How to Earn Teacher Certification in Arizona
If you’re interested in becoming a teacher in Arizona state, your first step is to earn 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 Arizona’s teacher certification process. Or maybe you want to learn how to progress to advanced certification, or you’re a teacher looking to move to Arizona from out of state and want 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 Arizona.
Requirements to Teach in Arizona
School districts in Arizona are challenged with a severe teacher shortage and are working hard to get more qualified teachers into their classrooms. The state modified certification criteria in 2017 to help alleviate this crisis.
Arizona offers several types of teacher certifications. It’s important to review the requirements established by The Arizona Department of Education – Certification Unit to understand the type of certification you wish to pursue before you apply. Standard renewable teaching certificates for teaching in K-12 public schools are valid for 12 years and are categorized by age groups and specialty areas.
Minimum Education Requirements for Arizona Teachers
To meet the minimum education requirements for a Standard Arizona teacher certificate, you must have proof of a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited post-secondary institution. In addition, you must complete an accredited or state-approved teacher preparation program. This program may be part of a bachelor’s degree, a separate post-baccalaureate certificate or master’s program. You also can meet this requirement if you have the specified number of semester hours and work experience criteria for the type of certificate you wish to pursue or hold current out-of-state certification. In addition, new requirements enacted in 2017 allow for school principals to grant alternative paths to teacher certification to individuals who hold higher degrees and have significant experience in a subject matter.
Educational requirements also include coursework or a passing assessment related to both the Arizona Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. If you qualify for a Standard teaching certificate, but are lacking in one or both of these items, you can be issued a Provisional Standard certificate with a three-year grace period during which you must meet these requirements. However, teachers specializing in areas such as social studies, history, law, civics and government have just one year to complete these requirements if they are lacking them upon receipt of their certification.
You also must pass a general professional knowledge exam and a subject exam related to your area of specialization. You may be able to bypass the examination with appropriate work experience depending on the type of certification you desire. In addition to educational and work experience, fingerprinting and a background check are requirements for teacher certification in Arizona.
Requirements for student teaching vary by certificate specialty. Before August 2017, new teachers were awarded a Provisional Standard teaching certificate until they completed two years of full-time teaching experience. Since then, certificate applicants who meet all the requirements of a 12-year Standard certificate can obtain that credential without having to hold a Provisional certificate for two years.
Though not always necessary, an optional Student Teaching Intern certificate may be required by either the institution administering the teacher preparation program or the school district where the student teaching will be conducted. The Student Teaching Intern certificate allows holders to have a teaching contract while they complete the requirements they need to qualify for a Standard teaching certificate. The certificate is valid for one year, with extensions available for no more than two consecutive years.
In addition to enrollment in a teacher preparation or alternative certificate program, candidates for a Student Teaching Intern certificate must have the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or higher, a 3.0 average GPA and a passing score on both the professional knowledge and subject knowledge exams for the certificate they are pursuing.
Pass Arizona Certification Exams
Before you apply for a teaching certificate in Arizona, you must pass the Arizona educator exams. These exams include the Arizona Education Proficiency Assessments (AEPA), a set of exams developed specifically for Arizona, and tests from the National Evaluation Series (NES). The AEPA tests are designed and administered by the Evaluation Systems group of Pearson.
All certificate applicants are required to take a professional knowledge exam related to the age group (Early Childhood, Elementary or Secondary) for which a certificate will be requested. You may qualify for a waiver of a professional knowledge exam if you can verify three years of full-time teaching in Arizona or any state, in which you taught in the same area of certification for which you are applying or if you have passed a similar professional knowledge exam from another state.
In addition, you must take an NES or AEPA exam in the specific area of your specialty if a corresponding exam exists. You can qualify for a waiver of a subject knowledge exam with proof of three years of full-time teaching experience in any state, including Arizona, in the same subject area for which you are seeking certification. Other substitute credentials for subject knowledge exams are: a passing score on a similar subject knowledge exam from another state; a bachelor’s or higher degree in the subject area of certification; or proof of having taught the subject area at a post-secondary institution for three years including the two consecutive years preceding the application. Five years of work experience in a field relevant to the subject area also can allow you to bypass examinations.
