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How to Get a Teaching License in Minnesota

If you want to be a teacher in Minnesota, you’ll need to follow a set series of steps—and 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 beginning your journey and need to know about the Minnesota state certification process. Or maybe you want to learn how to progress to advanced certification, or you’re a teacher looking to move to Minnesota from out of state, and need information about teacher 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 Minnesota state. Our article will provide answers to all your other questions.

Requirements

Minnesota recently overhauled its teacher certification system to help remedy a growing teacher shortage and maintain its favorable teacher-to-student ratio of 1:16. New license requirements are intended to make the certification process more flexible and streamlined. A restructured tiered teacher system, scheduled to take effect July 1, 2018, puts more control in the hands of employing school districts. It also allows for wider consideration of credentials such as professional experience and out-of-state licensure to count toward Minnesota certification.

As part of the reorganization, a new agency was formed to oversee teacher certification, effective January 1, 2018. At that time, the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) took over the responsibilities regarding teacher certification previously handled by the Board of Teaching and the Educator Licensing Division at the Department of Education.

Requirements for Minnesota teacher certification don’t change for candidates submitting applications before July 1, 2018. New candidates who apply for licenses prior to that date are still eligible to qualify for one of two main licensure levels, which include a one-year Temporary license or five-year First Professional license.

However, if you’re just starting the journey toward teacher certification, you will be subject to the requirements of the new four-tier certification system that take effect July 1, 2018. To earn a one-year Tier 1 license, you must have a bachelor’s degree for all subjects, though you can earn a license in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Career Pathways (CP) with a minimum of an associate degree, professional certification or five years of relevant work experience. A Tier 1 license can be renewed three times.

Requirements for a two-year Tier 2 license include a bachelor’s degree and enrollment in a teacher preparation program, or a master’s degree. You also can earn this degree by having two requirements from a list of options including the completion of a teacher preparation program, eight upper-division credits in your certification subject area, training in subject-specific teaching methods, passing scores on state tests in your certification area, or at least two years of teaching experience in your subject area. This license can be renewed three times.

A three-year Tier 3 license can be renewed indefinitely. Requirements are a bachelor’s degree and passing scores on pedagogy and content assessments. To earn this license, you also must complete one option from a list that includes graduation from a Minnesota-approved teacher preparation program, completion of an out-of-state program that meets Minnesota standards, presentation of a portfolio in a given field, proof of three years of Tier 2 experience without placement in an improvement program or a professional out-of-state teaching license with two years of experience.

A new Tier 4 license is valid for five years and is renewable indefinitely. To qualify for this credential, you must meet all requirements. These components include having a bachelor’s degree, completion of a teacher preparation program, passing scores on content and pedagogy assessments and the state-approved skills exam, three years of Minnesota teaching experience and a recent summative evaluation with no indication of improvement needed.

Minimum Education Requirements for Minnesota Teachers

For Minnesota teacher licenses in most subject areas, the minimum education requirement is a bachelor’s degree. However, under the new certification system, you can earn a Tier 1 licensure for CE or CPE by substituting the bachelor’s degree requirement with completion of an associate degree, professional certification or five years of relevant work experience. Candidates seeking licensure in Tiers 2, 3, and 4 in CE or CPE also are exempt from the requirement for a bachelor’s degree if they meet other requirements for a specific Tier level.

Participation in a state-approved teacher preparation program, whether in conjunction with a bachelor’s degree or as a separate enrollment, also remains an important component of the new certification system. You must graduate from a state-approved teacher preparation program to earn Tier 4 licensure and it is among the variable options for meeting the requirements for Tier 3. Proof of enrollment in a teacher preparation program is necessary for Tier 2 licensure. However, applicants for Tier 1 licensure do not have to meet this educational requirement.

In addition, all Minnesota-approved teacher preparation programs are required to include a human relations course on teaching students of diverse backgrounds. Candidates who do not complete a Minnesota-approved program may have to take this course separately to meet this requirement.

