How to Earn Teacher Certification in Hawaii

If you’ve thought about becoming a teacher in the state of Hawaii, your first step is to understand the process and earn certification. While there are several pathways to doing this, your options depend on your current level of education and experience.

This guide can help you determine what’s right for you at any point in your career. Whether you’re just beginning your journey and need to know about Hawaii’s certification process, you’re seeking an endorsement in a specialty area, or you’re a teacher looking to move to Hawaii from elsewhere, 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 Hawaii.

Teaching Requirements

There are two major requirements to become a teacher in Hawaii:

  • Complete a state-approved teacher education program from an accredited institution
  • Get passing grades on the appropriate Praxis exams

According to the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board, all Hawaii Department of Education and Charter School teachers are required to have a current, valid license and go through a structured interview. You are then in a probationary period. Teachers are eligible for tenure after four consecutive semesters of probation. In some cases, teachers can begin teaching without fully meeting some standards, but this employment can only last a maximum of three years, and these teachers can’t be tenured.

Learn about provisional, standard and advanced teacher licenses by contacting the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board or an accredited teacher education school to get the training you need to become a teacher in Hawaii. And do keep in mind the convenient online education options that can help you fit teacher training into your busy life. Continue reading on to get a complete, comprehensive understanding of all the necessary requirements, licenses and certifications needed to begin your teaching career in Hawaii.

Minimum Education Requirements for Hawaii State Teachers

Every state requires certified teachers earn at least a bachelor’s degree. In Hawaii, there are four licenses available, each with additional educational and experience requirements.

Provisional License: This is a NASDTEC Stage 2 License, which is issued to those who have a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program but have not yet had three years of full-time teaching experience in the last five years. This is nonrenewable license is valid for three years.

Standard License: This NASDTEC Stage 3 License is issued to those who have a bachelor’s degree, complete a state-approved teacher education program and have at least three years of full-time teaching within the last five years in Hawaii or another state. This renewable license is good for five years.

Career and Technical Education Standard Limited License: This restricts teachers to be assigned to teach the content field that is indicated on their license. You must have at least three years of industry experience in the respective field. This renewable license is good for five years.

Advanced License: Also known as a NASDTEC Stage 4 License, this license requires individuals to have a minimum of a master’s degree or the equivalent, complete a Hawaii approved teacher preparation program and have at least five years of teaching experience within the last eight years in Hawaii or another state. This renewable license stands for 10 years.

Student Teaching

All teacher education programs include a student teaching component. In Hawaii, certification candidates are required to have a minimum of 10 weeks-worth of student teaching hours completed in order to get certified by the state. Keep in mind that student teaching is different than an internship in that it is unpaid and required in order to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in education. Visit the National Council on Teacher Quality website to learn more about student teaching.

Pass Hawaii State Certification Exams

Hawaii requires prospective teachers pass the appropriate Praxis exams. Unless you are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, you are required to pass the Praxis exam and may be required to take one of the Praxis Subject Assessments for a selected content area.


Applying for certification in Hawaii will depend on your experience and background. For teachers who hold a standard license in Hawaii or another state and for those with a National Board for Professional Teaching Standard certificate, will need to apply for an advanced license. If you do not hold any teaching licenses or certificates, you will need to apply for the standard license.

All applicants must complete the application through the Hawaii Teachers Standards Board website as long as they have completed a state-approved educator preparation program. You will also need official transcripts, and you will need to be able to demonstrate basic skills and content knowledge. Basic skills can be verified through your bachelor’s degree, while content knowledge can be verified through licensure tests in specific content fields; a content major in the content field from a bachelor’s degree; 30 credit hours of coursework in the content field; or an advanced degree from a regionally accredited institution or National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification in the content field. For elementary education (K-6), you must have a total of 36 semester hours, including nine semester hours in each of the following: language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. At least three of these must be upper division credits.

You must also pay a license fee once your license is activated.

How Much Do Teachers in Hawaii Make?

Teachers in Hawaii work in cities large and small, and in rural communities on every island. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics, secondary school teachers in Hawaii make a median salary of $62,060.

The benefits are great too: healthcare and retirement, tax deferral programs, flexible spending accounts, you name it. To get a better idea of the salary range for various teachers in Hawaii, check out the data chart below comparing different teacher specialties:

salary outlook
Position Median Salary
Early Childhood Educator $37,080
Elementary School Teacher $63,110
Secondary School Teacher $62,060
Special Education Teacher $32,460
School Administrator $98,380


Job Growth for High School Teachers through 2031

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2021

Specialty Certifications

Certifications for teaching go beyond grade levels. There are instances where you will need extra or different certifications depending on the teaching specialty of your preference. Read on to learn more about specialty certifications in Hawaii. Also keep in mind that regardless of your specialty, you will need a bachelor’s degree at the very least for any of the teaching specialties listed below.

Early Childhood Education


In order to teach early childhood education, you will need to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. You will also need to get your early childhood teacher certification which usually includes kindergarten through grade 3.

Elementary School Teacher


To become an elementary teacher in Hawaii, you will need to have your bachelor’s degree and earn your elementary teacher certification which includes kindergarten through grade 6.

Secondary School Teacher


In order to work in secondary education, you will have to earn a teacher certification as well as adding one or more subject area endorsements. For example, if you wanted to teach math in high school, you would need a teacher certification with a math endorsement.

Substitute Teacher Certification


Unless you received your bachelor’s degree in any given area, you have to complete a substitute teacher course at the Community School for Adults in order to get certified in Hawaii. In some cases, you may complete certification with a high school diploma or its equivalent while also successfully completing one or more competency exams.

