Education Requirements for Becoming an English Teacher in Iowa

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A language arts teacher opens the door to future careers for their students. Many employers today are seeking applicants that have mastery in writing and speaking. Communication is the cornerstone of every aspect of our society. Becoming an English and language arts teacher in Iowa is an occupation that will allow you to influence the next generation in more ways than teaching students how to craft a sentence and spell correctly.

You will also have the opportunity to help your students appreciate the libraries of literature written over the millennia. Having a student read Homer or Shakespeare allows them the opportunity to enjoy the art of language. As an English teacher in Iowa, you will find satisfaction knowing that you imparted these skills to your students. To get started on this new career path, follow the steps here for a general idea of what it takes to become an English teacher in Iowa.

Complete a College Degree and Teaching Program
Pass Competency Exams
Complete Your Licensing
Continue Education and Professional Development
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Step 1. Complete a College Degree and Teaching Program

The accredited degree programs available preparing you to teach can be found at both brick and mortar schools and online. These schools have very specific tracks that will take you through a program teaching you basic educational skills as well as classroom dynamics and school processes. You will not only become an expert in English, you will leave the program knowing you have the tools for teaching.

The time commitment for most of these programs is very similar. There are accelerated programs that may offer a fast track to teaching, but for the most part, the time commitment for a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree will be the same The bachelor’s degree will typically take a minimum of four years, while a master’s can take five to six. Some high schools may offer programs that allow students to take college level courses (such as Advanced Placement classes) that can count towards college credits. If you plan to teach and are still in high school, this is an option worth looking into.

The degree programs are divided into classes that are considered general education and core classes. You will also take courses on teacher training. The standard undergraduate degree is approximately 128 units. A master’s degree is an additional 30-42 units. Each program starts out with a set number of required classes that all students have to take. This is usually about 60 units. The remainder of the courses will allow you to take core English and teaching courses. There is also a teaching internship.

Alternate Education

If you are already a college graduate and are considering becoming a teacher you can participate in a master’s program that primarily trains you as a teacher. This kind of program gives you credit for the degree you earned in the past. You may even be able to find a school that will hire you as a full-time teacher while you are in the teaching program. One such program is the Teacher Intern License program for high school teacher candidates. The requirements to participate are as follows:

  • Must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited school
  • Your GPA must be a 2.5 or higher
  • Be subject proficient
  • A minimum of three years work experience in a related field
  • Participate in a college teacher intern program



Step 2. Pass Competency Exams

In order to receive your license you will also have to take a set of exams. Once you have applied for the exams and have your test date scheduled, this next step in the process will be completed in just a matter of weeks. The exams are twofold:

A general pedagogy exam that proves you’re capable to teach. You will take one of the following that corresponds to the grades you will teach:

  • Principles of Learning and Teaching: grades-Early Childhood
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching: grades-K-6
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching: grades 5-9
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching: grades 7-12

Testing in English and teaching methods that are specific to the age of your students. For instance, a high school candidate will take an English proficiency exam. An elementary candidate will take an exam that shows your knowledge of elementary education content as a whole.

Apply for your Praxis exams here.



Step 3. Complete Your Licensing

You have completed your education and passed your exams. You are now in the final phase of licensing. This step will require you compile paperwork, fill out an application for licensing, and submit it along with your fee.

Iowa’s teaching license has three levels:

Initial– valid for two years: issued when you have completed all the above prerequisites. This is your first license.

Standard– valid for five years: You will be qualified to receive this license after you have successfully taught for two years in Iowa schools. This license also requires you have fulfilled all the steps to receive your Initial License.

Master Educator– valid for five years: This license is awarded to teachers who have earned the Initial License, taught for five years, and who have a master’s degree.

To apply for your license, take these steps:

  • Gather all your documentation from school. This includes proof of internship and your official college transcripts (seal unbroken).
  • Have your social security card handy.
  • Have your test scores available. You may need to send off for these.
  • Complete the background investigation and fingerprinting requirement.
  • Pay your fees for both the application and the background check.
  • Fill out the application and send everything in.

Once you have all this in place, you are ready to apply for your license. You can download a license application here. You will send in all your paperwork to the following address:

Iowa Board of Educational Examiners

Grimes State Office Building

Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0146



Step 4. Continue Education and Professional Development

Each Iowa educator will have the responsibility of completing their professional development requirements prior to their license renewal. In order to renew your license in Iowa, you will have to take a certain number of accredited courses through an institution or participate in staff professional development hours.

If you don’t already have a Master Educators License, you will need to complete six hours of credit each five years. If you have a Master’s Degree you will need to complete four hours of courses for each five years.

One of the credits for each of the above is required to be in a professional development activity that is specific to the activity of teaching. You will need to keep record of your own professional development units and fill out the record form when you renew.



Iowa English Teacher Salaries

Iowa, the Hawkeye state, named for Chief Black Hawk, leader of an Indian tribe, is also famous for its fertile farmlands where corn reigns supreme. This expansive agricultural state is working hard theses days to improve its past educational rankings. In order to do this, Iowa school districts recognize that they must begin to pay their teachers accordingly in order to attract the best; something that may take time to achieve. As a prospective new teacher coming into the state it is recommended to look at the different Iowa schools as each offer different salary packages.

These packages usually include an annual salary, benefits, and additional stipends. The benefits will often be for specific accomplishments or roles. For instance, a first year English teacher making $35,593 at the Ankeny School District is also paid $25 for each extra duty assignment. If that same English teacher also created the school newspaper, she would receive an additional 10% of her base salary as a stipend.

Additional benefits of school districts that can impact your bottom line are health benefits. This area is rapidly changing. Many school districts are now requiring that teachers pay a greater share of cost for their dependents health care or co-pays. Teacher salaries will vary as well. Here are two other school districts’ salaries to compare:

Des Moines

  • Entry level: $28,034
  • Experienced level: $45,350


  • Entry level: $$33,855
  • Experienced level: $42,546

To look at other schools’ salaries across Iowa cities you may find these listed in the chart below:

Area Name
Annual Median Salary
Des Moines-West Des Moines IA
Estimate Not Released
Omaha-Council Bluffs NE-IA
Waterloo-Cedar Falls IA
Northwest Iowa nonmetropolitan area
Southeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area

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