Student Teaching

Student teaching in Minnesota is completed while you are enrolled in a state-approved teacher preparation program. This experience lasts a minimum of 12 weeks during which time you work with a mentor teacher who holds a Tier 3 or 4 license in the subject area in which you are seeking certification. A provider supervisor also oversees your student teaching experience. A student teaching opportunity is designed to allow for your mentor teacher and supervisor to provide observation, feedback and evaluation on your performance.

Pass Minnesota Certification Exams

Minnesota certification exams assess basic skills as well as professional and subject area knowledge. You must demonstrate basic skills in reading, writing and mathematics by passing the MN National Evaluation Series (NES) Essential Academic Skills examination. You also can meet this requirement by submitting acceptable scores from the SAT or ACT Plus Writing.

All Minnesota candidates must pass both pedagogy and content area tests from the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examinations (MTLE), given by Pearson Education, that correlate with the license field being pursued. However, candidates seeking licensure in Adult Basic Education; American Indian Language, History and Culture; and Parent and Family Education do not have to take a pedagogy test for initial licensure. However, these teachers must pass a pedagogy test to add another license field. Candidates in these subject areas also are exempt from content area tests.

Apply

After you fulfill the education and assessment requirements for the type of license you are pursuing, you are ready to apply to the PELSB. Minnesota established a new online application system that will be updated on July 1, 2018 to reflect the new tiered licensure structure. Your application for certification requires proof of enrollment or completion of a state-approved teacher preparation program, depending on the type of licensure you are seeking. You also must have proof of the degrees and assessment scores needed to obtain your license. Initial applicants also must submit results of a national criminal background check by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the FBI. A processing fee also is required.

How Much Do Teachers in Minnesota Make?

Teachers in Minnesota earn salaries affected by factors such as a teacher’s education, experience and type of license. A sample of average teaching salaries is indicated here.

%

Job Growth for Teachers through 2026

Position Average Salary
Early Childhood Educator $33,300
Elementary School Teacher $62,000
Secondary School Teacher $64,310
Special Education Teacher $69,920
School Administrator $100,870
School Principal $92,510*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics; *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook

Specialty Certifications

Minnesota Specialty certifications are offered in areas designated by age/grade level and content area. Certifications transition to a new tiered licensure system beginning July 1, 2108. Teacher preparation programs and assessments for specialty certifications under the new system remain the same. State-approved teacher preparation programs allow candidates to complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree as part of the program curriculum. You can add content area endorsements to your initial degree area by completing state-approved certificate programs or post-baccalaureate degree programs and related assessments.

Early Childhood Education

type-preschoolYou can earn Minnesota certification in early childhood education (Birth – 8 years) to teach the youngest students. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree. Enrollment in a state-approved early childhood education teacher preparation program is required for Tier 2 licenses in the new licensure system. Graduates of these programs can apply for Tier 3 or 4 licenses. You also must pass the required Minnesota NES Essential Academic Skills test, or another state-recognized basic skills equivalent. Additional required assessments include the MTLE for Pedagogy: Early Childhood (Birth to Grade 3) and the Early Childhood (Birth to Grade 3) content-area exams.

Elementary School Teacher

type-elementaryCertified elementary school teachers in Minnesota earn the Elementary Education (K-6) teaching credential. Qualifications include a bachelor’s degree. New candidates seeking a Tier 2 license under the new licensure system will also need to enroll in an elementary school teacher preparation program. Only graduates of a state-approved preparation program can apply for a Tier 3 or 4 license. Passing the Minnesota NES Essential Academic Skills test or a state-approved basic skills assessment also is required. In addition, you will have to pass the MTLE for Pedagogy: Elementary (Grades K-6) and the Elementary Education (Grades K-6) subject area exams.

Secondary School Teacher

type-highschoolCertification as a secondary school teacher in Minnesota allows you to select a specialty licensure area for grades 9-12. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree or higher in the subject area in which you plan to specialize. You must be enrolled in a state-approved teacher preparation program to apply for a Tier 2 license in the new licensure system. To apply for a Tier 3 or 4, you must complete the program.

Requirements for this certification also include passing the Minnesota NES Essential Academic Skills test or acceptable scores from a state-approved basic skills assessment. You also must pass the MTLE for Pedagogy: Secondary Education (Grades 5-12) and the content-area test that matches the area of specialization you plan to pursue for certification.

