How to Earn Teacher Certification in Michigan

If you’ve thought about becoming a teacher in Michigan, your first step, after completing your degree program, will be to earn your 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 which pathway is right for you at any point in your career. If you’re just beginning your journey and need to know about the Michigan state certification process, we’ve listed the steps you need to take. Maybe you want to learn how to progress to advanced certification and a specialized teaching endorsement-or you’re a teacher looking to move to Michigan from another 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 Michigan.

Michigan Department of Education Teaching Requirements

To become a certified teacher in Michigan you will want to obtain your standard teacher certification. Beyond that, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) offers two types of teacher certification: professional and advanced professional.

Standard Certification: This is the entry-level certification in Michigan. It is valid for five years and can be renewed an unlimited number of times while you work towards earning a professional certification. To gain this license you must have a CPR and first aid training certification and pass a federal background check. You must also meet education and assessment requirements, which you can find below.

Professional Certification: After holding a standard certification you may advance to a professional certification by meeting these four requirements: complete three years of successful teaching; complete six semester hours of reading methods course work as an elementary teacher, or three as a secondary teacher; complete three semester hours of reading diagnostics and remediation, including a field experience; and complete 150 hours of education-related professional learning or hold an education related master’s degree. The certification is valid for five years and can be renewed.

Advanced Professional Certification: This is the highest level of teacher certification offered by the MDE. You must hold a professional certification to be considered as an applicant. You must also complete an approved Michigan Teacher Leader program or gain certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. To be considered eligible, you should have highly effective educator ratings on three of your last five annual teacher evaluations and have no ineffective ratings on the last five. This certification is also valid for five years and can be renewed.

Meet the Minimum Education Requirements

All candidates must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in education. In addition, you must complete an MDE approved teacher preparation program. The teacher preparation program must be focused on the grade level and subject matter that you intend to gain certification in. You must gain a recommendation from your program to apply for licensure.

Complete a Student Teaching Prep Program

Your teacher preparation program should include a student teaching experience. In fact, most programs require that you complete a designated amount of in-field hours. By completing this experience you will be able to see how your learned teaching skills will translate into a practical hands-on experience. Throughout this experience you will work one-on-one with an experienced teacher who will give you feedback on your performance.

Pass Michigan Certification Exams

The basic skills exam that educators in Michigan must pass is the SAT. Previously, the Professional Readiness Exam (PRE) was required. The required passing scores for the SAT are 530 in mathematics and 480 for evidence-based reading and writing.

In addition to the SAT, all teacher candidates must pass the appropriate Michigan Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC). The exact exam you must take will vary depending on the subject and grade level you plan on earning your certification in. For a detailed description of required certification exams, see the Certification Types section below.


All applications for licensure can be submitted through the Michigan Online Educator Certification System (MOECS). You are eligible to apply for licensure once you have completed all of the MDE requirements, such as holding a CPR/First Aid certification, holding a bachelor’s degree, passing all required exams, passing a background check, and gaining a recommendation from your teacher preparation program.

Once your application has been submitted the MDE will review your submitted information. If they deem you eligible for licensure, you will be issued a standard teacher certification.

How Much Do Teachers in Michigan Earn?

In Michigan, teachers can expect to make a comfortable living. Some teachers may make above the median salaries listed below, while others could make less. New teachers typically start out on the lower end of the salary range. However, as they gain experience or advance their education or earn specific specialty certifications they may be able to increase their yearly salary.

salary outlook
Position Median Salary
Early Childhood Educator $29,890
Elementary School Teacher $61,640
Secondary School Teacher $60,980
Special Education Teacher $62,070
Education Administrator $98,340


Job Growth for High School Teachers through 2031

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

Specialty Certifications

In Michigan, each teacher certification must have at least one area of endorsement. These endorsements are what qualify you to teach a particular subject at a particular grade level. To earn an endorsement you must pass the appropriate MTTC. All MTTCs are administered by Pearson.

