How to Earn Teacher Certification in Georgia
In the state of Georgia, there are several paths you can take on your way to working as a teacher. Your current level of education and professional experience may influence the road to certification and licensure that’s right for you.
Whether you’re looking to start teaching but first need to earn a degree, or you’re already a certified teacher in another state, here’s everything you need to know to get started.
Read on for essential information on teaching careers in Georgia.
Teaching in Georgia: Fast Facts
According to the National Education Association, Georgia had a total of 119,491 teachers working in 2022. By 2031, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of secondary teaching jobs in Georgia is projected to grow by roughly 5%.
However, Georgia is currently experiencing a shortage in English, math, and elementary educators. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, many teachers in Georgia could also be approaching retirement age, with nearly 20% having over 20 years of experience.
If you’re looking to teach in Georgia, here are some other important numbers you should know:
- Median salary for secondary school teachers: $61,640
- Average education level: Nearly 30% hold a bachelor’s degree and nearly 44% hold a master’s
- Students per teacher: Just over 15, roughly equal to the national average
- Expenditure per student: $10,010, 16% less than the national average
Georgia Teacher Certification Requirements
No matter your education level or experience, you’ll need to meet the state’s requirements to become certified if you want to work as a teacher in Georgia. Teachers must be certified by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC), which grants entry-level certification to both new teachers and those who are already certified in other states.
How to Earn Georgia Teacher Certification
There are 4 pathways to initial certification in Georgia. The path that’s right for you will depend on your prior education and experience. The pathways for certification are:
- Pathway 1: For new teachers looking to complete their education and training in Georgia
- Pathway 2: For those who have finished an approved education program in another state but plan to do their student teaching or other postgraduate fieldwork in Georgia
- Pathway 3: For those who have completed their education and fieldwork in another state but want to be licensed in Georgia
- Pathway 4: For those who are in a non-traditional program approved by the GaPSC, are working toward their teaching certification, and are employed by a Local Unit of Administration (LUA). LUAs can include public, private, or charter schools.
Following one of these pathways allows you to earn your Induction certificate as an early career educator or an educator new to the state of Georgia.
1. Meet minimum education requirements
To teach full time in Georgia, you’ll need to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in education from an accredited program. The GaPSC maintains a list of approved programs that meet its standards for teacher preparation.
To begin a program, you’ll first need to take the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE) admission exam or have satisfactory scores on your SATs, ACTs, or Praxis I exam.
If you hold a bachelor’s degree in a different area, you’ll need to complete a GaPSC-approved educator preparation program before you can begin student teaching or apply to take your exams. These programs don’t lead to an additional degree, but do allow you to work as a teacher in Georgia.
However, if you already hold a bachelor’s in education, you won’t need to complete a prep program before moving on to your exams. The only requirements are that you earned your degree within the last 10 years and graduated with a GPA of 2.5 or higher.
2. Complete student teaching requirement
If you’re earning your education through a GaPSC-approved program, student teaching will be part of your coursework. You’ll complete supervised fieldwork at local Georgia schools, working with students in the age range and specialty that you’re seeking certification in. You’ll also need to complete 1 full semester of student teaching.
But before you can do any fieldwork or student teaching in Georgia, you’ll first need to earn your Pre-Service certificate. To do so, you’ll need to:
- Be enrolled in a GaPSC-approved program
- Pass a criminal background check administered by the GaPSC
- Pass the Program Entry Ethics assessment conducted by GACE
The Pre-Service certificate is typically valid for up to 5 years, but can be extended at the request of your teacher preparation program.
3. Pass Georgia teacher certification tests
Once you’ve completed a GaPSC-approved program, you’ll be able to take the certification exams administered by the GACE. All candidates seeking to work in education in the state of Georgia must pass the GACE Ethics assessment. As of 2015, all candidates must also pass the Content Pedagogy test, designed to measure knowledge and skills in the areas of student development, instruction, and assessment.
Other exams you’ll be required to pass will depend on the grade level and subject you plan on teaching. A full list of which exams are needed for specific specialties can be found on the GACE website.
4. Apply for GaPSC Certification
After your education, fieldwork, and testing are done, you’ll need to apply for certification through GaPSC. You can apply online or with a mailed-in application. You’ll also need to provide the following information:
- Official transcripts of your coursework, including work done in an educator preparation program, if applicable
- Signed verification forms documenting your fieldwork and student teaching
- Scores for GACE assessments and any other required exams, with a score of at least 220 on your Content assessment
- Proof of your ability to legally work in the U.S. through a Proof of Lawful Presence form and other supporting documentation
- Employment information from a LUA
If you’re not currently employed by an LUA, you won’t receive an Induction certificate. However, if you meet all the other requirements, you’ll be given a Certificate of Eligibility that can be converted to an educator certificate once you’ve found employment.
Receiving your professional certification in Georgia
An Induction certificate in Georgia is designed for the first 3 years of your teaching career. As you gain more experience, you’ll need to apply for the professional level of certification. To do so, you’ll need to:
- Have at least 3 years of experience in an LUA within the past 5 years
- Achieve a professional level score of at least 250 on your GACE Content assessment
- Receive at least 2 Proficient or Exemplary Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES) annual performance ratings
- Be currently employed at an LUA
Renewing Georgia teacher certification
Georgia professional teaching certification is valid for 5 years. You’ll also need to meet additional requirements to make sure you can renew your certification when the time comes. You’ll need to:
- Have an updated criminal background check completed
- Be employed by an LUA
- Have received satisfactory performance evaluations from your employer
Currently, Georgia is reworking its continuing education requirements. At this time, you don’t need to complete additional coursework to maintain your certification, however, most LUAs will require continuing coursework as part of your employment.
