Alternative Teacher Certification


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Alternative teacher certification is a way for a person that usually already has a Bachelors degree in a non-teaching education area of study to earn a Bachelors or usually Masters Degree in Education. Many Alternative Certification programs are online. Some people decide later in life that they want to pursue a teaching career. Fortunately for them, they do not have to completely start college from the beginning. Anyone holding a Bachelor's or Master's can apply for an alternative teaching license.

Why would you want to get an Alternative Teacher Certification?

The most common situation in which an alternative certification is obtained would be when a school district cannot find an applicant that already has a teaching license. All states vary in their approach to issuing an alternative license. Often in rural areas, school boards struggle to find certified teachers. Likewise, inner city schools may struggle with finding enough teachers to fill their jobs that are already certified. In this case, school districts have the option of hiring teachers on an alternative license until they are able to meet the minimum requirements for licensure in their state.

Stated simply, alternative teacher certification is a way for a person that usually already has a bachelor's degree in a non-teaching education area of study to earn a degree in teaching and become a teacher.

There are state-by-state specific requirements, but alternative teaching certification programs can provide a path to teacher certification while allowing you to actually teach while simultaneously taking classes and earning your degree.

Read more about Online Alternative Certification Programs.


Consider an online teaching program currently accepting applicants for 2024.

School Level Program Admissions

University of West Florida

Master Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction
CAEP Accredited, 3 specializations.

University of Dayton

Master Master of Science in Education in Educational Leadership
Top-ranked online education program. Degree can be completed in as few as two years (additional time if pursuing the principal licensure track). No GRE required to apply.

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Master Master of Administrative Science
CAEP Accredited. 100% online graduate program.

Arizona State University

Master Online Master of Arts in Education
100% online, 9 focus areas of teaching education available. No GRE scores required for application.

View more 100% online teaching programs currently accepting applicants.

Considering Alternative Teaching Certification Programs

The alternative certification degree is becoming increasingly popular and much more common in the education world. A National Council on Teacher Quality whitepaper stated that nearly 20 percent, or about 1 out of every 5 teachers, have an alternative certification degree in teaching. Twenty years ago, hardly anyone had the degree.

Alternative certification for teachers is an excellent way for educated bachelor's or above degree holders to get into the teaching field, which was the intention of the program. Most people that are working on earning their alternative teaching certification degree take all or the majority of their coursework online or at online schools. This allows them with the flexibility to teach during the day and finish up assignments and studying at night.

In the United States, nearly every state has an offering that has Alternative teaching certification, but a lot of universities have found that bringing this particular degree online helps more people to become a teacher. Thus, there is a wide range of online universities that offer the alternative certification degree.

Online Alternative Teacher Certification Programs

Alternative teacher educational programs are generally only at the bachelor and master degree level. Although students and teachers can advance their education by pursuing doctoral degrees, these programs usually require that the student already have a master degree. Although traditional teaching programs, particularly graduate degree programs, may be offered online, online alternative teacher education programs are rare.

The reason for this is because alternative teacher programs typically require some sort of internship or student teaching experience. These experiences must take place in an actual classroom. Students that have teaching degrees and are pursuing additional certification or master degree degrees have completed the hands-on training while earning the original bachelor's degree teaching program.

The American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence, however, does offer an online alternative teacher certification program in certain states. ABCTE's program, which can be completed in less than a year, offers certification in ten different subjects.

Review of some online Alternative Certification programs

Southeastern Louisiana University – Online Alternative Certification – K-12

Bachelor’s or Master’s holders interested in transitioning in educational careers can participate in SLU’s online Alternative Certification program. This program requires that students hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75 and provide proof of ACT scores or Praxis scores in order to qualify. This program includes a delve into teaching content, as well as a student-teaching experience that can be substituted for experience for students already working in a teaching position. Tuition is billed at a rate of $722.15 per 3 credit hours, with financial aid available for qualifying students.

The University of South Dakota – Online Alternative Teaching Certificate

Graduates from noneducational bachelor’s program with an offer of employment from a K-12 school can pursue Alternative Certification through USD online. This program requires learners to complete 15 credit hours in order to complete this certification program. Courses can enlighten students on classroom behavior management, learning and development, and curriculum and instruction.

The University of Missouri – Temporary Authorization Teaching Certificate Program

Students holding a bachelor’s or master’s degree can pursue temporary certification as a teaching professional in the state of Missouri through this University of Missouri certification program. Specialized areas in secondary or special education are currently available through this program, with programs requiring that applicants hold degrees in areas related to their subject area. Courses at this university cost around $386 per credit hour. Students can contact the financial aid office for more information on financial aid options. Courses cost $351.25 per credit hour, making this an affordable certification for incoming students. Financial aid may be available for some students.

