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Teaching Credential: Overview of Requirements

A teaching credential is generally a certification required of teachers according to state. Continue reading for an overview of the requirements necessary for certification, as well as job growth and salary info for a few career options for certified professionals.

Going after a teaching credential starts with an undergraduate degree designed for teachers. Student teaching experience is also usually required but can be obtained through a degree program. Licensure usually involves a test combined with a degree and classroom experience, although each state has its own established standards.

Essential Information

Teachers in all public schools and some private schools must have a teaching license. This credential covers the grade level or subject area that they intend to teach. Teachers with a certified teaching credential may pursue a career in the field of their choice, usually determined by the type of teaching degree awarded. Options include teaching elementary school, middle school and high school. Read below to learn more about credential requirements and each specific teaching career.

Required Education Bachelor's degree; Teaching internship
Exam Requirements Licensure by an approved state agency
Specializations Grade level and subject
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers
Median Salary (2015)* $54,890 for elementary school teachers;
$55,860 for middle school teachers;
$57,200 for high school teachers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for a Teaching Credential

Although specific requirements vary by state, all states require that teachers complete a bachelor's degree program before they are eligible for licensure. As an undergraduate, aspiring teachers typically major in teacher education, with an emphasis on certain grades or subject matter. The curriculum for a teacher education major focusing on elementary school teaching blends general education courses with classes focused on a single subject such as English, history or math. A teaching internship or experience is commonly part of the curriculum and mandatory to graduate.

Those who choose to major in a subject other than education may still be eligible for a teaching credential, but they may have to fulfill additional requirements according to their state licensing agency. Students who wish to become secondary school teachers often major in the subject they aim to teach, which means that they may also need to take additional classes.

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Licensure Requirements for a Teaching Credential

Licensure by an approved state agency is required for teachers in all public schools and a few private ones. After earning a bachelor's degree and fulfilling teacher education requirements, teacher candidates in almost all states must pass a test to show their skills in English, math, teaching and any specific subject matter they plan to teach. Some states also have other prerequisites for licensure, such as training in technology or earning a master's degree in education.

Certification Information for Teachers

Teachers may want to consider national certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. This organization grants certificates in 25 subject areas, including art, literacy, music, social studies and physical education. Tests conform to the age level that each exam-taker intends to teach; results are based on written exam scores and live teaching assessment. Although certification is voluntary, it may boost a teaching career by granting the designee more opportunities for an increased salary. It may also enable teachers to transfer their license to other states.

Career Outlook

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) listed the following median annual salary amounts for non-special education teachers at different levels:

  • Elementary teachers: $54,890
  • Middle school teachers: $55,860
  • High school teachers: $57,200

The BLS further reports that elementary teachers in the states of Massachusetts, California, New York, Alaska and Connecticut were paid the most that year, earning average yearly salaries of almost $72,000 and higher. According to BLS projections, employment of elementary and middle school teachers is expected to grow by 6% between 2014 and 2024, and high school teachers should also see a 6% employment increase during the same time period.

Nearly all teachers must have a teaching credential in order to teach elementary through high school. Requirements for a teaching credential vary, but most need at least a bachelor's degree in education or a similar degree that includes classroom experience to start. Certification is also available for teachers in 25 subject areas and may help improve job options.


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