What is a Teaching Certificate/Credential?

Depending on the region, a Teaching Certificate can also be referred to as a Teaching Credential or a Teacher's License. When someone earns this certification to teach, it means they have earned at least a Bachelor's Degree from an accredited college or university, gone through a Educator Preparation Program, and passed the necessary exams in the certification field. This is in addition to meeting minimum score requirements, passing a background check, and completing the forms necessary to apply for licensure.

Why is Teacher Certification Needed?

States require teachers to be certificated or licensed in order to make sure students are being provided with the best education possible. Earning credentials mean that an educator has completed an accredited program and proven competency in the classroom and on paper through such a program. Since teachers are required to be highly-qualified in order teach, the required school standards certification is necessary. In addition, teachers who are credentialed are considered experts in the field in which the licensure is held.

How is Teaching Certification Generally Obtained?

The process to earning a teaching credential can vary from state to state. However, most require teachers to possess at lest a Bachelor's Degree, complete an Educator Preparation Program, as well as pass the required state examinations. The following are the most common basic requirements across the nation.

Degree and Teacher Education Program

Teaching certification is typically earned by completing a four year Bachelor's of Education program, or another related field. Of course, teachers can become certified with a Master's Degree as well. In addition to the degree, teachers much go through an educator preparation program. Read more about a masters in education degree.

Educator Preparation Program

Teachers should complete a Teacher Preparation Program. Depending on the college and program a candidate participates in, the requirement can be fulfilled as part of a degree or on its own. Educators will choose from a variety of different certifications in which to pursue a full degree. Some degrees are subject specific while others are grade level specific. Potential teachers should make sure that their program of choice is offered by an accredited college or university prior to taking classes.


To become a certified teacher, candidates must pass the required tests. Most states will require a Basic Skills exam and a Subject Knowledge Competency exam. The Basic Skills exam will assess a candidate's knowledge in general math, reading, and writing. The Subject Knowledge test is a more specific exam that assesses a candidate's knowledge i the subject area they wish to become certified in. Most colleges and universities will require passing scores on the basic proficiency test prior to admittance into an education program.

Specific requirements for certification will vary from state to state.

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Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State

Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.

Testing Requirements

Almost all states require several different tests in order to gain certification. Many states now require testing prior to admission into an education program.

Basic Skills Test for Teachers

States will require their certified teaching candidates to pass a Basic Skills test. Most often, potential teaching candidates must fulfill the basic skills requirement prior to entrance into a Teacher Education Program. These basic skills include Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. Each state will have a particular minimum score that must be met in order to proceed to the education program. Although most states administer their own Basic Skills exam, many will accept the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators test.

Subject Tests for Teachers

Most likely, certified teachers will be required to pass a subject-specific exam. The subject matter competency exam will assess a candidate's knowledge in the subject or level they wish to become certified in. This test will usually be required upon completion of an education program. The applicable Praxis test, or state version of a subject competency test, will be required. There will be cut off scores for each of these tests. Scores for each area of certification can vary from state to state and between certifications. There are some certification levels that may require more than one test. Knowing which exams you need to take can be confusing, but each school should offer a list of the necessary tests for each certification. Some states will require specialized state exams which will cover basic skills and/or certification in order to gain licensure.

Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification

Many states offer alternative routes to certification for those that hold a Bachelor's Degree that is not in education. Some states limit alternative degrees to those who hold degrees in high need areas, such as Science and Mathematics, but many offer alternate certification to any who hold previous four year degrees.

Alternative routes to certification typically require the candidate to complete classes or attend workshops while also teaching full time. These classes will help the teacher learn classroom management while working full time. This also allows for actual hours to count toward a degree in a specific area. Most alternative certification routes will allow the holder to keep a provisional license for one to three years while the degree is completed and then a formal license will be provided. The criteria for earning a license through an alternate route will vary from state to state, but all states require at least a Bachelor's Degree to qualify.

Highlights for Getting Certified to Teach in Texas

In order to become a certified teacher in Texas, there are certain things one must do.

Education/Teacher Preparation Program

In order to become a certified teacher in Texas, a Bachelor's Degree is required, though higher levels of education are also acceptable. A teacher education program with student teaching and appropriate tests are required from an accredited college or university. Classes may include focus on classroom management, working with students with special needs, or subject specific teaching strategies. In addition, Texas potential teachers must pass a criminal background check prior to receiving a teaching certificate.

Tests to Pass for Teaching in Texas

The required tests for a potential teaching candidates in Texas are the THEA Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. Qualifying scores for these exams are a minimum of 230, 220, and 230 respectively. In addition, Texas teaching candidates must pass a PRAXIS exam(s) in their specific certification area with the score set forth by the Texas Department of Education. There are practice tests and numerous study guides available for each level of the Praxis as well as the basic skills exams.

Highlights for Getting Certified to Teach in California

Education/Teacher Preparation Program

Earning teacher credentials in California will require a Bachelor's Degree, the completion of an accredited teacher preparation program, and passing scores on the required tests. A teacher preparation program will involve both course work and field work including student teaching during or following the completion of a program of study. Curricula typically includes basic and fundamental teaching skills, pedagogy, and research and design in the specified field of study. All potential teachers, regardless of field of study, must take a class on the U.S. Constitution and an English Language Skills course.

Those individuals who have a Bachelor's Degree in a non-education field can still become teachers through alternative teaching certification paths by satisfying certain requirements. Depending on the area of desired certification, the requirements could vary greatly. However, a minimum of a Bachelor's degree is required in every area.

Tests to Pass for Teaching in California

California teaching candidates must complete a Basic Skills Test and Subject Area Competency tests prior to receiving a teaching certificate. The basic skills requirement is fulfilled by taking the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), the Praxis CORE, or the CSU Early Assessment Program. The Subject Competency requirement can be fulfilled by taking the CSET (California Subject Examinations for Teachers) or the applicable PRAXIS exam. Those seeking to become certified Elementary School Teachers must also pass the RICA (Reading Instruction Competence Assessment).

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