Becoming a Certified K-12 Teacher

Obtaining a k-12 Teaching Certificate

A k-12 teaching certificate is an important credential for teachers who work with children from kindergarten through 12th grade. These educators provide core subjects, discipline and guidance to students.

Most teacher certification programs require a bachelor’s degree in the subject or grade level you wish to teach. However, there are alternative certification programs for people who have finished their undergraduate degree and want to become teachers.

Degree Requirements

Whether you have a bachelor’s degree in education or an unrelated subject area, a graduate program that includes a student teaching component can help you fulfill New York State teacher certification requirements. Some degree programs also offer subject matter testing and a teaching portfolio as part of the curriculum.

The state requires all teachers, school leaders (administrators) and pupil personnel service providers to hold a valid certificate. Depending on grade level and subject area, different certificates are available, with the most advanced credentials being those awarded to teacher candidates with a master’s degree who complete a teaching fellowship.

In general, you’ll earn your initial or professional certificate after completing a bachelor’s degree and the required master’s program. Some colleges, like Adelphi, will work with you to secure a classroom placement so you can gain experience before graduating with an MA in Art Education or MA in EdTech. Then, the college will recommend you to the state for your certificate.

Licensing Requirements

In most states, teachers must obtain a license before they can begin their careers in the classroom. This typically requires a bachelor’s degree in education, an approved teacher-training program and some supervised practice teaching. Some programs, called residency programs, offer a full-time job with a mentor teacher while you’re earning your certification. Others are designed for mid-career professionals who want to make the switch to teaching and work on a part-time basis while they finish their degrees.

In New York, all teachers, administrators and school personnel must be certified. Adelphi’s online graduate education programs prepare you for a professional certificate, which is valid for five years. To find out more about the different types of certification available in your subject area, visit the NYSED website. The site also provides details about fingerprinting and other requirements that you’ll need to meet before becoming a teacher in New York. In addition, the site lists other resources you can use for help navigating your specific state’s teacher certification process.

Certification Requirements

In most states, teachers must have a state-issued certificate or license to teach. This is especially true for public school teachers, but private schools may not require certification. The type of certificate varies by state. The requirements for earning a teacher certificate typically include completing a bachelor’s degree program and undergoing a background check. The type of bachelor’s degree you complete is usually specific to the grade level and subject you wish to teach. For example, a bachelor’s degree program in early childhood education prepares teachers to work with children from birth through age 3. A bachelor’s degree in elementary education may prepare teachers for grades K-6.

Alternative teaching certificates are also available for people with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than education. For example, the Troops to Teachers program helps separated members of the military earn a teaching certification. Adelphi’s Teacher Certification page offers a broad overview of New York State certification requirements, but you can visit your state’s education department website for full details specific to your area.

Job Requirements

Middle and high school teachers — as well as some school leaders (administrators) and pupil personnel service workers — are required to be certified in New York State. Adelphi’s teaching certificate page provides a general overview of certification requirements, while the NYSED website provides detailed information specific to your intended grade level and subject area.

Many teachers who advance beyond the secondary school level choose to work in postsecondary education, where they instruct other aspiring educators. Educators in this setting follow a traditional ten-month schedule, with two months off during summer vacation to recharge and spend time with their families. Some teachers earn national accreditation, which can help them gain employment at more prestigious institutions, such as universities and colleges. They also often enjoy higher salaries and tuition reimbursement. For those with bachelor’s degrees, alternative teacher certification programs are available that allow you to pursue a teaching career while working on your graduate degree. These are usually geared toward career changers and can be completed in as few as three years.

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