Alternative Teacher Certification

Alternative Certification for "Career Changers" and Recent College Graduates

Alternative routes to certification allow individuals who have bachelor’s degrees in areas other than education to obtain professional teaching certificates.

Are you interested in teaching, but not sure how to get started or where to apply for a position? State departments of education realize the value of your past experience in the workplace. Because you have already been applying many of the concepts that teachers try to convey to their students in real-world situations, you have a unique perspective that can significantly contribute to students’ education. 

Therefore, alternative routes to certification/licensure have been created that ease your transition into teaching.

Alternative routes to certification allow individuals who have bachelor’s degrees in areas other than education to obtain professional teaching certificates. Typically, alternative certificates/licenses are issued for prospective teachers to teach within their major field of study.

Many states allow candidates to secure employment directly with a local school district and begin teaching while they are meeting the state certification requirements. Prospective teachers typically must meet these certification requirements before entering the classroom. 

The requirements include holding a bachelor’s degree (in any academic area), completing a traditional teacher preparation program, and earning a state license or certificate to teach. Alternative routes to certification, however, allow professionals to begin teaching while they are concurrently enrolled in an alternative certification preparation program.

Employment mobility and mid-career changes have increased the number of professional persons looking for more efficient access to classroom teaching. Furthermore, there always seem to be prospective teachers for whom the traditional road to certification/licensure seems unnecessarily long and repetitive (e.g., military personnel who have successfully taught troops for years.) 

In response to the greater demand of these professionals, as well as to the shortage of qualified teachers, the number of short-term credentialing programs has increased throughout the United States. These programs, which provide intensified professional education to post-baccalaureate teacher candidates, are commonly labeled “alternative certification” (also called “lateral entry” in some states).

There are many reasons why prospective teachers search for an appropriate alternative certification program. Some seek to change jobs because of forced retirement or because their current work no longer holds meaning or interest. Some professionals express a desire to contribute to the good of society by addressing the needs of its children. They may seek to be actively engaged in improving the education system by becoming teachers. 

Others have developed teaching-related skills in other areas of employment and look to teaching as a useful extension of a previous career. Still others see a need, such as the dearth of classroom role models for minority children, to which they can respond by fulfilling that role.

Through research and conversations with individuals who want to switch their careers to teaching, the non-profit Recruiting New Teachers organization identified five of the many reasons why mid-career changers are drawn to teaching careers.

  • To give back. Successful mid-career professionals often want to “pay back” that great teacher or the educational community that helped them achieve academically and personally.
  • To put experience to use. Mid-career changers want to bring various experience to the classroom, such expertise developed in another career, maturity, negotiating skills, or parenting experience.
  • To change the meaning of “work.” Mid-career changers often go into teaching for the opportunity to mentor and interact with young people, to get closer to their community, and to awaken young minds.
  • To follow one successful career with another. Individuals with experience in the military, the Peace Corps, and other careers have the drive and commitment to be successful teachers.
  • To share knowledge and passion. Mid-career changers combine the enthusiasm and dedication of new teachers with deep understanding of subjects such as mathematics, science, literature, or technology.