How to Earn Teacher Certification in Alabama
Alabama is experiencing a teacher shortage problem, says WFSA12 News, so if your goal is to finish your education and become a teacher in Alabama state, you may find opportunities to use your hard-earned schooling. But your first step is to earn teacher certification. While there are several pathways to doing this, your options depend on your level of education and experience.
This guide can help you determine the pathway that’s right for you at any point in your career. Perhaps you’re just beginning your journey and need to know about the teacher certification process. Or maybe you want to learn how to progress to advanced certification-or you’re an established teacher looking to move to Alabama from another state and need to understand reciprocity.
You’ll find all that information and more right here. The short video below gives an overview of what to expect as a certified teacher in Alabama state.
Basic Teaching Requirements
If you’re interested in getting a teaching license in Alabama, you’ll find a wide range of opportunities for teachers who have the right education, training, and certifications. Getting certified to teach in Alabama involves meeting the requirements established by the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE). Understanding this process is key to securing a teaching position in Alabama because certification is required of private tutors, instructional support personnel and teachers in all K-12 public schools, and in many K-12 private schools. Most teachers complete a traditional program of preparation and study to get certified, though opportunities exist to qualify for certification with non-traditional programs. Teaching certifications in Alabama are valid for the school year in which they are awarded and last for an additional five subsequent school years.
The traditional route to earning an initial teaching certificate in Alabama starts with the completion of a bachelor’s degree. After earning this credential, you’ll be required to pass the exams that relate to the certification you desire. The number of exams varies by specialty. With satisfactory grades on these tests, you’ll be ready to apply for certification. Your application will require proof of fingerprinting and criminal background checks, in addition to a letter of recommendation for certification from your educational institution. It’s important to note that candidates for teacher certification in Alabama must submit an application for certification within 60 months of their program completion date.
Minimum Education Requirements for Alabama Teachers
The minimum education requirement for certification in Alabama is a bachelor’s degree from a college or university that held regional accreditation at the time the degree was awarded. Candidates can earn their degree as part of an Alabama-approved P-12 educator preparation program at a college or university. Completion of a bachelor’s degree is the first step toward earning the Class B Professional Educator Certificate, which is the initial certification for beginning teachers.
Alabama also offers certificates for candidates with advanced degrees. The minimum education requirement for Class A certification is the completion of a master’s degree. Candidates who do not have a teaching certificate, but hold a bachelor’s degree in any major, can qualify for Class A certification upon completion of an alternative Class A program. The highest teaching certification in Alabama is Class AA, which requires the completion of a state-approved educational specialist degree or an approved sixth-year teacher education program.
Enrollment in an Alabama-approved teacher preparation program will include both field experiences and internships coordinated, overseen and assessed by the college or institution. As a candidate for either Class B or alternative Class A certification, you must participate in extensive field experiences, with the majority occurring in P-12 schools. At least half of your field experiences will occur in your desired teaching field. Field experiences offer opportunities to observe and assist classroom teachers, as well as participate in other school-related activities so that you become acclimated to the classroom environment prior to your internship.
After completion of your field experiences, you will be required to complete an internship during which you will have a hands-on classroom opportunity. As a teaching candidate in Alabama, your internship will involve working full-time for one semester in the teaching field for which you are seeking certification. To ensure that you get appropriate experience, you will assume full-time teaching responsibilities for a minimum of five consecutive days. If you will be applying for certification in more than one teaching field, you will have to complete an internship for each area of concentration.
Candidates pursuing degrees in Class A and Class AA programs also are required to complete field experiences. Requirements for internships vary according to specific programs.
Pass Alabama Certification Exams
You will need to pass a set of required certification exams, called the Alabama Educator Certification Assessment Program (AECAP), as required by the Alabama State Board of Education. The first exam required in the AECAP is the Educational Testing Services (ETS) Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators Tests. Since this exam is required for admission to a Class B or Alternative Class A program, candidates should have passed this exam early in their educational careers. Within six months of being eligible for certification, you must pass the appropriate Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching assessments from ETS, as well as the corresponding Praxis II subject assessments in any teaching field or area of instructional support for which you will be applying. Effective September 1, 2018, candidates also will have to pass a performance assessment administered by Pearson.
You’ll be ready to apply for certification in Alabama after you have completed the necessary educational and assessment requirements. The Educator Certification section of the Alabama State Department of Education issues teaching certificates. To apply for certification, you will need to ensure that the required components are submitted to the Educator Certification section along with your application and the nonrefundable application fee.
All candidates for teacher certification in Alabama must submit to a background check from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), including fingerprinting by an approved third-party contractor. You also must ensure that the Educator Certification section receives official educational transcripts sent from your college or university and official electronic test scores sent from the testing organization. A recommendation for certification submitted directly from an Alabama college or university also is required. In addition, you must provide proof of educational field experience to complete your application.
How Much Do Teachers in Alabama Make?
