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Getting Your Teacher Certification: How Much Can You Do Online?

Jun 15, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

The profession of teaching requires a Bachelor’s degree and teacher certification at minimum, and some states require a Master’s as well.  Luckily, you can fulfill nearly all of the requirements of becoming a teacher online—allowing you to work while earning your degree.  In general the education industry regards online degrees positively; some school districts encourage prospective teachers to earn their certifications online so they can continue to teach while in school. Here are a few things you should know about earning your teacher credentials online.

Earning a Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor’s degree is the first requirement you’ll need to meet to work as a teacher in public schools.  While requirements vary by state, most states require that you have a degree in the subject you plan to teach in or a major or minor in education with a strong Liberal Arts background, although in high-needs areas this requirement may be flexible.

It’s definitely possible to earn an entire Bachelor’s degree online in preparation for a teaching career.  A Liberal Arts degree should generally be accredited by one of the U.S. regional accreditors that certify traditional and online schools.  Education programs can be approved by your state Department of Education or accredited by the National Council of Accreditation for Teacher Education or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

Some Bachelor’s degrees offer teacher certification as part of the program. Drexel University, for example, offers a Bachelor’s degree  with the option to earn certification during the course of study.  The certification authorizes students to teach in Pennsylvania public schools, but Drexel advisors can help students transfer certification to other states if needed.

Earning a Master’s Degree

 Some states require a Master’s degree in education for teachers to become certified to work in public schools. Even if your state doesn’t require it, many school districts pay higher salaries to teachers who have a Master’s degree.  In many cases, the certification process can require almost as many credit-hours as a Master’s degree, and certification credits can sometimes be applied to Master’s degree programs—so many teachers choose to go on and earn a Master’s in concurrence with certification.
Earning your Master’s degree online is definitely possible, and there are also programs that incorporate certification into the program.  University of the Cumberlands, for example, offers a Master of Arts in Education that includes a certification credential. Students are permitted to complete the student teaching requirement out of state.

Earning Certification

Certification varies by state, but the general requirements involve a certain number of credit-hours in education classes as well as the passing of the Praxis I and II exams and a certain number of hours spent as a student teacher.

You can earn teacher certification online, either as part of your online Bachelor’s or Master’s program or on its own. Drexel University and Western Governor’s University both offer online certification programs, and there are plenty of others. 

There are two issues with earning your certification online, however. The first is that most states require a student teaching component, which you will need to do in person. Your online certification program should be able to help you find a local school where you can complete your internship requirement.

The second issue is the fact that as an online student, you may live and plan to work in a state other than the one where your online school is based. The certification you earn from an online school will license you to teach in that state only. Some states allow reciprocation of teacher certifications, however. Before choosing a certification program, talk to the school about the provisions it makes to help you meet requirements in your state and transfer your certification.

Teaching can be a highly rewarding career—and for many dedicated teachers, the extensive education and licensure requirements are worth it.  Online degree and certification programs are widely available, and it’s definitely possible to fulfill most of the requirements for public school teaching online.  Do your research and choose a school that can help you fulfill certification and education requirements in your state, and you’ll be on your way to a fun, exciting and rewarding new career as a teacher.


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