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Alternative teacher certification in the United States has existed for a long time, but it has only recently taken a prominent place in the public discussion about how to get more qualified, certified teachers in our nation’s classrooms. Long considered to be a shady backdoor into the teaching profession, programs that offer alternative teacher certification have quickly surpassed universities in terms of flexibility and affordability, with classes online and tons of online resources to help with studying. Now it’s universities and colleges that are scrambling to keep up with the ways that technology has changed education.

But there is still a lot of confusion as to what alternative teacher certification actually is, the quality of it and the impact it has in the classroom. As an alternative teacher certification program, we would like to clarify a few things about what alternative teacher certification is and is not, as well as highlight the programs and organizations that make this type of certification possible.

What is alternative teacher certification?

Alternative teacher certification is the term used for a certification earned by an educator outside of a traditional college program- meaning, outside of any college of education. When hiring a potential educator for a K-12 teaching position, the state’s department of education needs proof that that person knows how to teach their subject matter and manage a classroom. Typically, a degree in education is that proof (and Colleges of Education would like you to continue believing that a degree is the only valid proof that you can teach).

If a person did not major in education when attending college, but instead began working in the private sector, and later wants to become a teacher, they have 2 options. They can return to school for a Master’s degree in education or a secondary Bachelor’s degree, a costly endeavor that can take 2-4 years to complete. Or, they can certify through an alternative teacher certification program.

Alternative teacher certification programs prepare future educators for the classroom by reviewing the subject matter the educator will teach and instructing the future educator on the basics of teaching, from lesson plans to disciplining (also known as pedagogy).

Once a prospective educator has completed their alternative teacher certification program, they can then apply with the Department of Education in their state for a teaching position. The state Department of Education will ensure the educator meets all state standards before being placed in a classroom.

What are the state requirements?

Dr. Grant Tedaldi, Florida teacher

Just about every state in the country allows educators with alternative certification to teach in public K-12 schools. States work with alternative teacher certification programs to ensure the programs meet state requirements and will produce quality educators. It is an extremely long process to be approved as an alternative certification program in a state that involves lots of paperwork and legislation. This is the reason why there is not one alternative teacher certification program available in all 50 states.

No matter how an educator certifies, they must meet basic requirements before they’re hired. Holding a Bachelor’s degree (in any subject) and passing a background check are basic requirements of every state.

Most states allow those that certify through alternative programs to teach on a temporary, non-renewable teaching license their first year or two in the classroom. New teachers are often evaluated and graded during these first years. Once the state is satisfied with the new teacher’s ability, the teacher is then able to upgrade their license to a permanent, renewable one. Each state has different requirements for this upgrade; we suggest contacting your state’s Department of Education with any questions you may have about this transition.

About Alternative Teacher Certification Programs

If you’re thinking of becoming a teacher and want to certify via an alternative program, your next question will be, “what program should I use?” The answer: the program that best meets your financial, location, and scheduling needs.

Below is a round-up of various alternative certification programs across the country.

The American Board

The American Board image

-Approved teacher certification in Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Utah, South Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ohio.

-Program costs $2,660 with on-going promotions lowering the program cost to $1,800 – $2,300 with a one-time payment.

Payment plans and financial aid are available.

-Students have 1 year to use online materials (the equivalent of an online textbook) to study for 2 exams: a pedagogy exam and a subject area exam. Most students finish within 7-10 months.

-The program and study materials are online. Students can begin the program the day they enroll and do not have to wait for a designated class start date.

-Students can enroll in 1 or more of 10 subject areas, including Elementary Education, Biology, and English Language Arts.

-Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi also require first-year teachers to complete a mentorship program through the state.





-Approved teacher certification in Washington D.C. and the state of Arizona.

-Teacher certification costs $6,000 ($5,400 for a one-time payment). Teach-Now also offers a Master’s in Teacher Certification for $13,000.

-The program takes 9 months to complete with rolling start dates. Typically classes start each month. The first 6 months are online with an average of 15 hours of coursework. The last 3 months require a candidate to spend at least 200 hours in the classroom.

-Payment plans are available. Financial aid and scholarships are not available.

-Students have 35 subject areas to choose from, including Spanish and Performing Arts.

-Students have mandatory web-cam sessions with classmates and virtual professors.

Rio Salado


-Approved teacher certification in Arizona.

-Teacher certification costs between $5,000 – $6,000+ depending on the subject matter and grade you wish to certify in.

-The program takes 2 years to complete. Students begin working in Arizona public schools while also completing course work in the classroom.

-Set class times and schedules. Students must start the program on a set date.

-Financial aid and payment plans are available.





-Approved certification in Hawaii, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, and Idaho.

-Program costs $4,000 – $5,000 depending on the state. Students can pay 10% of the program costs upfront and the rest after completing the program.

-Coursework is online. Students have 6 months to complete 7 instructional courses and must pass exams with each course.

-Students then begin teaching for 2 semesters (1 school year) and are evaluated by a mentor.

-After successful completion of the coursework, mentored teaching, and payment, iTeach recommends students to the appropriate state department of education.



The New Teacher Project

the new teacher project logo

-Approved in 30 cities and 6 states (Nevada, Michigan, Tennessee, Florida, Indiana, and Maryland) with a focus on low-income, high-need school districts.

-The program is free but is very competitive. Only 10% of applicants are accepted.

-The program is very similar to Teach for America, with new teachers training over the summer and teaching in high-need schools.

-After a successful year in the classroom, TNTP recommends new teachers for certification.

-Unlike Teach for America, those that complete The New Teacher Project program are certified to teach after completion of the program (Teach for America teachers are not certified to teach after their 2 year commitments).



Interested in alternative teacher certification? Learn more here!



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