Early Childhood Education


The MTTC Early Childhood Education exam covers general and special education. To take this exam you must pay a fee of $130. To pass the exam you will need to earn a score of 220. The exam will test your knowledge of Child Development and Learning; Communication, Language and Literacy Development; Learning in the Content Areas; and Professional Development.

Elementary School Teacher


The Elementary Education exam costs $130 to take. It qualifies you to teach all-subjects for K-5, or one specific subject for K-8. You should expect the exam to cover English Language Arts and World Languages; Social Studies; Visual and Performing Arts; Mathematics; Science; Health Education and Physical Education. You must earn a passing score of 220 to earn an elementary endorsement.

If you are interested in teaching the 6-8 grade range you will need to take an additional MTTC that corresponds to the subject area you intend to teach, such as language arts.

Secondary School Teacher


As a secondary school teacher candidate in Michigan, the MTTC you must take will vary depending on what your subject focus was in your teacher preparation program. Confer with your program advisor to determine what test you should take. The MTTC will test your knowledge of that particular subject.

Substitute Teacher Certification


Michigan offers substitute teachers five permit options. These options allow substitutes to work anywhere from 90 days to four years.

Daily Substitute Permit: A substitute with this permit can teach no more than 90 days in one assignment. You must have at least 90 semester credit hours from a college or university to earn this permit.

Extension of the Daily Substitute Permit: If the 90 day restriction from the daily substitute permit has been met, and the teacher is unable to return and there is no other qualified replacement, this permit may be granted as an extension to the original permit. To be granted an extension you must be observed as satisfactory by a school administrator, be assigned a mentor teacher, and have the extension approved by the State Superintendent. The exact length of the extension will vary depending on the circumstances.

Full-Year Basic Substitute Permit: Candidates must have at least 90 semester credit hours from a college or university for this permit. If the assignment is in a core subject, you should have a major that relates to the subject or pass the corresponding MTTC. You will be assigned a mentor teacher if the permit is approved. It can be renewed by meeting continuing education requirements.

Full-Year Shortage Substitute Permit: This permit requires that candidates hold a Michigan professional or advanced professional education certification. It can be renewed if you receive effective or highly effective ratings in your teaching assignments. For core subject teaching assignments, you must have a major that relates to the subject, or pass the appropriate MTTC.

Expert Substitute Permit: You should have at least five years of exceptional work experience in the subject you plan on teaching to earn this permit. To substitute teach for a core subject area you will need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and major in the subject area or pass the related MTTC. For non-core subject areas you should have at least 90 hours of semester credit hours and hold a related industry license, or hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. This permit can be renewed with an effective or highly effective rating.

Physical Education (PE) Certification


As a PE teacher candidate you will need to take and pass the Physical Education exam with a score of 220. You should be knowledgeable in Physical Activity, Fitness and Health; Movement and Lifelong Physical Activities; Growth Development and Learning; Planning, Instruction, and Assessment; Management, Motivation, and Communication; and Foundations, Reflections, and Professional Collaborations. It costs $130 to take this exam.

Special Education Certification


To earn a special education certification in Michigan you will need to focus your endorsement on a specific special education population, unless you want to teach at the early childhood education level, then you will only need to take and pass the Early Childhood Education exam. You can earn a special education endorsement in one of the following areas by taking the corresponding MTTC:

Autism Spectrum DisorderLearning Disabilities
Cognitive ImpairmentPhysical or Other Health Impairment
Emotional ImpairmentSpeech and Language Impaired
Hearing ImpairedVisually Impaired

If you want to teach special education at the elementary level you will need to take the Elementary Education MTTC in addition to one of the above exams.

English as a Second Language Certification


The English as a Second Language Exam costs $130 to take and covers Language, Linguistics, and Comparisons; Culture; Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Practices; Application of Standards-Based Curriculum and Instruction; Assessment; and Professionalism. To earn the ESL endorsement in Michigan you must pass the exam with a score of 220.

