Education Requirements for Becoming an English Teacher in Hawaii

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Hawaii’s educational system is unique compared to other U.S. states. It has only one statewide school system. Within this system, they have divided it up into Complexes. These areas act like other state’s school districts throughout the country. Two complexes—Kau–Keaau–Pahoa of Hawaii and Nanakuli–Waianae of Oahu, were singled out recently to be the candidates for a federal grant. They designated them as Zones of School Innovation (ZSIs). They were chosen because they had a large collection of schools and were counted as some of the lowest performing around Hawaii.

The grant included changes that were designed to increase student learning. One change was the addition of instructional time during the year; this includes summer. They were also granted extra money to offer incentives to teachers who would serve rural schools. Another change was setting up a common curriculum and in-depth support for all teachers. The schools will incorporate a greater use of technology as well. Principals in these schools are reported to have more say in who they hire along with options for medical care, counseling, nutrition services and other support services. As a new English teacher in Hawaii, if you plan on teaching at one of these Complexes, you may be entitled to benefits not available elsewhere. If you are ready to begin the process leading to a license, here are the general guidelines for teacher certification in Hawaii:

Study for an English/Teaching Degree
Complete the Exams for Hawaii
Apply for Hawaii Licensing
Seek Your License Renewal



Step 1. Study for an English/Teaching Degree

Bachelor’s/Teaching Program

Completing an education that will prepare you for teaching English in Hawaii could open the doors for a solid future career. Teaching English is a core subject; one that from time to time may experience shortages. This is good news for you. The college programs that are designed to take you from your freshman year to certification can be as little as a bachelor’s degree all the way to a doctorate. These programs are specifically designed to ready you for a career in education.

Choosing a bachelor’s degree will typically take the least amount of time and education. This is the base requirement for all teachers. The programs are divided into courses that will offer both basic classes covering general education, and specific core classes for English and pedagogy. The length of time you can expect to invest depends on whether you go to school fulltime or part-time. A fulltime college load will generally take around four to five years for an undergraduate degree.

The number of semester units for an undergraduate program is approximately 126 hours with 36 units for the teaching portion.

Traditional Master’s and Bachelor’s Program Available
  • Elementary Education (grades K-6)
  • English Education (grades 6-12)

Alternate Options

Not everyone knows exactly where he or she wants to work during his or her entire lifetime. It isn’t uncommon these days for someone to earn a degree in one field, only to decide later on that another one suits them better. Becoming a teacher at any point in your life is possible. If you already have a degree, you can choose an alternative path to teaching.

Teach for America (TFA) is one such program. They give you the opportunity to earn an English teaching license in Hawaii by a different route than the traditional college program. Their method of preparation includes two prerequisites:

  • A Selection Committee will decide that you are a good fit with their program. This takes place in the preadmission process.
  • They must have an opening for you in order to place you in a teaching position.

Once you have been through this first acceptance phase, you may move on to admissions. The remaining qualifications are as follows:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college.
  • Have a GPA of at least a C+ or better.
  • U.S. citizenship or qualify as a permanent resident.

TFA may have different salary scales than other teaching routes. Before signing up for an alternative education, you can also consider returning to an accredited school to complete a master’s in education, which may offer better salary ranges. Researching your options (whether you decide to go traditional or nontraditional) is always in your best interest.

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Step 2. Complete the Exams for Hawaii

You are finished with school, and are now ready to move on to testing. With your testing underway, you are one step closer to licensing. Before you apply for your exams, the following items are things to be aware of:

  • You will need to confirm your testing date when you register.
  • Indicate at the time of registration that you need your scores set directly to the HTSB. (Praxis testing – use score code 8620 for direct score forwarding).
  • Not every test is available at all times. Check the website to determine when the tests you need to take are available so that you don’t have any unnecessary delays.
  • Check the website often. If you are waiting for months for a test, a change in requirements could take place. Keep up to date on any changes.
  • If a new test is implemented, there is often a period of time where the old test and new will be acceptable. Check the HTSB to verify which tests are currently accepted.
  • Praxis testing centers are typically located in mobile testing centers in Hawaii. Not all locations may be the same each time tests are available.
  • Before you sign up for a basic skills test, you may check to see if your bachelor’s degree will qualify you for exemption from some tests.

Which Test to Take?

As an English teacher of secondary grade students or an elementary school teacher, you will see on the testing website a certain list of necessary tests. You will have to take each test and get a passing grade before moving on to licensing unless you are exempt from the test.

The list for all tests is available here. If you teach English in grades 6-8 (Test 5047), or 6-12 (Test 5038) be sure to also sign up for those specific tests. Apply for your tests here.



Step 3. Apply for Hawaii Licensing

When you have completed the testing process and now have your passing scores, you are qualified to apply to the Department of Education in Hawaii for your first license. Hawaii offers three licenses, each with certain sets of requirements:

  • Provisional License, renewable every three years. This is the regular license that you will receive if you graduated with the minimal licensing requirements: Bachelor degree and teacher preparation participation.
  • The Standard License, for teachers coming in from another state. This is a reciprocity license.
  • The Advanced License, renewable every ten years. This level of licensing is granted to teachers holding a master’s degree or certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The licensing process will take some time as a background check will have to be processed, you will need to get fingerprinted, and all your documents will have to be collected and sent in verifying your qualifications. The licensing application will list all the necessary paperwork and items you will need to have in order to complete the process. If you are ready to apply for your Hawaii Teacher’s License, click here.



Step 4. Seek Your License Renewal

Every teacher in Hawaii will have to renew their teaching license. The process requires that you complete a set amount of professional development units and submitting the proper documentation, filling out an application and paying the fee. The following are the general steps for license renewal in Hawaii.

  • Create a MyHSTB account when you are ready to renew.
  • Complete the requirements for professional development and fill out the following forms:
  • Receive an audit of your renewal credits. Teachers are qualified for this process for one year past the date of their renewal.
    • Submit an application for renewal at the proper license level.



Hawaii English Teacher Salaries

Many envision Hawaii as a place for relaxing on long sandy beaches and tropical vacations. In fact, some think that school children that live here actually break each day to pick up a surfboard and hit the waves. While that image may be seen in Hollywood movies, Hawaii’s Board of Education paints a different view. They want students to succeed. This road to success means hard work.

In the recent years they have laid out a strategic plan that includes a set of targets including student success, successful systems of support, and staff success. Part of staff advancement would logically include continuing to address teacher’s salaries and benefits. Hawaii is unusual in that all teachers in the state are under the same salary schedule and covered by one centralized Board. It is the only system like it in the United States. Currently, for instance an average English teacher’s salary in Hawaii is reported at about $38,000 annually.

The salary will be the same whether an English teacher taught in Honolulu, Kauai, or Maui. What would allow an increase in salary then would be time and education. These are the only two main elements listed with the Hawaii State Department of Education Salary Schedule that affords a teacher to increase their salary.

If an English teacher had a bachelor’s degree plus thirty units of college credits, or they earned a master’s degree, they would have a salary of $47,259 a year. For the English teacher with a PhD the salary would be $56,350. Additionally, each if these increases would be awarded only after having five years of teaching experience.

For additional teacher salaries in other areas review the table below:

Area Name
Annual Median Salary
Honolulu HI
Hawaii / Maui / Kauai nonmetropolitan area

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