Substitute Teacher Certification

type-substituteMinnesota offers two types of substitute teacher certification. A two-year Short-Call substitute teacher license is available to candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in a major other than education. A school district must verify that they are unable to locate higher qualified teachers when they hire Short-Call substitute teachers. With this license, you can teach for a maximum of 15 days in the same classroom. However, your license is limited to the school district that originally hired you. A five-year Short-Call substitute license is available to teachers who completed a teacher licensure program but have not applied for full licensure. This license allows you to teach for 15 days or more in the same classroom assignment.

Under the new licensure system effective July 1, 2018, substitute teacher certifications will be streamlined to include Short-Call substitutes and Long-Call substitutes. Tier 1 teachers can qualify as Short-Call substitutes, while teachers with Tier 3 and 4 licensure can qualify for Long-Call substitutes. Retired teachers who hold a Lifetime Substitute license also can qualify as Long-Call substitutes.

Physical Education (PE) Certification

type-physical-educationTo get physical education (PE) certification in Minnesota, you can earn certification in Physical Education (K-12). This authorizes you to teach PE at all age levels. Completion of a bachelor’s degree is necessary. Enrollment in a state-approved teacher preparation program in physical education is required to apply for a Tier 2 license under the new system. Completion of the program is needed a Tier 3 or 4 license.

Additional requirements include passing the Minnesota NES Essential Academic Skills test or a state-approved substitute. You also must take either the MTLE Pedagogy: Elementary Education (K-6) or Pedagogy: Secondary Education (Grades 5-12) to match the grade levels you intend to teach. To prove content area knowledge, you must pass the MTLE for Physical Education (K-12).

Special Education Certification

type-special-educationSpecial education certification in Minnesota is available to first-time teaching candidates by obtaining the Academic and Behavioral Strategist (ABS) License. This certification allows you to work across several disability areas for children from kindergarten to age 21 with a range of mild to moderate needs. Completion of a bachelor’s degree is necessary. You must be enrolled in a state-approved teacher preparation program in special education to apply for a Tier 2 license under the new system. Proof of a completed program is needed to apply for a Tier 3 or 4.

Required assessments include the Minnesota NES Essential Academic Skills test or a state-accepted alternative test. In addition, you must choose between the MTLE Pedagogy: Elementary Education (K-6) or Pedagogy: Secondary Education (Grades 5-12), depending on the grade levels you want to teach. To prove content area knowledge, you must take the MTLE for Special Education: All Fields (Birth-12).

English as a Second Language Certification

type-tesolYou can apply for English as a Second Language (K-12) certification in Minnesota as a first-time teaching license. It also can be added as an endorsement later to an existing certificate. Having this certification allows you to teach English as a Second Language across all grade levels. You must be enrolled in a state-approved teacher preparation program in English as a Second Language to apply for a Tier 2 license under the new licensure system effective July 1, 2018. You can apply for a new Tier 3 or 4 license upon graduation.

Required assessments include the Minnesota NES Essential Academic Skills test or a state-accepted alternative. While the certification is valid across all ages, you must specialize in a grade level by passing either the MTLE Pedagogy: Elementary Education (K-6) or Pedagogy: Secondary Education (Grades 5-12). You also must take the MTLE for English as a Second Language (K-12) to prove content area knowledge.

Certifications for School Administrators

type-principalSchool administrators in Minnesota can earn certifications for Superintendent, Principal or Director of Special Education. Applicants must have three years of successful classroom teaching experience while holding a valid teaching license for the positions in which the experience was gained. Requirements include completion of a state-approved post-baccalaureate educational administration degree program.

Applicants for licensure as a superintendent or principal must complete a field experience of at least 320 hours or 40 eight-hour days within 12 continuous months in elementary, middle schools and high schools. A minimum of one week must occur at each level not represented by a candidate’s previous professional experience. Applicants for licensure as director of special education must complete a field experience of at least 320 hours in an administrative position directly under a licensed and practicing director of special education. A minimum of one week must be served at a special education administrative unit not within the candidate’s primary experience area.

