How to Earn a Teaching License in Iowa

Iowa is a great state for teachers, and if you decide to be a teacher in Iowa, your first step is to earn teacher 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 the pathway that’s right for you at any point in your career. Perhaps you’re beginning your journey and need to know about Iowa’s teacher certification process. Or maybe you want to learn how to progress to advanced certification or a specialized endorsement, or you’re a teacher looking to move to Iowa from another state.

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 Iowa.

Iowa Teacher Requirements Overview

The Iowa Department of Education grants the responsibility of regulating the standards and issuance of all Iowa teaching certifications to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners. The Board offers educators three levels of certification:

Initial License: All new educators should seek to earn this entry-level certification. It is valid for two years and can be renewed only twice. To renew, you must complete mandatory reporter training for child and dependent adult abuse. To renew the license a second time, you must provide proof of employment that will lead to a standard license.

Standard License: Converting your initial license into a standard requires applicants to teach for two years within their endorsement area in an Iowa public school, or for three years in any combination of public, private or out-of-state accredited schools. You will also be expected to participate in a mentoring and induction program. This license is valid for five years and can be renewed by completing six renewal credits and the mandatory reporter training for child and dependent adult abuse.

Master Educator: Applicants seeking to convert from a standard to master educator license must have a master’s degree in a recognized endorsement area, or curriculum, effective teaching, or a focus on school curriculum or instruction. You must also have five years of teaching experience and meet the renewal requirements for the standard license. The license is valid for five years and can be renewed by completing four renewal credits and the mandatory reporter training for child and dependent adult abuse.

Minimum Education Requirements for Iowa Teachers

Iowa teacher certification candidates must earn a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program to be eligible for licensure. The preparation program is often combined with your degree program, if the degree is in education. Make sure that your program and degree are specific to the grade level and subject you want to teach.

Student Teaching

Your teacher preparation program will include a student teaching experience. This experience will give you a chance to put your learned teaching knowledge to practical use. Primarily, it will give you a chance to practice your skills in the classroom of an experienced teacher. That teacher will guide you through their style of classroom management and give you a chance to try it out on your own, while giving you feed-back as necessary.

Pass Iowa Certification Exams

All Iowa educators must pass certain assessments that test their knowledge and skills. Your preparation program should prepare you for passing these exams. At a minimum you will be expected to pass the edTPA that relates to your area of endorsement and a pedagogy and content exam, offered by Praxis to gain licensure. You can find more information on endorsements and their related tests in the Certification Endorsements section below.


Iowa has an online system for teacher certification applicants to submit their applications. Prior to completing an application, you will need to obtain a recommendation from your program administrator. When you start an application you should make sure that your official college transcripts and all passing test scores have been sent to the Board, these will be needed to process your application. Applications typically take about four to six weeks to process. You can check to see if your license has been approved here.

How Much Do Teachers in Iowa Make?

When looking at the teacher salaries listed below, you should consider that they are not guaranteed to be the exact salary you will earn as a teacher in Iowa. New teachers will often earn at or below the listed salary, while experienced teachers or teachers with higher education levels can earn at or above the listed salary. Your salary will also vary depending on the school you work in.

salary outlook
Position Median Salary
Early Childhood Educator $28,800
Elementary School Teacher $59,430
Secondary School Teacher $59,820
Special Education Teacher $63,130
Education Administrator $100,270


Job Growth for High School Teachers through 2031

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

Specialty Certifications

The certification you earn to teach in Iowa must be endorsed. That endorsement certifies you to work with a specific grade level and teach a specific subject. To earn an endorsement you will need to pass the appropriate exams. Before registering for any exams you should check with your program advisor to see which exams apply to you.

Keep in mind that to earn an endorsed certification you will also need to complete all of the requirements discussed at the beginning of this article, in addition to the testing requirements discussed below.

Early Childhood Education


Early childhood educators in Iowa should pass the edTPA that their program advises them to take and the Praxis Principles of Teaching and Learning: Early Childhood with a qualifying score of 158.

From there, candidates will have a choice of which Praxis content test to take depending on the exact early childhood endorsement they seek to earn. For a Pre-K-K or a Pre-K- Grade 3 endorsement, candidates should take the Early Childhood Education exam and pass with a 151 or higher. Candidates interested in earning a Pre-K –Grade 3, including Special Education endorsement, will need to earn a 172 or higher on the Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education exam.

