WES Advisor Blog

Teaching Licensure

by Luke Smith,

WES Education Services

September 12, 2022

Licensure is typically required to work as a teacher in primary and secondary public schools. In the teaching profession, this licensure is often referred to as “certification,” but it is required and regulated at the state level.

Because each U.S. state licenses its own teachers, the requirements to teach vary from state to state. Licensing requirements also vary for different teaching specializations. Contact your state for more information on specific requirements.

Generally, as an internationally educated teacher seeking certification in the U.S., you must:

  • Have the international equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree in teaching, except for Career and Technical Education teachers in some states and subjects.
  • Most states require that you submit a credential evaluation report, which compares the education you received outside the United States to a similar educational program in the U.S.
    • If your degree is not found to be substantially equivalent to the same degree from a U.S. educational institution, you will have to take and pass the courses required to bring your degree up to substantial equivalency.
    • Most state licensing boards accept credential evaluations from a number of agencies, but check with your state before applying for your credential evaluation to make sure that you choose an agency on their list.
  • Many states require that you pass an exam such as the widely used PRAXIS tests. There may be other examination requirements specific to your state.

Many states also offer alternative teacher certification programs for individuals who have a bachelor’s degree in an area other than teaching. You may qualify for one of these programs if your international degree is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree but does not fulfill the requirements for a degree in teaching. These programs offer opportunities to work as a teacher while completing courses to obtain teaching licensure. Alternative programs may take your non-U.S. teaching experience into account, allowing for faster completion of the program.

A few states have recently passed laws removing the degree requirement entirely for certain groups of potential teachers. Laws regarding educational and other requirements for teaching licensure are changing quickly, so check with your state for the most up-to-date information.

Interstate licensing: the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Interstate Agreement is a collection of over 50 individual agreements by U.S. states and Canadian provinces that allows educators to move among participating states and jurisdictions.

  • Each individual agreement outlines which other states’ teaching certificates will be accepted in a particular state or jurisdiction.
  • Although additional conditions may apply to individual jurisdictions, the Agreement makes it possible for an educator who completed an approved program or who holds a certificate or license in one jurisdiction to more easily earn a certificate or license in another participating state or jurisdiction.

Although public schools generally require all teachers to be certified, you may qualify for teaching jobs without a teacher’s license or certification in certain public charter or private schools. Some of these schools, such as Waldorf or Montessori schools, may require their own internal certifications.

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