Getting your online elementary teacher certification can feel like an overwhelming process. After all, you likely have a lot on your plate already, whether it’s a job, family life or other obligations.
The good news is, there is a path to certification for you no matter where you are in life, and that path works around your schedule.
Alternative teacher certification programs are a great way to get your elementary teacher certification if you have:
A bachelor’s degree
An associate’s degree and some career experience in a particular field
No degree but some career experience in a particular field
Choosing a path that provides courses online or partially online, in particular, offers many benefits, from flexible scheduling to better course availability.
In the state of Texas, alternative teacher certification programs that offer online courses as part of their curriculum are especially popular, with 49% of all new teachers choosing this path to certification. Another 34% are prepared through undergraduate secondary or elementary education programs, whether classes are held on college campuses or through a university’s online program.
If you are not already enrolled in a college program to earn your bachelor’s degree in education, you’re likely considering the same path as nearly half of all new teachers choose - an alternative teacher certification program.
Here are the steps you need to take to ensure you are qualified for this type of program, that you fulfill the training requirements and that you ultimately earn your elementary teacher certification through an online program.
Determine If You Qualify
If your new career goal is to teach and you have already earned your bachelor’s degree, an alternative teacher certification program can get you on the path to achieving your dreams. This is true as well for those who have earned an associate’s degree, have career experience or a combination of both.
If you have a bachelor’s degree, to qualify for an alternative teacher certification program, your degree must be from an accredited institution of higher learning. According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), you must also:
Have earned a minimum 2.5 GPA, confirmed in one of two ways:
Minimum 2.5 GPA on an official transcript
Minimum 2.5 GPA in the last 60 semester hours of courses attempted
Pass a Content Test, otherwise known as the TExES Content Test. (Consult with your online certification program to ensure you’re taking the best test for your subject area.)
If you’re currently completing your last semester toward a bachelor’s degree, you can still qualify for enrollment in an alternative teacher certification program. However, you must provide a copy of your final semester schedule of classes letter from an academic adviser or registrar indicating you are eligible for graduation.
If you’re graduating from a university outside the United States or U.S. Territories, you must also provide foreign transcripts that have been equivocated by a recognized transcript evaluation service and proof of oral English language proficiency by passing the oral proficiency portion of the TOEFL.
No Bachelor’s Degree
If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, you can still qualify for an alternative teacher certification program as well.
If you have an associate’s degree from an accredited institution, you must have:
Two years of full-time wage-earning experience within the past 10 years in the field to be taught
A current license to teach Health Science Technology, Criminal Justice and Cosmetology
If you don’t have a degree, you must have five years of full-time wage-earning experience within the past 10 years in the field to be taught.
Many programs are strictly online. Other programs include a hybrid of both online courses and in-person training, offering the best of both worlds.
One of the greatest benefits of online teacher certification programs is that they provide a great deal of flexibility. This allows you to complete your course requirements around your schedule. Other benefits include:
The ability to take advantage of a more comfortable learning environment
Better availability of courses offered throughout the state, rather than in one location
Lack of commuting
Alternative teacher certification programs that offer a hybrid of online and in-person training provide the benefits above, as well as additional perks that can have a significant impact on a student’s experience. For example, in-person training allows you to develop professional relationships and connections with faculty that you may otherwise miss when only connecting online.
Other benefits that give these types of programs an edge include:
The opportunity for hands-on learning you simply can’t get online
Face-to-face interaction with peers that promote networking
Continuous support when applying learned techniques in the field
The best alternative teacher certification programs will also offer test preparation help for the TExES as a standard part of the training program.
Pass Your Certification Exams
Many programs require you to complete and pass your certification exams prior to beginning coursework in the program. That’s why it is best to work with your program to ensure you are taking the right TExES and so you know how to prepare for them.
If you have a college degree but are not enrolled in a certification program, you must take a Pre-Admission Content Test (PACT) before you can enroll. Most programs require you to get permission to take this content test before you apply to the program.
The process of signing up and taking certification exams can be confusing, which is why it is important to discuss this step with any prospective programs you are considering.
Fulfill Your Training Requirements
Once you have chosen and enrolled in an alternative teacher certification program and passed all relevant content tests, the next step is to fulfill your training requirements toward certification.
A portion of your training will consist of courses (online, in-person or a combination of both depending on the program you choose) as well as field experience.
In Texas, you must complete:
A minimum of 300 hours of training to receive a standard teaching certificate
Of these 300 hours, 30 must be dedicated to observation of a certified teacher in a classroom environment
Your preparation program will also work with you to develop a plan that completes these requirements, as well as assist you with securing a teaching assignment at the grade level and in the specialty area, such as special education, of your target certificate.
You will also need to get a probationary certificate that allows you to teach for one calendar year while you are enrolled in a preparation program. Once each of these requirements is fulfilled, you can move forward with applying for a standard certificate online.
Complete The Final Steps Toward Certification
It’s a good idea to work with your preparation program on these next steps as well to ensure you are doing everything “by the book.” This will save you a lot of work - and headaches - in the long run.
There are two final steps you’ll need to take once the above requirements are met: apply for your certification and pass any required background checks.
To apply, set up a Texas Education Agency Login (TEAL) account, which will give you access to your profile located in the Educator Certification Online System (ECOS). Make sure your first and last names match your Texas driver’s license or state ID card.
You will also need to complete a fingerprinting process as part of a national criminal background check. You must submit your fingerprints electronically using an approved vendor by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
If you plan to apply to a particular district, it may be a good idea to check with that district to see if there are any additional background checks that must be completed.
With any path toward certification, there are requirements put into place to ensure all new teachers are properly qualified, trained and vetted before they are allowed to enroll in a program, step foot into a classroom or complete the certification process.
Working with your alternative teacher certification program to complete each of the above steps will ensure that you not only meet all requirements associated with obtaining your teaching certificate, but do so in the most efficient way so you can complete your journey to becoming an elementary school teacher.
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank.
In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.
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