Teachers in Alabama earn a wide range of salaries, depending on educational specialty. Examples of average teaching salaries in Alabama include*:
|Early Childhood Educator||$22,480|
|Elementary School Teacher||$50,300|
|Secondary School Teacher||$52,240|
|Special Education Teacher||$48,320|
Job Growth for High School School Teachers Through 2031
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2021
With completion of the required criteria, you can apply to earn specialty certifications in one or more of several concentrations. Specialty certifications are valuable for teachers who want to specialize in specific age groups or academic subject areas. To earn a specialty certification, Alabama requires completion of an educator preparation program and a Praxis II assessment in the corresponding area of specialization.
Early Childhood Education
A specialty in early childhood education qualifies you to teach students ranging from preschool to grade three. Candidates for this certification in Alabama must complete an educational program that includes at least 32 hours of study in a teaching field with a minimum of 19 semester hours of upper-division credit. To earn a specialty certification in Early Childhood Education, a candidate in a Class B program must earn at least 12 semester hours of acceptable credit in each of the following academic subjects: English, language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Candidates in Alternative Class A programs also must complete the same allocation of specific credits or have achieved a passing score on the corresponding Praxis II subject assessment.
Three Praxis II exams are required for certification in Early Childhood Education. They are: Early Childhood Education, Teaching Reading, and Principles of Learning and Teaching K-6.
Elementary School Teacher
Certification as an elementary school teacher in Alabama prepares you to teach grades K-6. To earn this certification, you must complete an educational program that includes at least 32 hours of study in a teaching field with a minimum of 19 semester hours of upper-division credit. A candidate in a Class B elementary school program must earn at least 12 semester hours of acceptable credit in each of the core academic subjects: English, language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Candidates in Alternative Class A programs also must complete the same curriculum requirements or have achieved a passing score on the related Praxis II subject assessment.
Candidates for Elementary School certification must successfully complete six Praxis II assessments. They are: Elementary Ed in Multiple Subjects, which includes Reading/Language, Math, Social Studies and Science; Teaching Reading; and Principles of Learning and Teaching K-6.
Secondary School Teacher
To become a secondary school teacher in Alabama, you can pursue certification in Secondary Teaching Fields (Grades 6-12). Your educational preparation will include the study of a comprehensive field in English language arts, general science or general social studies. You must complete a minimum of 32 semester hours in the academic major, with at least 19 semester hours of upper-level credits. Requirements also include the completion of at least one course in each of the specified areas included in the comprehensive teaching field.
Secondary School teachers in Alabama must complete at least two Praxis II examinations, including Principles of Learning and Teaching 7-12 and one Content Knowledge exam relative to your major area of study. Available Content Knowledge exams are: Biology, Chemistry, English Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies or World and U.S. History.
Substitute Teacher Certification
You do not need the same teacher certification as full-time teachers to work as a substitute teacher in Alabama. Substitute teacher certification must be requested by a county/city school superintendent or an administrator of a non-public school directly to the Education Certification Section. The requirements for substitute teacher certification include the same background check and fingerprinting required of all teaching certifications. Individuals who have completed a high school degree or an Alabama State Department of Education equivalent are eligible for substitute teacher certification.
Physical Education (PE) Certification
You can earn certification in physical education (PE) by completing the same educational requirements for either elementary or secondary education, depending on the age group you intend to teach. State-approved educator preparation programs offer curriculum to prepare you to teach physical education. These programs combine the necessary teaching requirements for certification with the study of health science and kinesiology.
Certification in Physical Education requires the completion of two Praxis II assessments: Physical Ed: Core Knowledge and Apps, and either Principles of Learning and Teaching K-6 or Principles of Learning and Teaching 7-12.
Special Education Certification
Special Education Certification in Alabama is offered under several specializations: Collaborative Special Education (Grades K-6); Collaborative Special Education (Grades 6-12); and Early Childhood Special Education (Grades P-3). Teachers preparing to teach special education must complete an educator preparation program with at least 32 semester hours of credit in a teaching field and at least 19 hours of upper-level credit.
Required Praxis II assessments vary by specific Special Education Certification. All certifications require the completion of Principles of Learning and Teaching, either K-6 or 7-12 and Special Ed: Core Knowledge and Apps. Elementary Special Education certifications also require the completion of testing in Elementary Ed: Multiple Subjects. Testing in Teaching Reading also is required for certification in Collaborative Special Education (K-6).
English as a Second Language Certification
To earn certification in teaching English as a second language in Alabama, you must qualify to earn the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) (Grades P-12) teaching certificate. Unconditional admission to ESOL educator preparation programs is available to candidates who possess a valid Class B bachelor’s-level Professional Educator certificate in a teaching field, unless you are completing an alternative Class A program in ESOL.
Upon completion of the educational requirements for ESOL certification, candidates also must take the Praxis II assessment for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Exam as prescribed by the Alabama State Board of Education.
Certifications for School Administrators
Certification for School Administrators in Alabama is awarded by the Instructional Leadership certification. To qualify for unconditional admission to an Instructional Leadership Program, you must have a Class B Professional Educator Certificate in a teaching field or a valid Class A Professional Educator Certificate in a teaching field or instructional support area. Minimum professional experience includes three years of full-time acceptable experience in a P-12 setting, with at least one year of full-time P-12 teaching experience. An admission portfolio with recommendations, performance appraisals and evidence of achievement, as well as an interview, is required prior to admission to an educator preparation program.
