How to Become a Teacher Without a Degree by Alternative Certification

One Methods:College Hours and Training

Have you considered alternative teacher certification? You might become a teacher, if you are "qualified" without a degree in teaching, or without yet having completed all of the course work in your particular teaching field.

The eligibility for hiring, the various qualifications, training and teacher education regulations and procedures vary from state to state. Read on...


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    Inquire whether local school districts have openings and may need to hire teachers in an alternative certification plan for teaching full-time, in an emergency teaching position in a high need teaching field such as math, science, bilingual education and possibly special education, etc.
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    Seek information at school districts, at state education agencies, at teacher education colleges: find out about being eligible, even if you may not have finished a degree or have not taken "teacher-education" courses and training -- or maybe you have a degree but not enough credit to be traditionally certified in the course work in the "needed" teacher fields, but have shown good progress in past coursework in the field in question.
    • The school districts collaborate with the colleges but do not set the requirements. They are decided by the state education agency in coordination with the state teacher colleges.
    • During the usual alternative certification, you will not do practice teaching because you will already be working as a full-time teacher (you will avoid the traditional, college undergraduate teacher training program that would have been required while the student was a junior and senior in the traditional collegiate training).
    • In some states, for example in Texas, there are state credentialed teacher training companies that are setup under state law as organizations to recruit and prepare already degreed persons to receive alternative certification, without going back to college. The candidate must pass state required general and subject-area (content) teacher tests. Every time you pass a content test it makes you Highly Qualified (HQ) in that subject-area. This is an important step in qualifications for getting hired and certified. There are options, for the candidate, for the required training from the company "online" or a combination of "face to face and online". The initial cost in the program is a small down payment to the training company, then after being hired by a school district and working as a teacher you must pay the balance on an installment plan.[1]
      • One option is for one year training while teaching full-time. Then the candidate receives a state probationary certificate in that program, and the company will provide training for additional cost after being hired by a school district and working as a teacher. You may pay the balance on an installment plan.
      • A second option is "Clinical Training", where the candidate can get certified in one semester by doing student teaching in the program.
    • Vocational education teachers do not need much or perhaps need no college coursework or only a state certificate in the craft or skill for teaching technical crafts and trade class subjects in general -- but they would be licensed and certified in their field of crafts and skills such as in the building trades and automobile mechanics and other similar areas and courses of training, work and study.
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    Apply seeking an appropriate teacher position vacancy (sometimes the class is taught by a substitute teacher for several weeks or months until a more qualified teacher is hired): get references and official college transcripts mailed to the school administration offices where you have already turned in the application. When there is a vacancy for availability to be hired -- then you would be asked to schedule for an interview to be hired.
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    Expect to be interviewed both at the district office and at each school where you are considered for hiring. There may be several candidates, and the interviews may be crucial in your being the one chosen/accepted by the principal of the school and hired.
    • Dress and behave professionally; be pleasant and calm.
    • You will be asked on the application and during interviews:
      • Why do you want to be a teacher.
      • What are your long term career goals.
      • How will you handle classroom discipline, and similar questions.
    • Be ready to explain your system of classroom management with consistent teaching practices, "firm but fair discipline (treating everyone as equals, but as individuals where applicable)", such as: a "progressive discipline" process -- first post and explain 5 or 6 rules; then for instance speak to an offender (and make a record [a mark]), next-time schedule a before or after school detention for 5 or 10 minutes in your room [mark], next make a phone call home. Only plan to send a student to the principal/or assistant principal, if you can not reasonably handle the difficulty, but never letting it get out of hand (very rarely a student might need to be escorted from your room by office personnel, or a hall monitor).
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    Get hired to a teaching position, and then you will be required to file a plan and make adequate progress toward becoming fully certified within the time allowed.
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    Begin teaching as a non-degreed, or non-certified teacher: hired under some form of legal regulation of your training and your progress in academic course work supervised and counseled by a college or university Department of Teacher Education or [your] State Education Agency (or Education Services Center), under the laws of your state.
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    Finish the required alternative plan or deficiency plan while teaching: similar to a college degree plan as an alternative teacher certificate candidate by going to teacher training at your school district, the state education agency (local-region) service center, college evenings and/or on Saturdays, or summer sessions at college.
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    Pass the required standardized subject matter test in the subject teaching field as required in your state.
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    Pass another test in general knowledge/academic skills to finally be certified -- to have the certification become complete and valid.
    • You might in some cases be allowed to try again on a probationary basis to pass the test by a certain date while teaching, or reassigned until your pass the test, if the local district needs or wants to keep you.