If you did not complete state-approved educational coursework on the Constitution of the United States and Arizona, you also will have to take an exam to prove your knowledge of these subjects.
Applying for teacher certification in Arizona requires identifying the application that corresponds to the type of certificate you are requesting. Along with your application for teacher certification, you must include a copy of your Arizona Department of Public Safety Identity Verified Prints (IVP) fingerprint card. This proves you have passed background clearances by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. In addition, you must provide official transcripts from the accredited institutions where you earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. A nonrefundable fee also is required with your application.
In addition, you will have to provide proof that you completed a teacher preparation program in your area of specialty. You may substitute this requirement by demonstrating that you met the corresponding alternate requirements for coursework and work experience, accompanied by an official Verification of Teaching Experience form. A valid out-of-state certificate also can be substituted for this requirement. You also must show proof of passing the knowledge test and the subject area test for your specific type of certificate or provide documentation of the alternate options.
How Much Do Teachers in Arizona Make?
Teachers in Arizona earn salaries that vary depending on teaching experience, educational specialty and school district location. Some median annual teaching salaries in Arizona are:
|Early Childhood Educator||$29,310|
|Elementary School Teacher||$47,960|
|Secondary School Teacher||$48,490|
|Special Education Teacher||$61,020|
Job Growth for High School Teachers through 2031
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2021
Arizona issues renewable 12-year standard certifications for all teachers. However, you are required to specify an age group (Early Childhood, Elementary or Secondary) or a specialized area of education. Each certification includes requirements relative to the specialty indicated on the certificate.
Early Childhood Education
You can earn a Standard Professional Early Childhood Education, Birth through Age 8 or Birth through Grade 3 certificate in Arizona. Candidates must show proof of completion of an accredited or state-approved teacher preparation program in early childhood education or proof of 37 semester hours of early childhood education courses in eight specific areas of study. In addition, you must have completed a minimum of eight semester hours of practicum or one year of full-time teaching experience with children in birth through preschool and one year with kindergarten through grade 3. A current out-of-state certificate in Early Childhood Education also meets this requirement.
Two types of assessments are required for this certificate. You must pass the Professional Knowledge Early Childhood section of the AEPA and the Subject Knowledge Early Childhood Education section of the AEPA. You can bypass both of these tests if you have either passing scores comparable early childhood education exams from another state, a current Early Childhood Generalist certificate from the NBPTS, or three years of full-time early childhood teaching experience in Arizona or another state.
Additional alternatives to the Subject Knowledge exam include: a bachelor’s or higher degree from an accredited institution in a relevant area; experience teaching relevant early childhood education courses in a post-secondary institution during the previous two years, and for a minimum total of at least three years; or at least five years of related work experience.
Elementary School Teacher
To teach as an elementary school teacher in Arizona, you must earn a Standard Professional Elementary Education, K-8 certificate. Candidates must complete an accredited or state-approved teacher preparation program in elementary education or show proof of 45 semester hours of education courses that include eight semester hours of practicum in grades one through eight. A current out-of-state certificate in Early Childhood Education or two years of verified, full-time teaching experience in prekindergarten through grade eight can be substituted for the practicum requirement.
In addition, you must pass: the NES or AEPA Assessment of Professional Knowledge: Elementary exam; and either the NES Subject Knowledge Elementary Education (Subtest I and II) exam or the AEPA Subject Knowledge exam. You can avoid taking these exams if you have either: passing scores from comparable elementary education exams from another state; a current comparable certificate from the NBPTS; or three years of full-time teaching experience in grades K-8 or special education grades K-12 in Arizona or another state.