In addition, Praxis II testing, as prescribed by the specific certification awarded, is required upon the completion of the educational program.
Teaching Reciprocity Agreements in Alabama
Teachers who earned certification in another state may be able to take advantage of teaching reciprocity agreements in Alabama to expedite their certification there. If you’re considering a move to Alabama, or re-entering the teaching profession with certification earned in another state, this information can save you time and money in acquiring an Alabama teaching certificate.
|NASDTEC Interstate Agreement||Alabama participates in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement.|
|State Grants full Reciprocity||Alabama grants full reciprocity to valid professional educators who have certifications issued by other states only when the original certificate is in an area, at a grade level and at a degree level in which Alabama offers comparable professional certification. Candidates for reciprocity must meet standard certification requirements for background clearances, assessments and experience for each certification requested.|
|Coursework Requirements||No specific coursework is required. However, applicants for reciprocity must hold a bachelor’s degree.|
|Test-out or Exemption||Alabama does not have additional coursework requirements, so no test-out or exemption is necessary.|
|Assessment Requirements||Applicants may choose from three options with regard to assessment requirements. Choices include: taking the currently required Alabama Praxis II tests for the certification they desire; verifying that passage of a comparable knowledge test prior to receiving their certification; proving three years of full-time educational work experience in the area for which they are seeking Alabama certification.|
|Different Requirements Based on Experience||Candidates seeking certification reciprocity who can prove three years of full-time professional experience in the area for which they are applying for certification may be able to bypass assessment requirements if the experience occurred within 10 years of their Alabama application.|
|Performance Requirements||Alabama does not have performance requirements for out-of-state candidates seeking certification.|
|Special Reciprocity for Advanced credentials||Certification applicants who possess an out-of-state certification that does not reflect a degree level may be eligible for a Supplement VER to determine if the applicant who is eligible for Alabama certification via reciprocity may be eligible for an advanced level of certification in that area. Considerations include whether the candidate completed an advanced degree level P-12 educator preparation program in the area for which certification is being requested. Eligible out-of-state programs must have required at least 30 hours of graduate credit. In addition, the candidate’s transcript must reflect a major in the teaching field or instructional support area, with at least 12 semester graduate credit hours in the teaching area or instructional support area for which certification is being requested.|
Alternate Teaching Certification
Alabama awards alternate teaching certification in the form of Provisional Certificates. An Alabama school district superintendent or administrator may request a Provisional Certificate in a Teaching Field (PCTF) for an individual who will be employed full-time in a teaching field during the completion of their requirements for a Class B Professional Educator Certificate in that specific field. PCTFs are available for grades K-12 and 6-12, and are issued for one scholastic year. Individuals may qualify for three PCTFs before applying for certification.
While holding a valid PCTF, an individual must complete three full years of full-time teaching experience in the teaching field within the four scholastic years from July 1 of the scholastic year of the first PCTF. An individual must apply for Class B Professional Educator Certificate by October 1 of the calendar year during which the third PCTF expires or lose the right to seek certification via this approach. Alternate teaching certification also is available by request of a Provisional Certificate in a Career and Technical Teaching Field (PCCT) Approach for grades 6-12.
Alabama also offers alternate teaching certifications for candidates unconditionally admitted in a state-approved Alternative Class A program, state-approved Class A program or Class AA program of Special Education. These certificates include: Interim Certificate in a Teaching Field (IEC) Approach, Interim Certificate in an Area of Instructional Support Approach, Provisional Certificate in Library Media or School Counseling (PCLS) Approach and the Business and Industry to Educational Administrator (BIEA) Approach.
Teach for America
Teach for America, a national nonprofit dedicated to supporting education equality in the United States, places teachers in nine school districts in Alabama. Participation in Teach for America involves a rigorous application process in which the organization recruits recent college graduates who represent leadership qualities. Qualifications include the completion of a bachelor’s degree. A rigorous summer training program qualifies participants to earn certification in Alabama prior to assuming teaching positions for the upcoming school year.
Teach for America members live and work in the urban districts of Birmingham, Huntsville and Montgomery and the rural towns of Greensboro, Marion, Selma and Uniontown. More than 91 percent of the students served by Teach for America in Alabama are low income. More information about Teach for America’s opportunities in Alabama is available here.
Transition into Teaching for Career Changers
While Alabama does not have a specific program for transitioning into teaching, alternate teaching certificates can help candidates achieve certification via a non-traditional route. Certification specialists in the Alabama State Department of Education can help professionals transitioning into teaching determine the requirements they will need to become a certified teacher. Admissions counselors at Alabama’s state-approved educator preparation programs can assist candidates in expediting this rewarding career transition.
Depending on your interests and professional goals, you can pursue a wide range of specific teacher certifications in Alabama. The U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education identifies Teacher Shortage Areas (TSA) by state. As an incentive to encourage certifications in these subjects, you may qualify for deferment, reduction or cancellation of student loans if you pursue certification in a TSA in Alabama. You can find out about TSAs in Alabama at the U.S. Department of Education website.