Initial teacher certification depends on many factors, including graduating from college with a bachelor's degree, completing an accredited teacher education program and passing teacher certification testing. State requirements for licensure and training vary. Initial certification is temporary and future certification is contingent upon completion of continuing education and teaching experience.


All teachers must have a bachelor's degree for initial certification. Education majors complete coursework needed to teach during undergraduate studies. Recent graduates with bachelor's degrees in other fields can pursue education coursework to become certified to teach. Typical courses required of all teachers are in areas of curriculum, assessment, classroom management, learning styles and teaching methods. Courses in cultural diversity and teaching students with special needs help teachers learn to meet the needs of diverse learners. Early childhood and elementary teachers also take courses in children's literature and language development. Middle and high school teachers will take courses on teaching specific subject areas.

Student Teaching

All teachers complete student teaching with an experienced teacher to gain classroom experience. Education majors will complete student teaching during undergraduate work. State student teaching and initial certification requirements will vary. Individual education programs may require potential teachers to gain student teaching experience over the course of a few semesters, but a minimum of one semester of student teaching is required to become initially certified to teach.

Teacher Testing

After graduating, teacher tests are required before initial certification will be granted. These tests are given by the state and allow certification in the a content-specific area or grade level. Typically, early childhood educators certification tests cover pre-kindergarten through third grades. Elementary testing covers kindergarten through fourth or sixth grades, depending on the state. Middle school and high school certification tests are subject specific. Prospective teachers can also take tests to become certified to teach students with special needs.

Application Process

Criminal background, citizen and residency checks will be completed by the state before certification will be granted. College transcripts are also required in some states. The initial teacher certification is usually valid for four to six years, depending on the state of residency. Teachers may be required to complete on-going training, mentoring or other professional development during those first years of certification. Participation in continuing education training will be required to ensure future teaching license renewal.

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