Additional substitutes for the Subject Knowledge tests include: three years of teaching relevant elementary education courses in a post-secondary institution that includes the previous two years; a bachelor’s degree or higher in a relevant area; or proof of at least five years of relevant work experience.
Secondary School Teacher
Individuals seeking certification as a secondary school teacher in Arizona should pursue The Standard Professional Secondary Education 6-12 certificate. Qualifications include the completion of a state-approved teacher preparation program in secondary education or proof of 30 semester hours of education courses that include eight semester hours of practicum in grades 6 through 12. A valid out-of-state certificate in secondary education or two years of verified, full-time teaching experience in grades 6 through post-secondary can fulfill the practicum requirement.
You also are required to pass the NES or AEPA Assessment of Professional Knowledge: Secondary exam; and either an NES or AEPA Secondary Subject Knowledge exam. Substitutes for these exams include passing scores from similar secondary education exams from another state, a valid comparable certificate from the NBPTS or three years of full-time teaching experience in grades 6-12 in Arizona or another state.
Additional substitutes for the Subject Knowledge tests include a bachelor’s degree or higher in the subject area; three years of full-time teaching in the subject area in grades 9-12; teaching the subject area in a postsecondary institution for three years, that include the previous two years; or a minimum of five years of relevant work experience.
You also can pursue a Subject Matter Expert Standard Teaching 6-12 Certificate, which allows you to bypass the educational requirements for a Standard certificate if you can prove five years of work experience relevant to the subject area of certification. With this certificate, you are exempt from requirements for the Subject Knowledge tests and the U.S. and Arizona Constitution requirements. Upon issue of this certification, you have two years to pass the NES Assessment of Professional Knowledge: Secondary Exam. However, three years of postsecondary teaching experience can substitute for this requirement.
Substitute Teacher Certification
The substitute teacher certification in Arizona is called the Substitute, Pre-K-12 certificate. If you have a bachelor’s or higher degree from an accredited institution and an IVP fingerprint card, you can apply for this six-year renewable certification. A substitute teacher is limited to teaching fewer than 120 days in the same school each school year and is not eligible to work under a contract.
Physical Education (PE) Certification
Physical education teachers in Arizona can earn a Standard Professional Pre-K-12 Physical Education Certificate. Requirements include the completion of a state-approved teacher preparation program in PreK-12 physical education or proof of 33 semester hours of education or physical education courses that include 12 semester hours of practicum in grades PreK through 12, evenly split between elementary and secondary school. A valid out-of-state certificate in secondary education or two years of verified, full-time teaching experience in grades PreK through 12 can substitute for the practicum requirement.
You also are required to pass the NES or AEPA Assessment of Professional Knowledge: Elementary or Secondary exam; and the Subject Knowledge Physical Education portion of either an NES or AEPA Arizona Educator Exam. Substitutions for these include proof of passing similar physical education assessments in another state; a valid comparable certificate from the NBPTS; or three years of full-time teaching experience in grades preK-12 in Arizona or another state.
You also can bypass the Subject Knowledge tests if you have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a relevant content area; three years of full-time teaching relevant courses for three years in a postsecondary institution, including the previous two years; or a minimum of five years of relevant work experience in physical education.
Special Education Certification
You can earn one of five different types of Standard Special Education certificates in Arizona. Each one requires a completion of an approved teacher preparation program, and passing grades on the AEPA Professional Knowledge Early Childhood exam and the AEPA Subject Knowledge Early Childhood Special Education exam even if you are planning to teach at the secondary school level. Comparable out-of-state certificates or a combination of relevant education and work experience can meet specific certificate requirements when they match the type of certification being pursued.
English as a Second Language Certification
English as a Second Language (ESL) certification is awarded as an endorsement to a Standard Teaching certificate in Arizona. Candidates must be graduates of an approved teacher preparation program and fulfill all the requirements for the Standard certificate they are requesting. This endorsement can be awarded on a provisional basis if you don’t have all the requirements to meet full ESL endorsement at the time of your initial certification.