Elementary School Teacher


Elementary school teachers in Iowa are certified to teach K-6. In terms of the edTPA you will have three testing options: Elementary Literacy, Elementary Mathematics, or Elementary Education. Your program will indicate which one of these tests you should take.

There are two Praxis exams those seeking an elementary endorsement should take and pass: Principles of Teaching and Learning: Grades K–6 with a score of 167 or higher and Elementary Education: Content Knowledge with a score of at least 152.

Middle and Secondary School Teacher


The exams offered for middle school teacher candidates vary greatly depending on the subject you plan on teaching. While all candidates will need to pass the Praxis Principles of Teaching and Learning: Grades 5-9 with a score of 165 or higher, the edTPA and content Praxis have many more options. You should take the exam that aligns with the content area you seek to teach. Consult your program advisor to ensure that you are taking the right test.

Teachers at the secondary level will need to pass the Praxis Principles of Teaching and Learning: Grades 7-12 exam with a 166 or higher to gain certification. Similar to the middle school level certification, secondary candidates will have many testing options for the edTPA and the content Praxis. You must pass the exam that corresponds to the subject area you completed your teacher preparation program in. If you are unsure of what exam to take, check with your program advisor.

Substitute Teacher Certification


To become a substitute teacher in Iowa you must gain Substitute Authorization. A substitute authorization allows individuals to substitute teach for all grades, PK-12. However, a substitute cannot teach in a long-term sub assignment and for no more than five days in a row or 10 days in a month for any one assignment. Applicants need to hold a bachelor’s degree and complete an approved substitute authorization course. The authorization is valid for five years and can be renewed by earning two renewal credits and completing the mandatory reporter training for child and dependent adult abuse. This option is for applicants who are not eligible for an Iowa teaching license.

If you are eligible to receive, or have ever held, an Iowa teacher certification, you are eligible to gain a Substitute License. This license is valid for five years and can be renewed by earning one renewal credit or completing 30 days of substitute teaching during the term of the license. You will also need to complete the mandatory reporter training for child and dependent adult abuse.

Physical Education (PE) Certification


PE teachers in Iowa can earn their endorsement in one of two grade ranges, K-8 or 5-12. For K-8 and 5-12 candidates you will need to pass the edTPA Physical Education with a 41 or higher and the Physical Education: Content and Design Praxis exam with a 159 or higher.

Additionally, K-8 candidates will need to pass the Praxis for Principles of Teaching and Learning: Grades K–6 with a score of 167 or higher, while 5-12 PE teacher candidates will need to take the Principles of Teaching and Learning: Grades 5-12 and pass with a 166 or higher.

Special Education Certification


There are a variety of endorsements you can earn to teach special education. Each endorsement area is specific to special education population:

Deaf or Hard of Hearing Birth–21
Early Childhood Special Education
Instructional Strategist II: BD/LD K–12
Instructional Strategist II: MD K–12
Instructional Strategist II: Physically Handicapped K–12
Visually Impaired Birth–21

Each endorsement area has a corresponding edTPA exam and two Praxis exams that you must take to earn certification. While the testing content will vary depending on the test you are taking, each exam will test your teaching skills and knowledge for the special education population that you are seeking to earn an endorsement for.

English as a Second Language Certification


There are three exams that an ESL teacher in Iowa must take to gain certification. First is the edTPA for English as Additional Language. All candidates must pass this exam with a 41 or higher. Second is the Praxis Principles of Teaching and Learning exam that corresponds to the grade level you seek to teach and the third will be the Praxis exam for English to Speakers of Other Languages; you must pass this exam with a score of 168 or higher. Check with your teacher preparation program advisor before signing up for an exam, as your testing requirements may vary.

Certifications for School Administrators


All candidates for an Iowa administrator license must hold or be eligible for an Iowa teacher certification and be able to verify three years of teaching experience. In addition, you must complete a master’s degree and the requirements for earning an administrative endorsement. These requirements include specific administrative coursework, including a planned field experience.

There are two main levels of certification offered at the administrative level in Iowa. There is also an additional administrative license offered for eligible out-of-state candidates.

