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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.