Certifications for School Administrators


You should earn a standard school administrator certification if you are interested in becoming a superintendent, principal, assistant principal or chief business official in Michigan. For building administrators, such as principals, you will need to earn at least a master’s degree in educational leadership or administration through an approved institution. Those interested in becoming central office administrators, such as superintendents, will need to have a master’s degree or higher and complete at least 21 semester hours of post-master’s degree level credits. The program must incorporate advanced studies in K-12 administration.

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 Michigan

Educators who move to a new state must earn reciprocity in order to transfer their teaching license and continue teaching. Facilitating reciprocity between the states is the Interstate Agreement. It was created by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) and requires that participating states create a guideline that allows teachers to transfer their out-of-state teaching license into an in-state license. Each state’s statement of reciprocity varies in requirements.

NASDTEC Interstate Agreement Yes, Michigan does participate.
State Grants Full Reciprocity No, additional requirements must be met.
Coursework Requirements Applicants must have up-to-date training in first aid and adult and child CPR.
Test-out or Exemption No.
Assessment Requirements Candidates should first apply for the standard license. The MDE will then evaluate your application and send you a letter stating what assessments you must meet. All candidates must pass a test of basic skills, usually the SAT. The MDE will also indicate what subject area test(s) you must take from the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC). Applicants who hold a standard out-of-state teaching license but who have not met the assessment requirements can be issued a Temporary Teacher Employment Authorization and teach for one year while completing the assessment requirements. After meeting the assessment requirements, candidates with temporary authorization must apply for the Professional level of licensure. By law, applying for the standard license will no longer be an option for you.
Different Requirements Based on Experience Candidates who have three years of successful teaching experience that aligns with their out-of-state certification, meet the reading methods requirement*, have completed eighteen semester hours in a planned program or who hold a master’s degree are eligible for a Professional License and are not required to meet the testing requirements mentioned above. It is important to note that the certification area of your out-of-state license must match the certification you are applying for in Michigan. * If elementary certified, the applicant must have six semester credit hours of reading methods coursework. Secondary certified teachers must have three.
Performance Requirements Michigan does not have any states performance requirements.
Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials Michigan has two main licensure levels available to out-of-state applicants: Standard and Professional. If a teacher’s out-of-state license meets the standard level of the Michigan professional license and if they have the proper level of experience, described above, then they are eligible to apply for the advanced professional license.

Information reported by the Education Commission of the States.

Alternate Teaching Certification

For those unable to earn a Michigan teacher certification through the traditional route discussed at the start of this article, there are non-traditional or alternative teacher certification options available for you.

Teach for America

As one of the most well-known alternative pathways to licensure, Teach for America (TFA) helps recent or even long time college graduates earn a teaching certification. In Michigan, TFA works in and around the Detroit area. When you commit to TFA you also commit to serving a two-year teaching commitment where you will work in a high-needs school. You will complete this commitment while you work towards earning your Michigan teacher certification. If you are able to complete all of the MDE certification requirements by the end of your two-year commitment, you will be eligible to apply for a standard teacher certification.

Transition into Teaching for Career Changers

Michigan Department of Education does offer an alternative route to certification. This alternative route takes form in an expedited non-traditional preparation program. Those who join the program are eligible to seek employment under an Interim Teaching Certificate (ITC). This certificate is valid for five years and cannot be renewed. Unfortunately, this program is not available for those seeking certification with an early childhood or special education endorsement.

To gain acceptance into one of these programs, you should hold at least a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA, pass the Michigan basic skills assessment, pass the appropriate Michigan Test for Teacher Certification, hold a CPR/First Aid Certification, and complete a federal background check. You can find a list of approved non-traditional preparation programs here.

As a member of this alternative program, you will complete a variety of coursework that covers topics such as child development or child psychology; family and community relationships; diverse learners; and instructional strategies. You will also need to complete a field-based experience in a classroom setting. The program will help guide you through the certification process and ensure that you have met all certification requirements. You can advance your ITC into a standard license by completing the alternative program and all assessments, teaching for three years while you hold an ITC, applying for the standard license, and being recommended for licensure by your program.