Education Requirements for Becoming an English Teacher in North Carolina

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North Carolina Public schools collectively teach more than 1.4 million students in over 2,500 schools across the state on an annual basis. Of these students, more than eighty percent intend to go on to a two or four-year college or university (according to a recent fact sheet). While that is an ambitious number of students who want to go to college, the truth is, with North Carolina students performing below federal testing averages, college will prove a challenge. As a new English Language arts teacher in North Carolina, you will have the opportunity to help change that.

You will work with students teaching them the basic skills of reading and writing as well as more advanced abilities of critical thinking and research. You will play an invaluable role in a student’s future as you instill critical knowledge that will transcend their early learning years and help them excel in their college aspirations. If you are ready to embark on this career path, below you may find these steps helpful:

Complete Your Teacher Education
Pass the Teaching Exams
Apply for a Teaching License in North Carolina
Renew Your License



Step 1. Complete Your Teacher Education

The basis for any skilled career begins with training. North Carolina requires that as a new teaching candidate, you are well equipped to take on the responsibility of teaching. As such, the state has determined that there are certain accredited colleges and universities that have created teacher-training programs that will qualify you for licensing.

These programs will start out as many undergraduate programs do with basic and general education courses that all students must take. It will then move onto more focused coursework that is specific to education and English Language Arts. The kind of courses you will take after your general education will largely depend on the grades you plan to teach.

Choosing your grade level

If you plan on teaching elementary school you will continue with a wider collection of classes. The reason for this is due to the nature of the elementary grade school day. Elementary students will typically stay in one class for the duration of the school day. That means, as an elementary school teacher, you will be responsible for not only teaching English Language Arts, but all other courses as well. You will learn how to teach these courses as well as gain an understanding of how children at this age acquire knowledge.

If you plan on teaching at a secondary school, you will likely have a short list of courses that you teach in a day. You will also be responsible for many more students. Secondary school classes are generally less than an hour long, with five to six classes taught in a day. You will learn similar courses to what you will teach. As a secondary school teacher here are a few possible subjects you may encounter:

  • English Literature
  • Writing Skills
  • Spelling and Grammar
  • Critical Thinking and Writing
  • Mythology
  • Drama
  • Journalism
  • Novels and Short Stories

No matter what grade you teach, everyone will participate in teacher training units. These units will give you the required skills for teaching a class. You will learn both in the class and out. The latter part will take place in an actual school classroom where you will have the opportunity to serve as an intern.

Alternative Teacher Training

For students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree and would like to become a teacher, you may participate in one of the alternative routes to licensing. One specific path is earning a master’s degree while gaining the skills needed to teach. North Carolina schools have several options for master’s degrees in the following:

  • Master of Arts in Elementary Education
  • Master of Arts in Secondary Education
  • Master of Arts in Middle Grades Education
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Step 2. Pass the Teaching Exams

Beginning in the fall of 2014, all Elementary K-6 applicants and K-12 initial licensure applicants will need to take and pass the following tests:

  • Foundations of Reading – This is a four-hour test that is comprised of 100 multiple-choice questions and two writing assignments. You will be allotted four hours to complete this test. You will need to make an appointment to take this test at the assigned testing facility.
  • General Curriculum test – This test is made up of 55 multiple-choice questions and one writing question that cover basic knowledge in foundational skills, and a 55 multiple-choice question math subtest. The time allotted for both sections is 4 hours in a single session or 4.5 if taken separately.

In order to be well prepared for these tests it is suggested that you look over the preparation material that is made available on the website. When you are ready for testing, you can register for an online account and apply for a test date.



Step 3. Apply for a Teaching License in North Carolina

When you are ready, the final phase of licensing is the application process. The two levels of teacher licensing in North Carolina are as follows:

  • SP1- the Standard Professional 1 – Professional Educator’s Licensing available to new teachers with less than two years of teaching experience. This license will remain in effect for three years. To earn the SP1 License, you will need to complete one of the following:

    • Complete an undergraduate degree and approved teacher education program from an accredited college or university in North Carolina.
    • Complete an undergraduate degree and approved alternative route to licensing plus meet the federal requirements for a “Highly Qualified Teacher.”
  • SP2- Standard Professional 2 – Professional Educator’s Licensing is made available to teachers after their third year of teaching. This license will be valid for five years, at which time you will need to seek renewal.

Highly Qualified teachers coming in from in another state with three or more years of teaching and who have passed the North Carolina exams for licensing or teachers who have National Board Certification will qualify for the SP2 license.

When you are ready to apply for your license, follow these steps and complete the application form and supply all the required supporting documents listed.

Send in your complete application, your documents and check for licensing fee to:

Department of Public Instruction Licensure Section
6365 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-6365



Step 4. Renew Your License

Because licensing in North Carolina is multi-tiered, you will need to seek renewal when your license expires. This is true for both the initial SP1 license and the SP2. Each will have its own requirements for renewal. The primary one for the initial license is completing your testing within the allotted time frame. If you do this, you will be ready (after two years minimum of teaching) to step up to the SP2 license.

When your SP2 license expires after five years, you will have to complete any professional development courses that are required at that time.



North Carolina English Teacher Salaries

North Carolina has a state-mandated salary schedule for teachers. It is then up to the discretion of local boards to supplement base salaries if they want to increase teacher’s pay from the base minimums.

North Carolina schools may offer a modest range of salaries to their teachers depending on which city and school district you are hired to work, but many are either the same or similar and many seem to follow the minimum standard set by the state.

A new English teacher just out of college with a BA hired by the Durham schools for instance, will earn $3,300 a month, or $33,000 for the ten month contract. This is North Carolina’s state minimum for this level. They do not offer additional monies from local sources. One way for this teacher to earn more is to earn a higher degree.

If this English teacher had a higher degree—a master’s for instance—she would earn $3,630 a month or $36,300 for the ten month contract. Teachers who have gone on to pass the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) are paid an even higher salary.

In the Pitts County schools the salary schedule is the same as Durham. Both Durham and Pitts County schools also offer medical insurance plans with options. You can choose from different plans that may help you retain more of your salary based on your personal needs and family.

Alamance-Burlington schools also pay according to the state guidelines. They will add an additional $126 a month for an advanced degree and $253 a month for a doctorate. The highest paid teacher would have to have a doctorate degree and have passed the NBPTS.

To see salary information for other metro areas in North Carolina, please view the section below:

Area Name
Annual Median Salary
Asheville NC
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill NC-SC
Durham-Chapel Hill NC
Goldsboro NC
Greensboro-High Point NC
Greenville NC
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton NC
Raleigh-Cary NC
Rocky Mount NC
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC
Wilmington NC
Winston-Salem NC
Northeastern North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Other North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Western Central North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Western North Carolina nonmetropolitan area

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