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 Bachelor's in Education Requirements for a Teaching Certificate in Wisconsin

Like other states, Wisconsin requires that licensed teachers possess a minimum of a bachelor's degree and complete an 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, and 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 Tests Required for Teacher Certification in 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.

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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
  • 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. 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 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 (2021-2022)

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 2021-2022 school year:

  • Milwaukee Public Schools PreK-12
  • Special Education PreK-12
  • Early Childhood PreK-3
  • ESOL, Bilingual PreK-12
  • Mathematics 4-12
  • ESOL PreK-12
  • Science 4-12
  • Art and Music Education PreK-12
  • World Languages PreK-12
  • Reading PreK-12
  • Health and Physical Fitness PreK-12
  • Career and Technical Education 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 Wisconsin in both private and public schools, by grade level, as of May 2021:

Grade Level Number of Teachers
Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education 8,950
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education 26,430
Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education 12,490
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education 16,900
Special Education Teachers, Preschool 120
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School 2,310
Special Education Teachers, Middle School 1,430
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School 1,890

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 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.

Increase your Earning Potential with a Master's Degree in Education

While a master's degree isn't a requirement for working as an educator in Wisconsin, earn your master's, either in education or in a specific subject, and you'll position yourself for career advancement, broaden your professional opportunities, and qualify for a boost in pay. Plus, you'll bring a higher level of expertise to the classroom, something that could help you improve student outcomes.

After earning your initial Provisional Teaching License, you'll have three years to earn at least six semesters of successful experience before moving on to a Lifetime Educator License. You cannot move on to this next licensure tier until you have met this experience requirement. There is no limit to the number of times your Provisional Teaching License can be reissued.

Once you hold a Lifetime Educator License, you'll need to renew it every five years, provided you have been regularly employed in education for five, consecutive years. If you cannot meet this requirement, you'll need to apply for a Provisional Teaching License once again. Learn more from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction about the licensing system for teachers here.

Earning a Master's in Education or Teaching Can Lead to Earning More Money

A master's degree can result in better pay, whether as an annual stipend or as an increase in salary. For example, as of the 2022-2023 school year, teachers working in the Milwaukee Public Schools with a bachelor's degree qualify earned a starting salary of $51,794 per year. Those who go on to earn a master's degree can expect to earn an entry level annual salary of $55,363 - approximately $4,000 more.

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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.