Northwestern State University of Louisiana online MAT

This university currently offers an online Master of Arts in Teaching for individuals that want an alternative teaching path for their education. This program in particular offers students the option to choose from several different specialties, including Early Childhood Education, Elementary and Middle School Education, Postsecondary Education, and Special Education. Students are permitted to continue full-time employment until the final two semesters, when an internship is required for graduation. The entire program can be completed in about a year, and requires that students have an internship arranged prior to the beginning of the last two semesters. The end result of this degree program is a teaching licensure and a Masters of Art in Teaching degree.

The University of West Alabama alternative teaching program

UWA has a great alternative teaching program offered to students that wish to pursue a career in teaching, but do not have the right undergraduate degree. This university requires that students have a minimum of a 2.75 GPA and a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. This degree program allows students to choose from either a Master of Arts in Teaching or a Master of Education, with the curriculum designed to suit either degree path. Specialties include Early Education, Elementary Education, and Special Education. Students can also choose to specialize in specific subjects such as Math, Science, English, and History. The whole program can be completed in 1-2 years, and does require an internship towards the end of the experience. Students are responsible for setting up their own observations and internships throughout the program.

Western State Colorado University alternative certification

The alternative teaching certification as WSCU requires that students have an already secured teaching position prior to enrolling. This can be set up through local schools that are willing to accept interns while they attend high-level educational programs. Students are expected to complete 27 credit hours of online coursework, alongside 1 hour per week supervision in a professional setting. After the first licensure year, teachers can complete the remaining 16 credit hours required to complete the Masters degree in Education. Applicants for this program can choose a generalized K-12 focus, Elementary, Secondary, or Special Education endorsements for their degree program. This program does require a mandatory orientation, which takes place at the university.

What is Alternative Teacher Certification?

Alternative certification was created to provide qualified professionals with a way to get into the classroom quickly, speeding past a state’s traditional education certification route. Traditional certification typically requires teachers to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education, pass standardized tests, and fulfill additional state requirements. Professionals bypass these obligations by completing an alternative certification program before or in the midst of full-time teaching. Teacher certification requirements do vary by state.

When choosing a Bachelor’s degree program, people can sometimes choose something that may not be the best option later on down the line. This can be a very discouraging decision that can leave graduates feeling negative about the degree that they worked so hard to earn.

Universities Adding Alternative Certification for Teachers

In response to the lack of adequate numbers of teachers across the country, universities have developed a transfer path for Bachelor’s degree earners that assists them with obtaining certification as teachers in various fields of education.

Alternative teaching certification is a method for non-teaching Bachelor’s degree earners to get certified as teachers within their state, regardless of what type of undergraduate degree they hold. This certification program was designed to assist those seeking a career in teaching with reaching their goals, without having to re-enroll in a teaching Bachelor’s degree program. The focus of these programs is the primary aspects of education in regards to target age groups or grade level. Most of these programs require that applicants hold a Bachelor’s degree in any subject and perform well throughout the certification program.

Specific Teaching Exams

Completion of the Praxis Education exams may also be required, to ensure universities that learners are prepared for a fast-track in the field of education. Most alternative programs allow students to transition their career to teaching with innovative online programs alongside mentoring from teachers within the field.

Online Masters in Alternative Teaching Certification

The online Masters in Alternative Teaching Certification program is a great option if you want to pursue a career in education, but have a Bachelor’s degree in another discipline. Most online Masters programs require that you provide proof of an earned Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, have a minimum GPA of 2.5 or higher, and passing scores on the Praxis Education exam. The specific exam requirements can vary depending on the university, so it is important to review a school’s requirements prior to enrolling.

Alternative Teaching Certification degree programs have various lengths, depending on where they are completed, but a large majority of programs state that they can be completed in 1-2 years. Although the majority of the coursework is completed via online classrooms, most programs require that students engage in internships towards the end of their program, to get some experience in the educational field. These experiences are to be set up by the students, so you should have a school in mind prior to enrolling.

Sample Classes / Curriculum

Below are just a few courses that students take in a Masters in Alternative Teacher Certification program at numerous universities across the US and online.

  • Research in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Education Philosophy and Leadership
  • A Study of Individuals with Disabilities
  • Educational Psychology Applied in Teaching
  • Instructional Design and Methodology
  • Reading Strategies for Teaching

Alternative Teacher Education Degrees

Becoming a teacher in any state requires completion of at least a bachelor’s degree program. Teachers that always knew they wanted to be teachers generally complete a degree in teaching and obtain certification for a certain grade level or specific subjects. Some individuals, however, earn degrees in non-teaching field and later want to become teachers. Rather than having to earn a second degree, they enroll in an alternative teacher education program. This program is referred to as “alternative” because it gives a bachelor degree holder an alternative way to becoming a teacher other than earning another bachelor degree.

