TSA) list for the 2021-2022 school year:
- Special Education, All Exceptionalities PreK-12
- Career and Technical Education 9-12
- Mathematics 7-12
- Science 7-12
- English 7-12
- World Languages 7-12
- Social Studies 7-12
- Art PreK-12
- Music PreK-12
Number of Public and Private School Teachers By Grade
The following Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) table highlights the number of teachers in Montana in both private and public schools, by grade level, as of May 2021:
|Grade Level||Number of Teachers|
|Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education||1,270|
|Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education||4,650|
|Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education||2,230|
|Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education||4,420|
|Special Education Teachers, Preschool||50|
|Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School||460|
|Special Education Teachers, Middle School||280|
|Special Education Teachers, Secondary School||430|
Continue Your Education and Professional Development
Researchers have determined that teachers who engage in relevant, high-quality professional development make a measurable positive impact on student achievement. For this reason, it has become standard practice and part of the culture of the educational system to ensure that teachers strive for ongoing professional development opportunities through a variety of platforms and venues.
When evaluating various professional development options, teachers will benefit from making sure that the offering leads to identification, reflection, and implementation of best-practices for student achievement. In addition, good professional developments will have staff members work collaboratively, focusing on continuous improvement.
Professional Development in Montana
The Department of Education in Montana has established the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) to support new and experienced educators in their professional development needs. The OPI is divided into Montana Regional Education Service Areas whose goals are to help teachers increase their subject-matter knowledge, enhance research-based instructional strategies, and increase teachers' competency with technology in the classroom. Visiting the Montana OPI website is a great starting place for teachers with further inquiries.
Earn a Master's in Teaching or Education to Upgrade to a Class 1 Educator License and Earn a Much Higher Salary
A master's in education or teaching offers one path to advancing to the Class 1 Educator License and enjoying the professional opportunities that come along with it.
Your initial Class 2 Educator License is valid for five years and is renewed by completing Office of Public Instruction (OPI) renewal units and/or college credits in any combination to achieve a total of 60 OPI renewal units. Every college semester credit you earn = 15 OPI renewal units, so pursuing a master's degree means a serious reduction in the time invested in meeting these requirements. If you earn just 4 semester credits, you've met the requirement.
You're eligible to advance to the Class 1 Educator License if you have at least three years of teaching experience and hold a master's degree (either in education or in an endorsable area). To maintain this optional, five-year license, you must complete at least 60 OPI renewal units (and/or college credits) during each licensure cycle.
To upgrade from the Class 2 to the Class 1 professional license, you'll need to complete an upgrade application and submit transcripts of your master's degree and verification of your three years of teaching experience.
Earning a Master's in Education or Teaching Could Put an Extra $7000 a Year in Your Pocket
A master's degree in education or teaching may also equate to better pay. For example, as of the 2022-2023 school year, teachers in the Billings Public Schools earned a minimum salary of $41,185 with a bachelor's degree but $48,563 with a master's degree - an difference of more than $7,000.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Teachers (Preschool, Elementary, Middle School, High School) and Special Education Teachers, (Preschool, Kindergarten and Elementary, Middle, High School) reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2023.