Certifications for School Administrators
Administrators in Arizona can apply for one of three administrative Standard PreK-12 certificates: Principal, Superintendent or Supervisor. Applicants must have a specialized Standard certificate from Arizona. In addition, they must present the appropriate master’s degree, coursework, experience and proof of passing the administrator exam portion of the AEPA that relates to their specific certification. Three years of employment in any state in a similar position for which they are applying for certification, or proof of a passing grade on a similar principal, superintendent or supervisor exam, can fulfill the assessment requirement.
Teaching Reciprocity Agreements in Arizona
If you are considering moving to Arizona and have a teaching certificate from another state, teaching reciprocity agreements can help you make the most of your existing education and professional experience. Teachers with valid out-of-state certifications can utilize their credentials to expedite their acquisition of a new certificate in Arizona.
|NASDTEC Interstate Agreement||Arizona participates in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement.|
|State Grants full Reciprocity||Arizona grants full reciprocity. Certificate candidates who have a comparable valid out-of-state license, are in good standing with their home state and hold a fingerprint clearance card are eligible for a Standard teaching certificate.|
|Coursework Requirements||Out-of-state teachers must prove knowledge of the United States Constitution and Arizona Constitution by passing related exams or taking approved coursework. Upon Standard certification, this requirement must be met within three years. However, if the teacher will be instructing in the areas of history, government, social studies, citizenship, law or civics, this requirement must be met within one year of receiving a Standard teaching certificate.|
|Test-out or Exemption||Teachers who pass state-approved exams on the United States Constitution and Arizona Constitution can bypass the requirement for coursework on these topics.|
|Assessment Requirements||Out-of-state teachers do not have specific assessment requirements. Teachers whose out-of-state credentials meet the standards for receiving a teaching license via reciprocity do not have to take exams. Candidates who do not meet the requirements for reciprocity can be exempted from taking the required exams on professional knowledge or subject knowledge if they have passed a similar exam in another state. Substitutions for the exams also include: three years of full-time teaching experience in the area of requested certification; three years of teaching experience in the subject area, including the preceding two consecutive years, at a postsecondary institution; a bachelor’s or higher degree; or five years of related work experience.|
|Different Requirements Based on Experience||All teaching candidates who are not eligible for a certificate via reciprocity must meet the same requirements for a Standard certificate, though past teaching experience can be used to meet some requirements for testing.|
|Performance Requirements||Out-of-state candidates seeking Arizona certification must be in good standing with their home state, but do not have to demonstrate proof of performance requirements.|
|Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials||Certification applicants who possess an out-of-state teaching certificate with advanced credentials are limited to a Standard certificate in Arizona because there are no advanced certificates awarded.|
Alternate Teaching Certification
Arizona does not offer alternate teaching certification. All qualified applicants for teaching certification are awarded a 12-year Standard teaching certificate upon meeting the requirements. However, there are alternative preparation programs that offer paths to Standard certification outside of a traditional four-year university program. These include programs offered by school districts and charter schools and the online American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE).
Teach for America
Teach for America is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to support education equality in the United States. In Arizona, Teach for America members live and work in the school districts that serve Phoenix. The organization recruits college graduates who demonstrate leadership qualities. Members are trained to earn teaching certificates before they assume teaching positions during the school year. You can find more details about Teach for America’s opportunities in Arizona here.
Transition into Teaching for Career Changers
Arizona targets career changers interested in pursuing teacher certification for participation in the Arizona Teachers Academy. Introduced in 2017 to help solve the severe shortage of qualified teachers in Arizona, the program offers free tuition to pursue a degree in education at one of the state’s three public universities: University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University. Graduates are obligated to teach for one year in any high-needs school in Arizona.
Acceptance into the Arizona Teachers Academy is limited by annual budget amounts. The first step toward program participation is to gain entrance into an eligible educational program at one of the participating universities. After acceptance, you can apply for the Arizona Teachers Academy through the participating institution.