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As our nation’s teacher shortage grows dire, some states have embraced new ways to get more teachers in classrooms. Unfortunately, some of these steps are simply stopgaps. For example, some states have moved to extend the length of time substitute teachers can work in one classroom. Other states, however, have taken more permanent and positive steps like increasing access to alternative teacher certification.

What is Alternative Teacher Certification?

Alternative teacher certification is the practice of earning certification outside of the traditional university path. Most of our nation’s teachers have certification they earned by attending a university and completing an education degree program. Alternative certification allows people who hold a degree in a subject other than education to pursue a teaching job without returning for a second degree.

Prior to the introduction of alternative certification, people with a degree in subjects other than education would have to get a return to university for a degree in education, whether that be through a second Bachelor’s or a Master’s. Thanks to alternative certification, these people can now skip that onerous step and earn certification online or by leveraging their professional experience.

Alternative certification opens up the teaching field to people who would have traditionally been excluded because of costs or scheduling.

Is Alternative Certification a Good Fit for Me?

If you already hold a degree, in any field, and you want to transition to a career in teaching, you should strongly consider alternative certification.

Alternative certification allows you to leverage your life experience, both personal and professional, as you work to shift careers. You’ve already earned one degree and that should be enough to allow you to swift careers with minimal additional training requirements.

You can start by visiting your state department of education website and reviewing the certification and licensure requirements. For hands on fields like welding, states offer state-sponsored alternative pathways. For other fields like English language arts, the state will point you to state-approved alternative pathways. Education nonprofits like Teach for America or American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence typically operate these pathways. Each alternative certification program varies, and you can learn more about them by visiting individual websites.

Most alternative certification programs cost significantly less than traditional university programs. Often, the price difference can be 10s of thousands of dollars. Additionally, alternative programs are more flexible than traditional programs. This can mean flexibility in scheduling, coursework, and availability of online courses. Overall, alternative certification means you can begin teaching faster and more affordably than following the traditional route.

Is Alternative Teacher Certification Considered Less Than?

Politically, there is much debate about alternative teacher certification. But in practice, the results are clear. Principals who employ alternatively trained teachers are grateful for that option.

In fact, some principals hail that their alternatively trained teachers bring more maturity and real work experience to the classroom than traditionally trained teachers.

Bonus Information

American Board’s alternative teacher certification program is one of the first and longest running programs in the field. Founded by the US Department of Education 20 years ago, American Board remains a nonprofit to this day. Currently, American Board operates in 15 state. Most importantly, 12,000 teachers have launched their careers with American Board. To learn more about American Board’s certification program, click here.

Additionally, you can click here to read more about alternative teacher certification options by state.

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