Initial Administrator License: The initial administrator license is the entry-level certification and is valid for one year. This license can only be renewed twice. To renew the license you must complete the mandatory reporter training for child and dependent adult abuse. The final renewal will require proof that you have gained employment as a PK-12 administrator.

Professional Administrator License: To convert from the initial to the professional administrator license, applicants will need to work as an administrator in an Iowa public school for one year or for at least two years in a private or out-of-state school. Iowa public school administrators must participate in a mentoring program during this time. The license is valid for five years and can be renewed. To renew the Iowa professional administrator license, you must earn four renewal credits, including an approved evaluator training course. Additionally, you will be expected to complete the reporter training for child and dependent adult abuse.

Administrator Exchange License: This license is issued to out-of-state applicants who are eligible for an administrative license, but have coursework deficiencies that they must complete to gain full licensure. When the coursework deficiency has been completed, you will be eligible to apply for one of the above licenses. This level of license is valid for one year. Although the license is non-renewable, it may be extended for one additional year in order to meet the requirements.

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 Iowa

The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) created the Interstate Agreement as a means of encouraging the movement of teachers between states in an effort to fill teacher shortages. States who participate in this agreement create a statement of reciprocity. This statement is meant to clearly outline what requirements out-of-state teacher will need to meet if they hope to transfer their license and begin teaching in a new state.

NASDTEC Interstate Agreement Yes, Iowa does participate.
State Grants Full Reciprocity No, some candidates will need to complete additional requirements.
Coursework Requirements When you apply for reciprocity, the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners will conduct a transcript review. If you are eligible for licensure, but have coursework deficiencies, you will be awarded a two-year Regional Exchange License. While you hold this license you can complete the coursework requirements and teach.
Test-out or Exemption No, if the board deems that you need to complete additional coursework requirements, then they must be completed.
Assessment Requirements Out-of-state candidates who have less than three years of teaching experience on a valid license and who completed their teacher preparation program after January 1, 2013, must complete the Praxis II Pedagogy and Content Assessments or the edTPA prior to becoming licensed in Iowa.
Different Requirements Based on Experience Out-of-state candidates with less than three years of teaching experience may be eligible to receive an Initial License, valid for two years and renewable up to two times. These candidates must complete the required Iowa assessments prior to receiving a Standard License if they completed their program after January 1, 2013. Out-of-state candidates with three or more years of teaching experience on a valid license are eligible to receive a Standard License.
Performance Requirements You are not required to meet performance requirements as an out-of-state teacher.
Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials Iowa has three main licensure levels: Initial, Standard and Master Educator. Applicants with more than three years of teaching experience on a valid license and who meet all other requirements are eligible for a Standard License. Applicants with five years of teaching experience on a valid license and who meet all other requirements (including having a recognized master’s degree and meeting renewal requirements for a Standard License) are eligible for a Master Educator License.

Information reported by the Education Commission of the States.

Alternate Teaching Certification

When the traditional path to teacher certification doesn’t work for you, look to alternative pathways. They may be a better fit and allow you to start teaching more quickly.

Transition into Teaching for Career Changers

If you are a career professional looking to transition into teaching, Iowa’s Alternative Licensure Intern Teacher Program could work for you. One of the main benefits of this program is that you can work as a paid teacher while you complete the program requirements.

Right off the bat, program members must earn their teacher intern license. You can be eligible to do this by completing an introductory coursework program in pedagogy that includes 50 hand-on hours of field experience with students. If you are able to successfully complete this introductory program, then you can qualify for the teacher intern license. The license allows you to complete a one year paid teaching internship as a high school teacher.

While you complete the internship, your program will be in constant communication with the school district or school that you have employment with to ensure that the internship is going smoothly. As an intern teacher you will receive extensive supervision and you must participate in a state-approved mentoring and induction program. You will also need to complete a teacher intern seminar that serves as a continuation of the teacher intern introductory program. After completing the internship you will be expected to complete additional coursework before being eligible for an initial teaching license. Once the internship, program and additional coursework have all been completed you will be eligible to apply for your initial license.

At this time, two programs are approved in Iowa: Morningside College and Regents Alternative Pathway to Iowa Licensure (RAPIL)