College Hours and Training

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    Find out what is the minimum number of credit hours: for subject areas and teaching fields in matters of classification as "qualified" to teach under provisions of the alternative certification laws and rules to seek an alternative teacher certificate in your state.
    • To be eligible for consideration for such teaching you would be required at least the minimum grade average and number of college credit hours, for example: some states require at least being classified as a senior in good standing with a GPA (grade point average) on a 4 point scale "C+" (2.5), or "B-" (between 2.5 and 3.0) average in college, and possibly require a "B" (3.0) average in your teaching field subject such as math or science.
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    Research in your state the number of college hours and subject areas: and, find the level of courses required for "alternative certification" or some similar name (this certificate has been called "emergency certification" and may be called other names).
    • A teaching field may be similar to taking a minor in a subject: some states require 18 or 24 approved college hours including 12 advanced level credit hours to be completed to become "permanently/or provisionally" certified.
    • While your degree may be earned in any valid degree subject, and most degree subjects are potentially teaching fields, yet some may not be taught in the schools, yet you may still be hired for teaching a needed subject, if you possess the minimum qualifications.
    • Teaching fields become classified as "needed" teaching fields as determined by the school district -- depending on their needs and state law.


  • Also, if you hold a non-US degree, then you will need to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language, TOEFL, an exam for English proficiency[2] in order to be state certified to teach in the US.
    • Teacher licensing authorities may require an acceptable, current score on this test, and it may be necessary for admission of non-native English speakers at English-language based teacher training colleges and universities.
    • The TOEFL score is valid for two years, as the candidate's language proficiency is expected to change. Licensing institutions, colleges and universities often consider only the most recent TOEFL score.
  • You might eventually voluntarily transfer to teaching in your degree field when there are openings, if you started in a minor or a needed field.
  • In most US states a non-US undergraduate degree is acceptable, but state law may require you take a course or two in American (and state) history and government and to take some teacher training coursework -- and, perhaps one course each of general and educational psychology.
  • Teachers in the alternative certification program -- while in the first year of training -- generally receive the same pay scale as the traditional first year certified "highly qualified" teacher, but not being certified are not yet eligible for bonuses called stipends for high need teacher fields like math, science, and bilingual teachers but would begin to be eligible to be paid your stipend for the years after completing the certification (and the degree as required).
    • You would not be designated as a "highly qualified" teacher until you have successfully completed all the alternative certification requirements, but you would be a full-time teacher.
  • If you love science -- look into an "all grades natural science, general or earth sciences certificate" or whatever it is called for grades 1 through 8. That may require roughly 36 total hours of science fields but can be divided among several different sciences and include some 12 or 18 credit hours of advanced sciences (meaning junior and senior level college science credit hours) but not requiring a minor or degree in any of those sciences.
  • You can also obtain a TEFL or TESOL certificate to teach English to immigrants and international students in the US or to get an English teaching job in Asia.
  • To keep the position you will need to make adequate yearly progress in the required coursework of your teacher training program: by earning the required amount of credit in the general and teaching subject matter as much as is required in your state, college, or district training plan -- also including making the required progress in teacher training courses, plus general education courses and educational psychology.


  • Expect to be released before beginning the second teaching year, if you did not make adequate progress that year and in summer sessions toward completing the teacher education and training program (ie: you would be fired from that position, and that would hold true for the next year, and so on -- if it were a 2 or 3 year program).

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Categories: Teaching