Becoming a Teacher in Tennessee: School Information

Jul 20, 2019

Tennessee has more than 30 schools that offer teacher education degree programs. Learn about the degree programs, tuition information and programmatic options for the 10 largest schools to make an informed education decision.

Essential Information

Teacher training degree and licensure programs are offered by 4-year public and private schools and universities across Tennessee. These programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate degree levels, and may offer multiple specializations. Some programs may be available online. Student gain practical experience through internships and student-teaching experiences.

There are more than 30 schools in Tennessee that offer some type of teacher education degree and/or licensure program. The 10 schools described below include those with the largest student populations. Most of these schools offer a large variety of licensure programs. All of the programs mentioned help students fulfill at least some of the requirements for the apprentice and/or professional licenses.

Austin Peay State University (APSU)

Located in Clarksville, APSU offers prospective teachers 20 separate undergraduate licensure programs, as well as two master's degree programs and an education specialist program for post-master's degree applicants. The undergraduate licensure programs include elementary and K-12 programs, in addition to secondary education programs in fields like biology, English, math, Latin and history. APSU's Martha Dickerson Eriksson College of Education includes the Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance (TECTA) professional recognition system and is backed by the university's own Teacher Education Council. All of the university's licensure programs are officially recognized and approved by the state.

East Tennessee State University (ETSU)

Johnson City's ETSU has two main departments within the Claudius G. Clemmer College of Education that offer several different teacher education programs. The Department of Teaching and Learning offers an early childhood education bachelor's program with and without licensure, as well as three master's degree programs and a doctoral degree program. The Department of Curriculum and Instruction offers undergraduate degrees in K-6 interdisciplinary studies and a wide variety of secondary education programs, including those in biology, geography and theatre.

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU)

Murfreesboro-based MTSU provides students with a small variety of degree and licensure programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Prospective students may earn a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies for grades K-6, grades 4-8 or special education. They can also earn a bachelor's degree in the field of their choice with a minor in secondary education. All of these programs include licensure preparation. Undergraduate students may also participate in the Tennessee Board of Regents' Ready2Teach program, which includes intensive clinical, mentoring and instructional skills training. Master's degree programs in curriculum and instruction, special education and reading, as well as advanced studies in teaching and learning, are also available.

Tennessee State University (TSU)

Nashville's TSU offers prospective and current teachers a bachelor's degree, master's degree and doctoral degree program, in addition to several undergraduate licensure certification programs for grades 7-12. Undergraduates interested in obtaining licensure for grades 7-12 in fields ranging from art education to theatre must work in close conjunction with TSU's Teacher Certification Office to complete their certification program. TSU also has a Ready2Teach program.

Tennessee Technological University

Located in Cookeville, Tennessee Tech has a few teacher education programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Each of the undergraduate programs includes licensure preparation, though Tennessee Tech does offer a non-licensure program. In addition, a 2+2 program is available for students who want to complete the first two years of their studies at an approved community college. The graduate programs include master's and education specialist degrees in curriculum and instruction, elementary education, special education, instructional leadership and more.

The University of Tennessee - Knoxville

The University of Tennessee, which is located in Knoxville, offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in teacher education. Bachelor's degree candidates can choose to major in art education or special education. Undergraduates can also enroll in a child and family studies licensure program, which includes a bachelor's degree and a master's degree. Master's degree options with licensure preparation include early childhood education, elementary teacher education, secondary teaching and special education, among others. Each master's degree program includes a year of internship experience. UT also offers many different majors and concentrations at the educational specialist and doctoral degree levels, such as early childhood education and teacher education theory and practice.

The University of Tennessee - Chattanooga (UTC)

Chattanooga-based UTC has a number of bachelor's and master's degree programs related to the field of education. UTC's School of Education divides its bachelor's degree options into six categories, including art and music, early childhood, middle grades, secondary studies, exceptional learning and health and science. Each program includes a licensure option in addition to the degree. The master's degree options range from elementary education (which may also be taken online) to secondary and special education programs.

The University of Tennessee - Martin (UTM)

Martin's UTM provides prospective students with three bachelor's degrees and three master's degree programs that are directly related to teacher education. Bachelor's-level students can choose to major in integrated studies, secondary education or special education. Master's-level students work toward a Master of Science in Education in curriculum and instruction, interdisciplinary studies or initial licensure. Educational leadership and counseling master's degrees are also available.

University of Memphis (UM)

Located in Memphis, UM offers prospective teacher education students one bachelor's degree program and a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The bachelor's degree program includes offerings in early childhood education, middle school education and all learners teaching. UM also offers teacher education students two laboratory schools, including the Barbara K. Lipman Early Childhood School and Research Institute. The school is home to the state-sponsored Center for Research in Education Policy, which works to improve K-12 learning.

