Preparing for Certifications

Teacher certification, also called teacher licensure in some states, is earned by completing an accredited teacher preparation program at your college, passing any required state certification tests, and completing required paperwork. If you are job searching before completing your teacher education program, you may write “certification expected” and the date.

Teacher certification is valid only in the state in which it is earned. If you are still in school and plan to teach in another state, learn that state’s requirements and try to meet them. Moving out of state after graduation may require additional paperwork, courses, and testing for certification in the other state. Some states may even require a fifth year of college for any first teaching certificate.

Though some states have reciprocity agreements with other states, you most likely are not automatically certified or licensed for any of those states. You still must apply for the new certificate or license of that state. You can see certification requirements for each state by accessing the list of state departments of education. (Or

Alternative or Provisional Certification
If you did not complete teacher certification while earning your bachelor’s degree, other options are available. These options vary by state and are usually outlined on each state’s department of education website.

Even if you work in a noneducational setting, but dream of teaching, you can still make the transition. Like any new career, though, further training will be required. Some states allow teachers to receive provisional certification to teach, then require those teachers to earn full certification while teaching. Alternative certification programs exist in some states. Check your state’s teacher certification website.

Certification Tests
All states require that you pass certification tests. Thirty-six states use the PRAXIS tests, requiring education majors (and most minors) to pass Parts I and II before student teaching and then pass subject-area specific Praxis tests before graduation. The other 14 states have their own tests. The Educational Testing Services website is where you sign up for tests such as Praxis. Visit your state department of education website to sign up for state-specific tests.

There are excellent study guides. One of the best is XAMonline, an easy-to-understand, in-depth review of actual test content, not just a list of a skills and competencies or study secrets. Additionally, the guides include practice tests with up to 125 questions. The practice tests include full answer rationales as well as skill reference and rigor for each question, allowing you to quickly review the relevant content and identify topics for which you should devote more study time.

Other Certification Requirements
Many states require a Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification for all teachers and teachers’ aides. If you need a CPR certification, your state’s website will tell you. Early Childhood teachers may need Infant CPR as well as Adult/Pediatric CPR. Your state may also require First Aid or other types of emergency preparedness training. Often you can do training in a single day on a Saturday or Sunday or in two to three evenings.

You will find CPR training offered online, but most states will not accept online certifications, as you won’t have practice with the mannequins or interaction with instructors. Instead, seek CPR training from the Red Cross, American Heart Association, and your local fire department. Most state department of education websites provide links to places to receive the certification.

National Board Certification
National Board Certification (NBC) is a voluntary, advanced teaching credential that goes beyond state licensure. NBC has national standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do. The National Board certifies teachers who successfully complete its rigorous certification process. This is not necessary for getting a teaching position. In fact, you need to teach for a while before you can even apply.

If you are considering applying for National Board Certification, consider these 13 tips for teachers. View the programs available for teacher, principal, and higher education from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. National Board certification is at least a 3-year process. Learn more about the process.

Further Requirements for Administrators
Administrators applying for new positions need more than a résumé; instead, they need a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and possibly a personal statement or expanded doctrine of education or statement about their beliefs concerning education in the 21st century. A CV includes every place you have been published, usually in American Psychological Association (APA) format, every presentation and workshop you have delivered, and anything else you have done to help schools or school systems improve.