Qualifications for High School Teachers: A State by State Guide

high school teacher qualifications

Becoming a high school teacher brings a wide range of benefits, from enjoying good salaries to doing good things for society. The qualifications for high school teachers are relatively easy to meet, too, particularly if you’re determined to enter the profession. 

General Steps Towards The Correct Qualifications for High School Teachers

Aspiring teachers across the United States are well-advised to take note of the following common steps in order to set them up for the proper qualifications for high school teachers.

1. Earn a bachelor’s in education degree from an accredited program.

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Every state requires aspiring high school teachers to possess at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in secondary education. Check with state authorities for specialization requirements in a specific content area, such as science, math, or English. Montana, Nebraska, and New Jersey are among the states that require aspiring teachers to major in a content area.

We strongly suggest earning your bachelor’s degree from an academic program accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

You may be asking, “How to get my teaching degree if I already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-education field?” You can earn a master’s degree in education with a concentration in your preferred content area. Yet another route is earning a bachelor’s degree in your chosen content area, such as biology or chemistry, and completing the required education coursework.

2. Complete student-supervised teaching requirements.

All states require aspiring teachers to complete a specific number of hours of supervised teaching experiences, although the exact number differs. Nevada, for example, requires at least eight semester hours of supervised teaching experience.

3. Pass your state’s specific teacher licensure or certification exams.

Be aware of the specific exams as well as their general content, eligibility requirements, application deadlines, and exam dates. Most of the Praxis Subject Tests, for example, are computer-delivered (i.e., can be taken remotely or in person).

4. Complete the teacher licensure or certification requirements in your state.

Every state has its specific documentation requirements, but the most common are a completed application form and application fee, a copy of the required exam scores, and college transcripts.

5. Apply for high school teaching jobs.

With your teaching credentials, you can apply for teaching jobs in high schools – and with the current teacher shortage, it should be easier than expected.

Depending on your state, you may be required to earn a master’s degree to earn a professional teaching license or certification. Examples include Connecticut, Iowa and Georgia.

You must also comply with the renewal requirements of your initial teaching license, although the number of years varies between states. Maryland, Mississippi, and Michigan, for example, have a five-year duration for initial teaching certification, while it’s 1 to 2 years for Minnesota, depending on tier. Continuing education is a must for high school teachers in all states.

Notes on Qualifications for High School Teachers

You may also be asking, “I want to become a teacher. Where do I start?” If you want to test the waters, you can start exploring the two-year teaching degrees first. Begin with an associate degree in education, which can open doors to job opportunities for preschool teachers, teaching assistants, and substitute teachers.

Then, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in compliance with the minimum academic requirement for a teaching license or certification. You will find degree completion programs with a two-year time-to-completion in this regard.

If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree in education, you can also complete a master’s in education with a licensure program. Check out the University of Colorado Boulder, University of Tennessee, and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for this purpose.

Yet another common question is, “Can I become a teacher online?” Yes, you can. The University of Missouri—Columbia, Arizona State University, and Texas Tech University offer online bachelor’s degrees in education programs.

What about a master’s teacher certification? Yes, of course, you can. You must possess a master’s degree, at least five years of relevant teaching experience, and proof of excellence, among others.

Which is better: A master’s in education vs. a teaching certificate? You can pursue both credentials, particularly if you’re interested in career advancement, such as a master teacher position.

Is the national teaching credential worth pursuing? Yes, if you’re planning on an interstate teaching career. See the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) national teaching credential. As you can tell, there are a wide array of qualifications for high school teachers, but you don’t need to check every single box in order to start your teaching career.

