More than 50 million students are enrolled in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools. Thankfully, about 3.1 million full-time, well-prepared teachers are there to guide the way.*

Male teacher assists teen girl with assignment.

Recent studies on teacher effectiveness have brought light to the one common denominator strong educators share—preparation. The National Center for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) summarized the key findings on educator effectiveness and found that teaching preparation helps candidates develop essential knowledge and skills and leads to higher student achievement and lower attrition among new teachers. This strongly reinforces the importance of teacher licensure.

State departments of education grant educator licenses; however, qualified universities offer teacher licensure preparation programs that provide the skills and knowledge that can help you not only pass the licensure examination, but become an effective teacher. Most teacher licensure preparation programs allow you to enter at any stage of your education, whether you are just beginning to consider earning a bachelor’s degree or have already accumulated college credits.

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Here’s a basic outline of the steps to follow if you’re considering becoming a K–12 educator:

  1. Understand the licensure requirements for the state in which you wish to teach. Simply contact the state’s board or department of education to learn about the specific rules and policies they have in place regarding teacher licensure and teacher certification.
  2. Determine whether you wish to teach in an elementary or secondary school and choose a specialization, if you’d like to further focus your studies.
  3. Choose a university from which to earn your degree, and make sure the teacher licensure preparation program you need is offered. Often, this is a master of arts in teaching (also known as a MAT degree). If you’re earning your degree through a university’s online program, be sure to speak with an enrollment advisor—and your state’s department of education—to confirm that the teacher licensure preparation program is approved in your state. Also, ask if your state is a “license-in-hand” or “program completer” state to determine which tests you will ultimately take.
  4. Review the university or degree program accreditation when selecting where to study. NCATE accreditation is a nationally recognized standard for excellence in education and is a strong indicator of quality.
  5. Earn your master’s in teaching or a similar degree—yes, this is a big step, but necessary and worthwhile—so that you are eligible to sit for your state’s teacher licensure exam. Your state may require an Institutional Recommendation form, which, along with your transcripts, verifies that you have completed a teacher licensure preparation program.
  6. Pass your state’s teacher certification exam and become a licensed educator.

The number of U.S. students attending elementary and secondary schools is expected to increase by 6% by the year 2022. This creates a constant demand for highly qualified teachers who are prepared to meet students’ academic needs—and you could be one of them. All you need is a passion for learning, the desire to help children develop the skills they need to succeed in life, and, of course, an education that includes a quality teacher licensure preparation program so you can earn your license and begin to make a difference in students’ lives.

* National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Facts: Back to School Statistics, on the Internet at

† National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, What Makes a Teacher Effective?, on the Internet at

‡ National Center for Education Statistics, Projections of Education Statistics to 2022, Section 1: Elementary and Secondary Enrollment, on the Internet at

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