Vanderbilt University

Located in Nashville, Vanderbilt's Peabody College of Education and Human Development has a large assortment of degree and licensure programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Peabody College offers bachelor's-level teacher education and licensure preparation programs in elementary, early childhood, secondary and special education. Peabody College's Department of Special Education has been ranked in the top tier of special education programs in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, and also offers students a master's and doctoral degree program. Vanderbilt has a wide variety of programs in education administration, counseling and other school professions, though most of them are not directly related to teacher education for classroom instruction.

Career Requirements

Becoming a teacher in Tennessee is a multi-step process that takes at least four years to complete. Prospective teachers must obtain the education, licensure and classroom-based experience required by the state to become full-fledged professional educators. Tennessee offers three types of licenses for teachers: traditional, alternative and occupational.

Traditional licenses are the most common and include the sequential apprentice and professional licenses. In order to be eligible for an apprentice license, an applicant must be 18 years old, hold a bachelor's degree or higher from a regionally accredited university, have completed a state-approved teacher preparation program and have passed the relevant Praxis II exams. In addition, all applications must be submitted by a state-approved institution on behalf of the applicant.

The professional license is considered a full teaching license and is designed for those teachers that hold an apprentice license or a license from another state. To receive the professional license, the prospective licensee must have at least three years of teaching experience in Tennessee and a positive evaluation from a school located within the state.

The alternative and occupational licenses are for special circumstances teacher applications, and for those teachers planning to work in the health sciences or trade and industry fields, respectively. The Tennessee Department of Education also has a separate alternative licensure program, known as Teach Tennessee, specifically designed to encourage mid-career professionals to pursue a career as a teacher of foreign languages, math or science for junior high and high school students. The program is highly selective and includes two types of applicants: governor's fellows and commissioner's fellows, each of which have their own unique admissions requirements.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting Sampling of Teacher Education Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)*
Austin Peay State University 4-year; public; midsize city Pre-K - 3rd Grade Licensure Program,
K-12 Special Education Licensure Program,
7-12 Biology Licensure Program,
7-12 History Licensure Program,
MA in Teaching,
Ed.S. in Elementary or Secondary Education
$8,159 in-state;
$23,399 out-of-state
East Tennessee State University 4-year; public; small city BS in Early Childhood Development PreK Licensure,
BS in Interdisciplinary Studies K-6,
BS in Secondary Education,
M.Ed. in Special Education,
Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education
$8,935 in-state;
$27,199 out-of-state
Middle Tennessee State University 4-year; public; midsize city BS in Interdisciplinary Studies K-6, 4-8,
BS in Special Education,
M.Ed. in Special Education,
M.Ed. in Literacy
$8,858 in-state;
$27,098 out-of-state
Tennessee State University 4-year; public; large city Art Education K-12 Certification,
BS in Interdisciplinary Studies - Elementary Education,
M.Ed. in Special Education,
Ed.D. in Secondary Education
$8,792 in-state;
$21,512 out-of-state
Tennessee Technological University 4-year; public; remote town BS in Multidisciplinary Studies - Elementary Education Concentration,
BS in Special Education,
Post-baccalaureate Teacher Licensure,
MA in Curriculum and Instruction
$8,731 in-state;
$24,595 out-of-state
The University of Tennessee - Knoxville 4-year; public; midsize city Child and Family Studies Licensure, BS/MS,
MS in Early Childhood Education,
MS in Teacher Education
$13,006 in-state;
$31,426 out-of-state
The University of Tennessee - Chattanooga 4-year; public; midsize city BS in Art Education,
BS in Middle Grades Education: Mathematics,
BS in Exceptional Learning K-12,
M.Ed. in Elementary Education,
M.Ed. in Special Education
$8,664 in-state;
$24,782 out-of-state
The University of Tennessee - Martin 4-year; public; remote town BS in Education in Integrated Studies,
BS in Education in Special Education,
MS in Education in Curriculum and Instruction,
MS in Education in Initial Licensure
$9,512 in-state;
$15,552 out-of-state
University of Memphis 4-year; public; large city BS in Education in Early Childhood Education,
BS in Education in Middle Grades 4-8,
MAT in Secondary Education,
MS in Reading Education,
Ed.D. in Special Education
$9,317 in-state;
$21,029 out-of-state
Vanderbilt University 4-year; private, not-for-profit; large city BS in Elementary Education,
BS in Special Education,
M.Ed. in Secondary Education,
M.Ed. In Special Education,
Ed.D. in K-12 Educational Leadership and Policy

Source: * NCES College Navigator.

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