Physical Education (PE) Certification


Along with earning your bachelor’s degree and your state license and certifications, you may also need to complete a certification through the Society for Health and Physical Educators. This requirement may also be fulfilled by completing a master’s degree in education. Find out more about the certification requirements for PE teachers in Hawaii by visiting the state department of education page.

Special Education Certification


Special education certification requires that teachers not only earn their bachelor’s degree and licenses, but also requires them to complete a special education certification, which includes grades K-12. You can also enroll in a program that specializes in your area of interest, such as learning disabilities or early childhood special education.

English as a Second Language Certification


English as a second language, or ESL, certification requires that teachers earn a bachelor’s degree in education. Along with earning your degree, you will have to get certified and licensed by the state of Hawaii, while also earning an ESL certification endorsement.

Certifications for School Administrators


Certification for school administrators in Hawaii differs slightly to certification for teachers. To get certified as a school administrator, you need to complete a two-year program through the Hawaii Certification Institute for School Leaders funded by the Hawaii Department of Education.

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.

Teaching Reciprocity Agreements in Hawaii

One way to make your teaching transition smoother is to consider getting nationally certified through the National Board for Professional Teaching (NBTP). Although you will still have to apply for a state license, having certification through the NBTP will make certification easier and faster than applying for certification as a teacher without any prior licenses or certifications. Below is a general guideline to better understand the process for those seeking teaching reciprocity in Hawaii.

NASDTEC Interstate Agreement Hawaii is a participating state with NASDTEC.
State Grants Full Reciprocity Yes. Hawaii has full reciprocity for out-of-state applicants awarded their first license on July 1, 2006, or after.
Coursework Requirements No, although candidates who do not meet the experience requirements or who have completed an educator preparation program but who do not hold a license in another state must meet content knowledge requirements to receive a Standard License.
Test-out or Exemption No, the state does not have additional coursework requirements in place.
Assessment Requirements In Hawaii, there are two forms of assessment requirements, basic skills and content knowledge.
Different Requirements Based on Experience There are two forms of licensure in Hawaii based on experience-a Standard License or an Advanced License. If you have a teacher certification from another state, a certificate from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards or no certification at all you will need to apply for a Standard license. If you hold a Standard license in another state and have at least five years of satisfactory experience within the last eight years from another state you will need to apply for an Advanced License.
Performance Requirements You will need to verify three out of the last five years of satisfactory full-time teaching in another state.
Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials Yes, Hawaii’s out-of-state applicants are eligible for an Advanced License if they have at least five years of satisfactory full-time teaching experience within the last eight years, and hold a master’s, specialist or doctoral degree or a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certificate.

Alternate Teaching Certification

Alternate teaching certification serves as a tool for individuals who plan to pursue education as a career and are coming from a different job sector. It also serves as a tool to help increase teacher output for schools that are experiencing shortages of instructors. In either case, Hawaii offers alternate teaching certification so it is easier than ever to start your journey and pursue your passion for teaching.

Teach for America

Teach for America is a nationwide program that aims to supply high-needs areas with qualified teaching candidates. The organization spans across 53 regions and includes a Hawaiian chapter-Teach for America-Hawaii.

In order to apply, you will need to complete the application on the Teach for America website. Before you apply, please note that you must have a bachelor’s degree and have maintained a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5. You must also provide proof of U.S. citizenship, national/permanent resident status, or deferred action for childhood arrivals. Another thing to consider before the application process is Teach for America’s two-year commitment to the program.

Once you begin the process, you will complete a series of in-person and phone interviews. If you are offered a position, you will make two important decisions. The first will be ranking 10 regions, from your first and last choice that you want to teach out of. The second will be ranking subject matters that you would like to teach and that you feel qualified to teach. You will then be assigned a region and subject matter which then requires you to complete a state-approved educator assessment to be qualified to teach that subject. The last step before you move to your new region will be completing a month-long intensive orientation, called “Institute,” in which you will be taking phone interviews that are coordinated by Teach for America members with different schools in your region to find the school that is right for you. Once you have completed Institute, found a teaching position and have moved to your new region, you will begin teaching. During your two-year teaching commitment, you will also be taking classes that work towards earning a teaching certification.

Transition into Teaching for Career Changers

It is not uncommon for people to transition into teaching as a second-career. Before considering your new career in teaching please keep in mind that regardless of your previous experience, you will need at the very least a bachelor’s degree to complete alternative certification for teaching. A popular way to become a teacher after working in a different job sector is to look into alternative certification through the American Board or The New Teacher Project. While The New Teacher Project aims to recruit recent college graduates as well as professionals who are transitioning into teaching as a second career, the American Board aims to recruit teachers who are working professionals, people with families and often times a combination of the two. The American Board prides itself on the ability to guide you towards earning a teaching certificate through an online program. Once enrolled, you will have a year to study, take and pass two certification exams, one being a subject area exam and the other being a professional teacher knowledge exam. Once you successfully complete the exams, you will be awarded an American Board Teacher Certification.

Emergency Teaching Credentials

Often times, states like Hawaii have critical teacher shortages. Because of this, the state will extend temporary and emergency licenses that are meant to bypass state licensing requirements. Most of the time, these individuals are able to teach high-need subject areas like math or science. In other cases, emergency teacher licenses are given to individuals to teach in high-need geographic areas such as urban schools and schools in lower-income communities. In any case, these emergency licenses are a great way to quickly transition into a career as a teacher while also providing much-needed assistance to schools and students. To find out more about how to apply for an emergency hire permit in Hawaii, visit the Reference Guide to Teacher Licensure on the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board website.