Education Careers Certification

Teaching careers in the elementary or secondary level at public schools require certification. Private schools are not obligated to employ certified teachers, but some of them do demand certification of their teachers; college professors do not have to be certified to teach. The certification teachers are required to have depends on the state they live in and their areas of specialization. Certification is earned after a bachelor’s degree and passage of a standardized test, such as a Praxis exam. Secondary education teachers also need endorsements of the subjects they teach to be certified. The tests used to certify educators are based on the education standards of each state.


New teachers must earn their certification from the states in which they work, but it is possible to become nationally certified after a few years. National certification is obtained through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Teachers must have a minimum of three years teaching experience and a valid state certification to attempt becoming certified at the national level. National certification transfers between states, but the tests one must pass are more difficult than those for many state certifications. However, many teachers who earn national certification are offered higher salaries and other incentives from their school districts.

What It Is

Colleges or universities certify that their students have completed all of the legal requirements to work in a career in education. Completing the certification process allows teachers to receive licenses to work in public education venues. The procedure for certification varies from state to state. Most schools, however, have similar requirements. They typically demand education coursework and a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, as well as the completion of state-mandated teaching exams such as the Praxis, which is used to certify teachers in 40 different states. Teaching at the secondary level also demands endorsements. Students who plan to work as secondary school teachers have the option of majoring in the subject they will teach and taking education classes or majoring in education and taking subject courses.

State-required exams are specific to a teacher’s specialty, which involves both specific age groups as well as different areas of study. The tests are part of the requirements laid out by state departments of education. They assist universities and colleges with measuring the capabilities of those who are starting or completing different education programs. State exams test the knowledge and understanding of education laws and subject material. The tests are proven valid, and most of the basic exams are multiple-choice questions. Specialized certification exams may also have essay questions, oral-response tasks, listening tasks, portfolio reviews, video stimuli, and in-class observations.

Since each state has its own set of requirements, candidates should determine which tests need to be passed before registering to take one. State mandates are available online, and job requirements should provide a list of necessary state exams. Sitting for a state-mandated test, however, is not enough to become a certified education professional. There is a minimum passing score for exams, which each state determines for its own exams. This information should also be available online.

All state agencies need to have test scores sent to them before they will certify teachers to work. Some states choose to have all exam scores immediately sent to the appropriate agency, a process called automatic reporting. A list of states that use automatic reporting is available. If a state does not have scores reported automatically, it is important to remember to list the state as a score recipient.

Occasionally, it is not possible to take a state-mandated test and have the score reported before the school year begins. In such situations, it may be possible to get emergency teaching certification. This type of certification is not permanent; it is still necessary to pass the required test. Specialized instructors are more likely to be granted emergency teaching certification.

Prepare for Certification Tests

Most teaching careers demand passage of certification tests. While the task may seem daunting, preparing for certification tests will make the day of the exam easier. Begin preparing for the test as soon as registration is complete. Registration can be done over the Internet or the phone. There is usually a registration fee, and some tests have online or paper options. Choose the test environment you are more comfortable working in to increase the chances of passing.

  • The state requirements and content of each exam should be available to test takers, and there are many different study aids sold for certification tests.
  • Create a study schedule, and use the appropriate aides to gauge your understanding of the material.
  • Determine personal areas of strength and weakness, and alter the study schedule accordingly.
  • Practice exams are useful tools for assessing progress.

Do not cram before an exam. Staying up all night to study can lead to sloppy mistakes on the test date. Being well rested and prepared will also alleviate test anxiety and improve performance. Be sure to bring all of the necessary supplies to the exam. It is not the moderator’s responsibility to bring pencils or calculators to an exam; a list of supplies should be provided in advance.