No assessments are required for school administrator certification in Minnesota, though candidates must have completed the appropriate MTLE related to their teaching licenses.

Teaching Reciprocity Agreements in Minnesota

If you are applying for Minnesota teaching certification based on out-of-state education and experience, teaching reciprocity agreements can expedite the process. You may be able to use a valid out-of-state license or previous professional experience toward the requirements of a Minnesota license.

Requirement Description
NASDTEC Interstate Agreement Minnesota participates in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement.
State Grants Full Reciprocity Out-of-state teachers do not receive full reciprocity in Minnesota.
Coursework Requirements All licensure candidates who completed out-of-state teacher preparation programs must meet Minnesota's human relations coursework requirement. Other coursework may be required, depending on the curriculum of the specific out-of-state program.
Test-out or Exemption Minnesota does not have a test-out option.
Assessment Requirements All out-of-state candidates must pass MTLE content and pedagogy exams for a Professional license. After July 1, 2018, candidates who have not passed the exams can apply for a Tier 2 license prior to passing the required exams if offered a position. After passing the exams, they can qualify for a Tier 3 license.
Different Requirements Based on Experience Candidates who completed out-of-state preparation programs can receive a new Tier 3 license if they completed field-specific student teaching equivalent to 12 weeks for initial licensure and passed content and pedagogy exams there, according to the new license system effective July 1, 2018.
Performance Requirements Minnesota does not require out-of-state candidates to provide evidence of effectiveness.
Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials A teacher who has a professional license "in good standing" from another state and two years of teaching experience is eligible for a Professional license until July 1, 2018, at which time they can qualify for a Tier 3 license under the new system.

Information reported by the Education Commission of the States.

Alternate Teaching Certification

The new licensure system effective July 1, 2018, allows several options for alternate teaching certification, depending on the type of license being pursued. At every Tier, requirements were revised to allow teaching candidates more flexibility in gaining licensure. Appropriate teaching experience can be used to substitute for teacher preparation program requirements at the Tier 2 and 3 licensure levels. Candidates seeking Tier 1 licensure can use relevant experience to fulfill the requirement for a bachelor’s degree.

Teach for America

The mission of Teach for America is to support all U.S. students in gaining access to education equality. In Minnesota, this national organization works to close the educational gaps in the Twin Cities, where volunteers work with local school districts to help increase the number of low-income students who go to college. Volunteers are selected during a competitive application process that identifies natural leaders. Those chosen reside and teach in the under-served school districts after completing a rigorous teacher education program to earn Minnesota teaching certifications.

Troops to Teachers

Troops to Teachers is a program of the U.S. Department of Education and DANTES that assists active or retired U.S. military personnel in beginning new careers as teachers. The organization helps Minnesota teaching candidates earn licenses in areas where their knowledge and experience is most needed. Troops to Teachers assists participants by offering guidance and support in navigating the certification system. If eligible, participants may receive financial assistance toward teacher certification costs or bonuses for teaching at schools with a high percentage of low-income students.

Minnesota also offers special consideration for spouses of active duty military members by providing expedited and temporary teacher licenses to those who qualify.

Transition into Teaching for Career Changers

Minnesota state colleges and universities offer many state-approved teacher preparation programs that help career changers transition into teaching quickly while gaining the education and experience necessary to succeed. Flexible options allow you to complete licensure requirements in evening, weekend and/or summer courses so you can continue working full-time while learning. With online or blended online/in-place programs, you can take classes on your own schedule to accommodate work and personal responsibilities. Accelerated programs in specific content areas can reduce the time needed to qualify for licensure by awarding credit for professional knowledge, previous coursework and experience.

Minnesota Teacher Shortage Loan Forgiveness Program

The Minnesota Teacher Shortage Loan Forgiveness Program rewards teachers who help to alleviate statewide teacher shortages. Participants receive $1,000 each year for up to $5,000 over five years. To qualify, you must agree to work in a specified licensure shortage subject area or an economic development region experiencing a teacher shortage. You can apply for this state program in addition to federal programs that reward educators who teach in low-income schools.

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