Steps to Take Before Moving States as a Teacher


Moving states as a teacher can be a stressful, and sometimes daunting task. This is especially true if you have been in a single state, school district, or even a school for several years. However, there are some steps you can take to make transitioning your license as stress free as possible.

Win, Lose, Draw Scenario

You arrive home from a long day of teaching, and your spouse greets you at the door with your favorite beverage and desert. No, it's not your birthday. He is imbibing you with your favorite goodies to break the news that he or she just got a great promotion at work. The catch - move to a new state. You let out a long sigh - because for you, as a teacher, that means the sometimes tricky path of navigating moving your teacher's license from one state to another.

Where to Begin

Before you start calling the movers and looking for new houses, you need to do your homework about the process that will be involved in getting a teacher's license in your new state. First, you want to study the requirements for teacher licensure in the state you are moving into. After you have read up on the process, it doesn't hurt to spend some time on the phone and talk to a representative from the state's department of education. It is important because depending on where you were originally trained, how long you have had your license, and where you are moving to, the process can get a little bumpy.

open road

Let's begin with the scenario that assumes that you earned your National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification, and it is registered on your teacher's license. While this extra certification does not replace a state issued teacher's license, it does smooth the way for a license transfer. In many cases, the state will automatically issue you a teacher's license in the area you received your NBPTS certification in, as long as you have maintained your NBPTS certificate. Having National Board Certification is probably the easiest route to transferring your teacher's license if you are fortunate enough to have the certification already in place.

If you don't have NBPTS, you want to check the reciprocity requirements for the state you are moving to. While most states require Praxis Exams that are fairly consistent across most states, there are states that use their specific system of exams for teachers. You will need time to register, prepare, and take and pass the tests before the state can issue you a license. The time involved in testing is one important reason to start the process as early as possible. There might be multiple exams you need to take, so it takes some time to plan, study for, and pay for these exams which can run up to $150 a piece on certain tests.

Sometimes You End Up Back in College

Depending on how long ago you were certified, you may find yourself back in college taking a few classes to transfer your teacher's license. Over time, states adjusted their teacher education program requirements to meet the standards of No Child Left Behind. This law required teachers to demonstrate they were highly qualified through a variety of means, but it also changed the rules, especially for middle school teachers.

Yale building

Years ago, most states followed a two-tiered system of certification for teachers. Either you were certified elementary, or you were certified in secondary education. Middle school teachers fell into the gap in this system and depending on what grade level and subject they taught, might have been required to have an elementary or secondary teacher's license. NCLB forced states to break down their teacher certifications into more levels, which today typically include early childhood, elementary, middle school, and secondary (high school) with a variety of subjects available at each level depending on the state.

If you have taught for a long time in a single state, you may have been grandfathered through some of the transitions in licensure requirements. For example, if you were elementary certified but teaching middle school you may have been issued a Middle-Level teacher's license based on your experience and completion of a Praxis test. Because you were already teaching middle school, the state was allowed to 'grandfather' you during the transition period, because during a window of time you had demonstrated you were proficient in teaching that age group. Similarly, your district may have allowed you to just keeping teaching middle school on an elementary license if the rules of your state allowed it. However, if you transfer to another state you want to be sure to talk to the state department of education about what grade level(s) your new transferred license will allow you to teach before you start job hunting.

The Good News

In 2011, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification was formed to streamline the process for teachers needing to transfer their licenses between states. They formed the Interstate Agreement, which streamlined and clarified the requirements for teachers as they move from state to state. Again, while some states may have additional requirements, the Interstate Agreement usually allows you to get an initial license while you work on any additional requirements.

The additional requirements will vary from state to state. For example, you may be required to take courses to demonstrate you can teach students who are English Language Learners in a mainstreamed classroom as part of your license transfer. In other cases, you may find that you are missing one or two of the content-specific classes required for a teacher's license in that area, due to differences in requirements. In these cases, the state may issue a temporary license typically good for one year to allow you time to take any additional required courses.

Road Intersection

The beauty of this agreement is that you can move from the States to the US Territories, and even Canada, and you have a guarantee you can get at least an initial teacher's license. However, a word of caution. Even though there are Interstate Agreements, it does not mean that New York would necessarily accept a South Carolina teacher's license, for example. Rather, it forces states to be upfront about which states they will, or won't, accept a teacher's license from. Having this knowledge out in the open makes it easier for teachers to transfer from state to state.

If you choose to teach on a military base at a Department of Defense (DOD) school, they have their system of licensure. Teaching at a DOD school typically requires you only to have a valid teacher's license from one of the states, or another country, to get your foot in the door. After that, depending on how long you have taught, you may have additional testing requirements to earn a DOD teacher's license which is good for any military post worldwide.

By Rachel Tustin
October 2016
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