Each state in the U.S. requires that a prospective teacher go through a certification process in order to teach. While there may be some unique requirements for an individual state, the basic route is similar no matter where you seek licensing.
As you begin the steps towards your English teacher certification you will start with an initial or temporary license or certificate* valid for a set number of years. Once you have completed these initial years of teaching, you are then able to renew or upgrade your license to the next level.
* License and certificate are often used interchangeably
In-state English Teacher Certification Application Process
After you earn your degree and pass your exams, the first steps to certification will be to apply to your state’s licensing division for your teaching certificate.
The state licensing website will typically have an online portal that allows you to apply online, or has a downloadable application that you can mail in. Along with your application, you will need to gather certain documents. These will all need to be submitted via mail even if you apply on the Web. The required documentation may include the following:
- Official university transcripts
- Proof of employment or internship
- State testing scores
- Background report and fingerprints
- Letters from employing district or teacher education program recommending you for certification.
The process of getting all your paperwork together can be time-consuming. You have little control over how long, for instance, it will take for your college to send your transcripts. It is a good practice to request all these items as soon as possible so that you have all that you need ahead of time.
Some states will also require other items such as a TB test as an employment requisite. This may have a restricted time limit on it. Check with your educational department as to how far in advance you may complete each process so that you don’t lose any time waiting, but don’t do something so far in advance that it expires.
Renewal of Your License
After you have taught for a few years, you should be eligible to renew your English teaching certificate. It will all depend on your state’s requirements as to how long this time frame is. In many states your initial license is only valid for one to five years. The renewal process will often involve taking a certain number of college credits or other type of courses that count as Continuing Education (CE). Some states may require you to seek a master’s degree in order to renew while others will require a professional development plan that must be worked out with your employing district.
When the time comes to renew, you may have to go through an additional follow-up background check and pay a fee. You may have to officially log your CE units and turn those in with your application as well.
Not everyone who earns a teaching certificate will do so from his or her home state. There are other possible ways that teaching candidates seek certification. For instance, some students will go through a teaching program in one state and the move to another. In this case, they will want to know if that state has a reciprocity-credentialing program.
Some states allow for across the board reciprocity. It is just a matter of filling out the proper paperwork, submitting a background check and fingerprint card and paying the fee. It is very similar to the in-state process. Other states, however, will not recognize all states’ teaching credentials. They may have additional requirements that you must complete in order to teach in that state. In that case, you may be able to teach on a temporary or emergency credential while you undertake the lacking courses or certification requirements.
Another potential form of reciprocity is considered for someone coming in from another country. In this case, the reciprocity phase can be a bit longer. Your application process will include a transcript evaluation. If your courses taken at your university do not meet the standards of your employing state, you may be required to take those courses again at a university in the U.S. prior to certification.
Two other types of certification that are recognized are:
- The National Board Certification (NBC)
- The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE)
The National Board Certification is considered a more stringent requirement. Many districts will offer income incentives for those teachers who seek certification thorough the NBC. The ABCTE is a path to certification that is currently recognized as an alternate certificate path in eleven states in the U.S. They continue to look for more states to join each year.