Georgia Teacher Certification Reciprocity
Georgia accepts teaching certification from all other states, including Washington, D.C., but it doesn’t grant full reciprocity to teaching certifications from any state. You’ll need to take a few extra steps before you can begin working in Georgia. These include:
- The Georgia Ethics assessment
- Coursework in special education
- GaPSC Content exams in your area of specialization, unless you’ve achieved satisfactory scores on comparable Praxis exams in the past 5 years
- The Content Pedagogy assessment
- A Georgia background check
In some cases, you may be able to use testing and coursework done in your current state to fulfill these requirements.
Alternative Teacher Certification in Georgia
If you currently have a bachelor’s or higher degree in a different subject, you can follow Pathway 4 to earn your teacher certification. There are a couple ways to do this.
- The Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy (GaTAPP) allows individuals who have been hired at an LUA but don’t hold an education degree to earn their certification. These programs are designed to encourage and support people looking to make a career change and enter the teaching profession. They’re built for working teachers and include mentorship from experienced professionals. Participants are given 3 years to complete the program. Once completed, you’ll need to take all the steps outlined earlier, including passing the GACE exams.
- If you have a bachelor’s degree in another area but don’t participate in GaTAPP, you can apply for a Georgia Non-Renewable Certificate. This certificate allows you to teach at an LUA while completing the needed coursework and other requirements of your educator preparation program.
Teach for America
Teach for America is a nationwide nonprofit that sends qualified educators to in-need school districts across the country. Applicants to the program must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher and must have demonstrated leadership abilities. Participants then complete an intensive training program to prepare them to teach and help them qualify for certification. In Georgia, Teach for America participants work in the Atlanta metro area.
Substitute Teacher Certification
If you’re just starting out, working as a substitute teacher can be a good way to gain experience. In Georgia, substitute teachers are required to have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED and take a 4-hour course administered by an LUA.
LUAs maintain a list of eligible substitutes, with information that includes level of education and performance at prior assignments. If you have a diploma or GED, you’ll only be able to replace a teacher for up to 10 consecutive days. If you have a bachelor’s degree but not certification, you can replace a teacher for up to 46 days.
Many prospective educators are active on substitute lists while earning their certifications. Working as a substitute can let you to build your resume and make connections in LUAs, as well as help you determine what area of teaching is right for you.
Teacher Salaries in Georgia
Teaching salaries in Georgia will be affected by your LUA and your levels of experience and education. According to the 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median salaries for high school teachers in Georgia are:
Median Hourly WageN/A
|Metro area||Median Salary||Bottom 10%||Top 10%|
|Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA||$75,330||$48,130||$98,260|
|Athens-Clarke County, GA||$61,220||$39,250||$77,510|
|Warner Robins, GA||$60,040||$46,650||$94,610|
|Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC||$59,620||$38,030||$77,510|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.
Job Growth for High School Teachers through 2031
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2021
How advanced degrees impact salary
In Georgia, roughly 44% of teachers hold a master’s degree. In many LUAs, the salary you qualify for will be affected by your education. For example, if you’re hired at $50,000, your salary growth could be capped at $58,000 if you don’t hold an advanced degree, no matter how many years of experience you have.
Teacher Shortage Areas & Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Georgia is currently experiencing teacher shortages in the following subject areas:
- Elementary education
Georgia is in the process of reworking its standards for teacher preparation and development, so as these changes roll out, job opportunities and salaries may continue to increase.
Additional Teaching Endorsements & Specialty Certifications
Depending on what you want to teach, you may need to add a special endorsement or certification to your initial teacher certification. These might require additional GACE testing or GaPSC-approved coursework.
Specialties that require additional state-approved certification programs and additional GACE testing include:
- Elementary school education
- Secondary school education
- Physical education
- English as a second language
Specialties that require additional state-approved coursework include:
- Special education
- Early childhood education
Certifications for school administrators
If you’re looking to advance your career, you might consider earning a certificate in school administration. These advanced-level certificates might require fieldwork, additional GACE testing, or additional degree coursework such as for a master’s degree. The average salary for elementary and secondary administrators in Georgia is reported to be $95,650, with a projected job growth of 8% across the country.
Certificate vs Certification
A certificate is awarded by an educational institution, and signifies that a student has satisfactorily completed a given curriculum. Certificate programs can help students prepare for certification exams.
A certification is generally awarded by a trade group after an individual has met certain professional requirements (e.g. earned a specific degree, worked professionally in a given field for a set amount of time, etc.) and passed a certification exam.
In short, a certificate is evidence that someone has completed an educational program, while a certification denotes that someone has met a certain set of professional criteria and/or passed an exam.
Not all programs offered are designed to meet state educator licensing or advancement requirements; however, it may assist candidates in gaining these approvals in their state of residence depending on those requirements. Contact the state board of education in the applicable state(s) for requirements.
Financial Aid & Loan Forgiveness for Georgia Teachers
If you meet certain requirements, you might qualify for student loan forgiveness. For example, by teaching in an LUA that serves a high number of low-income families, you may be able to get student loan forgiveness from the Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation Program, the Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. In 2018, over 2,100 LUAs qualified as low-income.
Finding Georgia Teaching Jobs
If you’re ready to look for teaching jobs in Georgia, there are many sites you can check for opportunities. These include: