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State Certification: One Size Does Not Fit All

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While we in career services encourage teacher candidates to be willing to move to other states to seek that first professional job, each state requires a teacher to be certified or licensed according to the respective state's policies and procedures. While some states make the process of earning a certificate relatively easy, other states require teacher candidates to navigate through a time-consuming and expensive set of procedures before granting a teaching license.

Even understanding the terminology used by each state can be confusing. Some states call it "certification" while others call it "licensure." The first certificate or license a beginning teacher is eligible for may be called "initial," "provisional," "temporary," or something else. The state may require additional testing delivered by Educational Testing Service, Pearson VUE, or another testing organization. The background checks a teacher candidate completes in his or her home state may not suffice for another state. Even the grade levels of a teaching area vary by state. An elementary certificate may cover K -6 or PreK-3 or PreK-4 or another combination of grade levels.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to figure out what each state requires. A teacher candidate needs to consult with the state department of education to learn what is required to earn that state's certification. On the bright side, most state departments of education do provide a step-by-step guide on their website for out-of-state prepared teacher candidates to follow. Teacher candidates may also find advocates and resources at school districts or college career services offices to assist them in getting that first certification.

There are several web resources that provide links to the fifty state departments of education. The College of Education at the University of Kentucky provides a web page with links at: http://education.uky.edu/AcadServ/content/50-states-certification-requirements

Certification Map is an easy-to-use site with information and links for certification in all fifty states at: http://certificationmap.com/

School-Jobs has a link on its first page to state departments of education at: http://www.school-jobs.net/jobs/

Top School Jobs provides a link to "Teacher certification and salary by state" at: http://www.topschooljobs.org/

Most of the time, teacher candidates are able to figure out the application requirements by following the step-by-step process for out-of-state prepared teachers outlined on the state department of education website. Each web site will also provide directions on how to contact them in case a candidate has additional questions that are not answered online.

Since policies may change quite frequently, always consult the state department of education website for the latest requirements.

John F. Snyder
Associate Director, Office of Career Education and Development
Slippery Rock University of PA

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