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Teaching licenses are an essential credential educators must hold to be able to teach in American public schools. However, the process of obtaining and upgrading licenses can be confusing. We wrote this article to help clarify the differences between temporary, initial, and standard teaching licenses. Read below to learn more about the licensing process.

teacher-licensesWhen a first-time teacher is initially hired, whether they are fresh out of college with a degree in education or have recently earned their alternative teacher certification through a program like the American Board, the state will issue them an initial or temporary teaching license, sometimes known as a conditional teaching license. These licenses are often only good for 1-3 years (depending on the state).

Initial or temporary licenses are non-renewable, meaning a new teacher must be approved by a school district or state board of education to move on to the next licensing step. Usually these requirements include approval from your principal, completing successful classroom observations, and taking additional classes online or during teacher workshop days (for example, Arkansas makes all new hires take an online course on Dyslexia Awareness).

Temporary licenses may also be given to long-term substitute teachers in an emergency situation. That educator may not have their teaching credentials, and will hold the temporary license while they are in school or completing an alternative teaching certification program.

After you have been deemed a competent teacher by your district and principal, you will be able to upgrade your teaching license. Some states begin new teachers on temporary licenses and upgrade them to an initial license after one year of successful teaching. Other states start on the initial license and upgrade from there. Either way, teachers will eventually upgrade from an initial teaching license to a state-issued standard teaching license. This is also known as a permanent teaching license.

Standard teaching licenses are renewable. This means that, like drivers’ licenses, they can be renewed every few years without additional testing or requirements of the teacher. Each state has their own rules on how often the standard teaching license needs to be renewed, with every 3-5 years being quite common.

Once an educator has been issued a standard license, they will be able to teach on that license as long as they are proficient in their job performance. Teaching licenses can be revoked as the result of an extremely serious disciplinary or legal matter; however the revoking process is extremely long with several appeals (typically) available.

Each state has a different system for awarding and upgrading teaching licenses. We suggest you contact your state’s department of education to clarify the steps you will need to take in order to advance your career.

Ready to become a teacher? Earn your teaching credentials online with the American Board!


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