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Teaching Careers Updated October 23, 2012

Teaching License Reciprocity Explained

By Eric Gill October 23, 2012

There are lots of reasons for transferring your teaching credentials and license from one state to another. Accompanying a spouse or domestic partner on a career move is the No. 1 reason cited by applicants seeking teaching jobs through license reciprocity, according to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC).

Other common reasons for transferring a teaching certificate, or license:

  • Living and working closer to your family
  • The appeal of a particular state’s climate
  • The achievement of various personal or career goals

One such goal is working in a state with a respected education program devoted to your teaching degree and area of concentration. This is particularly applicable to professionals who specialize in early childhood education, substitute teaching, English as a second language (ESL) and the myriad special education teaching disciplines.

Read on to learn more:

Clarifying teaching license reciprocity

Whatever your motivation for moving to another state, you will need to transfer your teaching credentials. Start by asking these two important questions:

  1. Can you work in other states with the teaching certificate from your current state?
  2. If not, can you apply for a teaching certificate in a new state using your current teaching license?

How do I transfer my teaching certificate from one state to another?

License reciprocity — the ability to practice your vocation in one state based on certification in another — has different meanings for different professions. For teachers, license reciprocity does not mean you can automatically transfer your existing certificate from one state to another and then start teaching.

When you apply for a teaching certificate in one state using an existing license from another, the “destination state” is actually recognizing your credentials as verification that you are qualified to teach. For example, you must still apply and meet all teaching certification requirements for the new state.

Fortunately, the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement for Educator Licensure streamlines this application process and expedites the goal of teaching in your new state.

How do I transfer my teaching license through NASDTEC’s Interstate Agreement?

States participating in the NASDTEC agreement generally follow the same guidelines for recognizing out-of-state teaching licenses, but each state has specific requirements that must be met before you can teach there.

A total of 44 states, as well as the District of Columbia, are currently signed on to participate in the NASDTEC’s interstate contract through September 2020, according to Phillip S. Rogers, EdD, executive director of the NASDTEC. Six states currently are not listed as signees to the agreement: Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Montana’s Department of Public Instruction explicitly says it does not have reciprocity with any state for teacher licensure.

These states generally recognize teaching licenses from other states, and teachers certified in these six states probably will be recognized by the “host” state to which they are moving. For example, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will allow New York teachers to apply for a teaching certificate under the terms of the NASDTEC agreement, but New York may not reciprocate for teachers moving from neighboring states.

If you’re relocating to another state and you wish to continue teaching, you must follow those states’ licensing procedures. A great source for checking all state teacher licensure requirements is the Educational Testing Service PRAXIS web page (click on “State Testing Requirements” and select the state to which you’re interested in moving).

What do I need to know when applying for a teaching certificate with license reciprocity?

There are several standard requirements for obtaining your teaching certificate in all states. Whether you’re applying in one of the participating NASDTEC states or another location, you should be prepared for the following steps to ensure your application for teacher certification will be processed as quickly as possible.

  1. Bachelor’s degree: Nearly all states require a bachelor’s degree to become a teacher. When you apply for a teaching certificate based on an existing license, you should have your original college transcripts available to send with your application.
  2. Background check: States differ, but you should be prepared to submit to a full-scale background check, including criminal and FBI, state and child protective services checks, and U.S. citizenship verification.
  3. Teaching tests: Be prepared to provide verification that you passed your states’ teaching tests. More than 40 states require one of the Educational Testing Service PRAXIS examinations. Some states recognize teaching tests from other testing services, and many states will allow a temporary grace period — such as one year — before requiring applicants to pass their states’ specific teaching tests. In Nebraska, for instance, you can apply for a temporary license that gives you up to six months to meet all of that state’s requirements while you teach.
  4. Teaching experience: States vary as to how much on-the-job experience they require before issuing a teaching license. Nebraska, for example, requires two years of teaching experience to qualify for the standard teaching license, which is valid for five years. All states request written verification from specific qualified individuals attesting that you have met the transferring state’s teaching experience requirements.
  5. Master’s degree: Most states recognize a graduate degree in place of specific grade-level, curriculum and job experience requirements. If you have a master’s degree or higher in education, you should check your new state’s requirements to see if an advanced degree can be applied in lieu of specific on-the-job teaching experience.
  6. Specialization distinctions: You should be aware that states have different requirements for certification at different grade levels (e.g., K–4, middle school and high school); various subject areas like math and science; and qualified disciplines such as special education.
  7. Fees: Be prepared to pay an application fee, as well as any required fees for obtaining college transcripts, background/credit checks and document transfer costs.

Teacher license information by state

Select a state from the list to learn about license reciprocity policies in your state and the state(s) in which you are interested in teaching.

Alabama Alaska Arizona
Arkansas California Colorado
Connecticut Delaware District of Columbia
Florida Georgia Hawaii
Idaho Illinois Indiana
Iowa Kansas Kentucky
Louisiana Maine Maryland
Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota
Mississippi Missouri Montana
Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire
New Jersey New Mexico New York
North Carolina North Dakota Ohio
Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania
Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota
Tennessee Texas Utah
Vermont Virginia Washington
West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming

Disclaimer: education policies are subject to change. Check with the department of education in your state for updates to license reciprocity policies.

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