What Is an Alternative Teaching Certificate or Degree?

If you'd like to start a new career as a teacher or if you're unsure about pursuing a traditional teaching degree, you might wish to learn more about alternative teaching certificate and degree programs. These programs allow professionals with a degree in a subject other than education to become teachers while working in a classroom. Schools offering Early Childhood Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Alternative Teaching Overview

Alternative teaching licensure was introduced as a way to make up for a lack of qualified teachers. Instead of relying solely on teachers who have completed an education degree and received certification, school districts can hire qualified, degree-holding candidates to teach while they pursue their credentials. If you're interested in becoming a teacher through this method, keep in mind that the available teaching positions are usually the hardest to fill, including math, the sciences, special education and positions in geographical shortage areas.

Important Facts About Alternative Teaching Programs

Common Courses Literacy development, learning environments, methods and strategies of effective reading, transition to teaching
Online Availability Some coursework may be completed online, though student teaching must be done in person
Possible Careers Kindergarten, elementary, middle, or high school teacher
Continuing Education Typically required to maintain teacher licensure


To become a teacher using the alternative route, you must meet a few requirements that can vary by state and program. In most cases, you must already hold a bachelor's degree and have professional experience. Your degree and experience should be in the subject that you'll teach, and you should be able to pass preliminary testing in your subject as well as in basic skills.

Types of Programs

If you're accepted into an alternative teacher training program, you'll begin education coursework that focuses on the methods behind successful teaching for the grade level you wish to teach. After completing this coursework, you can obtain your provisional alternative teaching licensure, which allows you to teach in a school for a limited time and meet your program's experience requirements. Once you have finished both the coursework and the teaching internship, you'll be eligible to obtain a regular teaching license.

Certification Programs

In a certification program, you'll take education courses and earn your teaching certification, but you may not necessarily earn a college degree. Both traditional colleges and independent schools offer these programs, and to ensure the quality of education you'll receive, you may wish to determine whether a school is state-approved to offer teacher certification. After completing certification requirements, you may apply for state licensure.

Degree Programs

Degree programs often let you earn a teaching certification while you earn credit towards a master's degree in education. The number of credits you'll earn varies by program, and most of these degree programs take longer to complete than certification programs. Once you have finished both the certification and degree requirements, you can apply for state licensure.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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