As educators, we sometimes decide we want to teach different subjects or specific populations that require additional certifications. While this can be an option that opens doors in our teaching careers, there are also typically some costs involved. As educators, we must weigh the options before deciding if we want to spend the time and money pursuing additional certifications.
To Be or Not to Be
You are sitting in your room one sunny spring afternoon, enjoying the tranquility as you grade papers. It's going well, and you are starting to feel like you might be caught up before you go home today. Then your principal knocks on your door. He explains to you that the Advanced Placement teacher down the hall is retiring, and he is looking at you to replace him. Here's the catch: you would need to earn your AP Certification over the summer. While this is an exciting opportunity, it is also an expensive one. You want to spend some time weighing the pros and cons before you decide.
If you are considering adding certifications to your license, you want to start by visiting your state's department of education. Since you already have a teacher's license, each state will have a guide that details what you need in terms of coursework and exams to add a certification. States typically have a certification handbook that lists out the courses required for each area of certification. If that becomes difficult to determine, on their website will be some version of a 'Request Change' form. Submitting this form will allow your department of education to evaluate your test results and transcripts on file, and they will send you a detailed letter of any courses/exams you need to complete to add the certification.
Depending on the subject you teach, the process can be inexpensive and straightforward. For example, if you are already certified in science and you have the course work to be considered highly qualified, you may just have to pass additional Praxis Exams. While the exams can be a bit pricey, anywhere from $150-$250, adding additional certifications makes you more marketable as a teacher. If you want to teach in a rural district, being certified in multiple areas makes it easier to get hired on because they can fill what are often multiple part-time positions, with a single full-time teacher.
In other cases, depending on the coursework you took in college, adding a certification may be cost prohibitive. For example, if you minored in history but want to add it as a certification, you may be required to take several additional courses. If all you are trying to do is make yourself more marketable, then the cost involved in taking the courses may not be worth it in the end. However, if your goal is to switch the content area you are teaching in, then the expense may be worth it to you. If you teach in a rural district, there may be funding available through special teacher loans to complete the courses you need for additional certification.
Opportunity versus Expenses
Depending on what the additional certification you are seeking is, you want to consider the benefits to your teaching career. Let's go back to our example of teaching an AP course. In most places, to be eligible to teach an AP course you need to receive training at a College Board workshop in the content area you wish to teach. There is a fee to attend the workshop, which can run between $200-$250. Additionally, there will be expenses involved in travel and room and board, depending on how near your home the workshop you need to attend may be.
Depending on the state you teach in, the workshop fees may be covered by the state. In some cases, there is additional funding available to cover the cost if the AP courses are going to be taught to low-income students. However, most districts don't offer additional stipends to teachers for teaching Advanced Placement classes. The lack of funding to support AP certifications for teachers can be a negative. However, teaching AP classes allows teachers to work with a more motivated group of students and parents. For some teachers, this may be worth the expense itself.
Another option is to add endorsements to your teacher's license. Endorsements indicate that you have completed graduate courses in the endorsement area of your license, without necessarily earning a full master's degree. Depending on your state, there will be a variety of different endorsements available from reading and gifted & talented, to subject-specific endorsements such as American History. Since these endorsements come from completing graduate work, there is a financial benefit in that in most states after you have earned a specified amount of graduate credit hours, you are eligible to jump up a pay category. Endorsements can also open the door to teaching different populations of students such as English Language Learners or honors courses. Which, if this is an interest of yours, can be another benefit of earning your endorsement in a specific area.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
When deciding if you want to add certifications to your license, you have to weigh the pros and cons of your situation. If your motivation is financial, you want to be sure that adding certifications for other subjects is a cost effective option. If there is state funding available to cover the cost of tests, exams, or additional course work, then that might make it a productive option to your teaching career. If there are financial incentives such as pay raises involved, that is also something to weigh in your pro/con list. You should also consider what value teaching the new course will have in your life. Though it may not add specific financial benefits, if it makes you happier, then you may decide it is worth the costs involved. In any case, you want to investigate the pros and cons of adding certifications thoroughly before you plunge into the work involved in achieving it.