This alternative provides students with a faster and less expensive way to earning a teaching license. Alternative teacher education programs may also allow a student to teach while actually earning his or her degree if certain requirements are met. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, one in five new teachers nationwide has become licensed teachers through alternative teacher education programs. Learn more about this attractive teaching option.

Bachelors Degrees in Alternative Education

The main requirement of an alternative teacher education program is having a bachelor’s degree. Students may also be required to pass basic skills and subject matter tests to be eligible for entry into alternative teacher education programs. Some programs also have work experience requirements. States may vary with their requirements. New York, for instance, has two types of alternative certification programs. One requires the applicant have a bachelor degree and the other require a master degree.

One example of an alternative teaching program can be found at Central New Mexico Community College. This 21-credit-hour certificate program, which results in a Level I Provisional Teaching License, includes courses in effective teaching methods and strategies; curriculum development assessment and evaluation; foundations of education; and literacy education. Students also complete a supervised teaching experience consisting of at least 160 hours in a classroom setting. In addition to completing this program, graduates must still pass licensing exams.

Masters Degrees in Alternative Education

An example of an alternative teaching certification program resulting in a master degree can be found at University of Louisville. Non-teaching bachelor degree holders can earn a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) degree in Special Education: Moderate and Severe Disabilities and can teach special education students in grades Pre-12. In addition to completing student teaching, the student will have courses in autism: introduction and understanding; teaching mathematics to students with disabilities; applied behavior analysis; curriculum and methods; augmentative communication; and assessment of exceptional learners. This program is two years long.

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College also offers an alternative teacher certification program that results in a Master of Education (M.Ed.). Students in this program can obtain certification in elementary education (gr 1-8); secondary education (gr 6-12) and special education (K-12). This 48-credit-hour program has courses like mathematics in elementary education; principals of curriculum development; learning and instruction; assessment and evaluation for children with special needs; and language and literacy, among others. Students also complete apprenticeship teaching courses and complete a research-based project.

Alternative Certification vs. BA/MA in Education Teaching Degree

Traditional teacher certification is earned through completing a bachelors or masters degree in education, taking the required standardized Praxis tests, and meeting the state requirements. Generally the process takes a while (sometimes 3-6 years), and can be complicated.

Alternative teacher certification is earned while simultaneously teaching. Because people seeking the degree usually already have a Bachelor’s or above degree, many processes and classes are bypassed to speed up the process towards teaching certification. There are still state requirements and standardized tests, but some states actually waive or modify them to make it easier for educated people to become a teacher.

Am I Eligible for Alternative Teacher Certification?

Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than education from an accredited school are prime candidates for alternative teacher certification. They follow what is sometimes referred to as the “Class A” route. Certain professionals who are interested in teaching at the K-12 level—for example, college professors and Teach for America candidates—should check with their state’s department of education about eligibility requirements and the appropriate steps to take.

How Do I Become a Teacher with Alternative Certification?

Alternative certification requirements are different in every state, but for the Class A route, most states demand that you:

  • Complete a recognized alternative certification program
  • Pass a state licensing test
  • Go through a rigorous screening process, including interviews

In the classroom, you will be paired with a trained mentor, typically a teacher who has a traditional education degree. You may also be required to achieve certain performance standards.

Can I Teach Immediately with Alternative Teacher Certification?

Alternative certification is often split into two categories:

  • Provisional Certification gives candidates with a bachelor’s degree who meet minimum requirements the chance to begin teaching immediately. To earn a standard teaching certification, they must complete education coursework and assessments within a predefined time (typically one to three years).
  • Alternative Route to Standard Certification programs are designed for candidates who wish to continue working in their jobs while taking education courses and completing other certification requirements. Upon completion of the program, they can begin teaching.

Which Alternative Teaching Certification Program Should I Choose?

Many schools, universities, and private institutions offer alternative teacher certification programs, including on-campus and online options. Above all, it’s important to find a program that meets your state’s specific accreditation requirements, especially if you are considering an online route. Visit your state’s department of education website and contact the appropriate licensing authority if you are in any doubt about how to pursue an alternative certification program.

Teacher Licensing and Certification

The type of career a licensed teacher can have will vary by the teacher’s experience and certifications. Whereas a graduate of an elementary education bachelor degree program with few or no additional endorsements will only be able to teach elementary age students, a teacher that holds a teaching degree with concentrations/certifications in secondary education, mathematics, English or other additional endorsements will be able to teach in more settings, thus increasing their employment opportunities.