Tracing the Path to Become a Certified Teacher

How Do I Become a Certified Teacher?

become a certified teacher
Phil Boorman/Cultura/Getty Images

It is important to realize that the certification process to become a certified teacher varies from state to state, but there are more similarities among states than there are differences. There are different types of certification for teachers. Teacher certification can be placed within three broad categories including traditional certification, alternative certification, and certification reciprocity.

All states require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree for any teacher to be certified no matter which method they are certified through.

It is critical to note that teaching is not for everyone. It is certainly a challenging adventure. If you want a job where the rules are always changing, where no two days are ever alike, and where it has become the norm to blame you for any failures, then teaching is the right profession for you. Likewise, if you want a job where you get to make a difference in the lives of young people, are allowed to find creative solutions for reaching students of varying abilities, and get to see the fruits of your labor pay off sometimes years down the road, then teaching is the right profession for you.

Traditional Certification

The majority of teachers in the United States fit in this category. They are teachers who have gone through traditional teacher preparation courses in college and earned a minimum of a bachelor’s degree within their specific subject area.

Many teachers’ education programs require students to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) before they are admitted to the teacher education program and then they must maintain a certain GPA within their major coursework. This does vary from college to college. In addition, students are often required to keep an ongoing portfolio of their work throughout college, and this is often evaluated by a panel as they near graduation.

Once a candidate has earned their bachelor’s degree and been recommended by an institution of higher learning for certification, then the candidate must take certification tests before the process can be completed. Each state sets a minimum score which must be met, and many states have multiple tests which have to be passed. Oklahoma, for example, requires teacher certification candidates to pass the Oklahoma General Education Test (OGET), the Oklahoma Professional Teachers Exam (OPTE), and then the specific subject level test which they wish to be certified. Other states have similar testing requirements, but there are differences among states. Once the candidate has passed each of these tests, then they can submit proper paperwork with their State Department of Education to receive their teacher certificate.

Alternative Certification

This type of certification embraces people who have earned a degree and worked in another field and for whatever reason they have decided that they want to be a teacher. The first thing an individual has to do is to file the proper paperwork with their State Department of Education to be accepted into the alternative certification program. This requires them to plan on getting certified in an area that is most similar to their degree and their previous work experience.

For example, a person who holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science would most likely apply for alternative certification in Physical Education.

Once the candidate was accepted into the alternative education program, then the candidate has some criteria in which they must meet. First of all, they must pass the same certification tests as a candidate would pass for traditional certification. So using the example above in Oklahoma the candidate would have to pass the OGET, the OPTE, and the physical education subject matter exam. The alternative certification candidate would also likely have to take some college courses, professional development, or a combination of both to complete the process to become completely certified. However, most states will give you a teaching license temporarily once you have passed the tests and until you complete the necessary class work or professional development at which time you can get your teaching certificate.

Certification Reciprocity

This form of certification is for teachers who are already certified in one state, but for some reason need certification in another state. This form of certification also varies from state to state with two primary options. The first option is through an agreement between several states which allows your current certification to be transferred to the other state. This would be primarily done by filing the correct paperwork with the State Department of Education you wish to get certification in. This is the simple way for certification reciprocity. However, there are some states that do require you to take and pass their certification exams in the subject area that you want to teach even if you have done so in another state. Once the exams are passed, then you can be certified in the new state.