State-by-State Licensure Requirements

StateMinimum Degree RequiredSupervised Clinical Practice RequiredBasic Skills ExamSubject Area Competence Exam
AlabamaBachelor’s degreeYesACT WorkKeys SystemPraxis Subject Tests
AlaskaBachelor’s degreeYesYour choice of approved basic competency examPraxis Subject Tests
ArizonaBachelor’s degreeYesArizona Educator Proficiency Assessment or National Evaluation SeriesArizona Educator Proficiency Assessment or National Evaluation Series
ArkansasBachelor’s degreeYesPraxis Core Mathematics, Reading, and WritingPraxis Subject Tests
CaliforniaBachelor’s degreeYesChoose from any of the approved basic competency examsCalifornia Subject Examinations for Teachers
ColoradoBachelor’s degreeYesNoneChoose from any of the approved basic competency exams
ConnecticutBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is required for a professional teacher’s certificateYesSAT, ACT, GRE, or Praxis Core Mathematics, Reading and Writing testsYour choice in an approved content exam
DelawareBachelor’s degreeYesNoneAmerican Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages tests or Praxis Subject tests
FloridaBachelor’s degreeYesGRE General Test or Florida General Knowledge Test Florida Subject Area Test and  Florida Professional Educator Test
GeorgiaBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is required for advanced/lead professional certificationYesNoneAny approved content exam and Georgia Educator Ethics Assessment
HawaiiBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is required for advanced licenseYesAn approved option in certificationAn approved option in certification
IdahoBachelor’s degreeYesNonePraxis Subject Tests
IllinoisBachelor’s degreeYesNoneIllinois Licensure Testing System tests and edTPA
IndianaBachelor’s degreeYesState-approved pedagogy/developmental examPraxis Subject Tests
IowaBachelor’s degree; a master’s degree is required for a Master Educator licenseYesState-approved pedagogy examPraxis Subject Tests
KansasBachelor’s degreeYesPraxis Principles of Learning and TeachingPraxis Subject Tests
KentuckyBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is compulsory for Rank II certificationYesPraxis Core Mathematics, Reading and Writing tests or GRE Praxis Subject Tests
LouisianaBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is compulsory for a Level III Professional Certificate.YesSAT, ACT, or Praxis Core Mathematics, Reading and WritingPraxis Subject Tests and Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching exams
MaineBachelor’s degree  YesPraxis Core Mathematics, Reading, and WritingPraxis Subject Tests
MarylandBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is compulsory for the Advanced Professional CertificateYesPraxis Core Mathematics, Reading and Writing tests or ACT or SAT or GREAmerican Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages tests or Praxis Subject
MassachusettsBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is required for a professional license  YesNoneMassachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (or similar approved exams), applicants must also pass the Sheltered English Immersion MTEL or another endorsement route
MichiganBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree can lead to professional certificationYesMichigan Test for Teacher CertificationMTTC content exams
MinnesotaBachelor’s degreeYesSAT, GRE Praxis Core, ACT Plus Writing, or Minnesota NES Essential Academic Skills examMinnesota Teacher Licensure Examination and MTLE Pedagogy exam
MississippiBachelor’s degree, but a Class AA license requires a master’s degreeYesSAT, ACT, or Praxis Core Mathematics, Reading and WritingPraxis Subject Tests and Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching exam
MissouriBachelor’s degreeYesMissouri General Education AssessmentMissouri Content Assessment and Missouri Educator Evaluation System for Teacher Candidates exam
MontanaBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree can lead to a Class 1 Educator LicenseYesNonePraxis Subject Tests
NebraskaBachelor’s degree, but a Professional Certificate requires a master’s degreeYesPraxis Core Mathematics, Reading, and WritingPraxis Subject Tests
NevadaBachelor’s degree, but a Professional License requires a master’s degreeYesPraxis Core Mathematics, Reading, and WritingPraxis Subject Tests: secondary and middle school teacher applicants also complete the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching exam
New HampshireBachelor’s degreeYesACT, SAT, GRE, Praxis Core Mathematics, Reading and Writing examsPraxis Subject Tests and Pearson’s Foundations of Reading Test
New JerseyBachelor’s degreeYesSAT, ACT, GRE, or Praxis Core Mathematics, Reading and Writing examsPraxis Subject Tests and edTPA
New MexicoBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree can lead to a Level 3 licenseYesPraxis Core Mathematics, Reading, and WritingPraxis Subject Tests and Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching
New YorkBachelor’s degreeYesEducating All Students TestContent Special Test and edTPA
North CarolinaBachelor’s degreeYesPraxis Core Mathematics, Reading, and WritingPraxis Subject Tests, Pearson’s Foundations of Reading Test, and Praxis Performance Assessment for Teachers or edTPA
North DakotaBachelor’s degreeYesPraxis Core Mathematics, Reading, and WritingPraxis Subject Tests
OhioBachelor’s degreeYesAssessment of Professional Knowledge or edTPAAmerican Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages tests or Praxis Subject
OklahomaBachelor’s degreeYesOklahoma General Education TestOklahoma Subject Area Tests and Oklahoma Professional Teaching Examination
OregonBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree can lead to a Professional Teaching LicenseYesNonePraxis Subject Tests and Protecting Student and Civil Rights in the Educational Environment, Oregon Educator Licensure Assessments or
PennsylvaniaBachelor’s degreeYesChoose from an approved verification optionPraxis Subject Tests
Rhode IslandBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree can lead to an Advanced Educator CertificateYesNoneAn approved content exam and Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching
South CarolinaBachelor’s degreeYesNonePraxis Subject Tests and  choose either Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching, edTPA, or PPAT
South DakotaBachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree can lead to an Advanced Teaching CertificateYesNonePraxis Subject Tests and a choice between PPAT and Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching
TennesseeBachelor’s degreeYesNonePraxis Subject Tests and Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching
TexasBachelor’s degreeYesNoneAn approved content exam and an approved pedagogy test
UtahBachelor’s degreeYesNoneAn approved content exam and either the PPAT or edPTA exam
VermontBachelor’s degreeYesPraxis Core Mathematics, Reading, and WritingPraxis Subject Tests
VirginiaBachelor’s degreeYesVirginia Communication and Literacy AssessmentPraxis Series Reading for Virginia Educators or Praxis Subject Tests
WashingtonBachelor’s degreeYesWashington Educator Skills Tests – BasicWEST – Endorsements/National Evaluation Series
Washington, DC.Bachelor’s degreeYesPraxis Core Mathematics, Reading, and WritingPraxis Subject Tests and Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching
West VirginiaBachelor’s degreeYesPraxis Core Mathematics, Reading, and WritingPraxis Subject Tests
WisconsinBachelor’s degreeYesNonePraxis Subject Tests
WyomingBachelor’s degreeYesNoneNone in general, but certain endorsements require Praxis Subject Tests

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the qualifications for high school teachers in the USA?

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Completion of  teacher preparation program, if applicable
  • Secure a state-issued license or certification

What are the requirements to be a teacher in my state?

Your state has its specific requirements, and you can check them at its State Department of Education websites or by asking your local school district

How hard is it to be a high school teacher?

Being a high school teacher has its fair share of challenges, but just how challenging it is will largely depend on your perspective.

Do you need a PhD to be a high school teacher?

No, only a bachelor’s degree is required.