How to Earn a Teaching License in Missouri

If you want to be a teacher in Missouri, your first step is to earn certification. While there are several pathways to doing this, your options depend upon 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 Missouri’s teacher certification process. Or maybe you want to learn how to progress to advanced certification, earn an endorsement in order to specialize, or you’re a teacher looking to move to Missouri from out of 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 Missouri.

Missouri Teaching Requirements

Getting a teaching license in Missouri can give you the chance to make a difference in students’ lives. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has established an initiative to move Missouri’s student achievement into the top 10 states by 2020. This ambitious goal includes ensuring that all students are ready for college or a career, all children come to school ready to learn and all children learn in a classroom with an effective teacher. Education leaders in Missouri have sponsored supportive programming and initiatives to help educators achieve these objectives. You can pursue a wide range of opportunities in Missouri where you can contribute toward building a better education system.

The traditional route to Missouri teacher certification includes earning a bachelor’s degree or higher from a college or university that has a state-approved teacher education program. After completing a student teaching assignment, you must pass the designated assessment tests to earn an Initial Certificate.

The four-year Initial Certificate requires two years of mentoring, participation in an annual Performance-Based Teacher Evaluation (PBTE) and participation in a novice teacher assistance program. During this time, you must develop and implement a professional development plan that includes completion of 30 contact hours of professional development. After meeting these requirements within the four years of Initial Certification, you can apply for Career Continuous Certification.

Minimum Education Requirements for Missouri Teachers

The minimum education requirement for Missouri teachers is a bachelor’s degree. You can earn a bachelor’s degree from one of the four-year regionally accredited institutions approved by the Missouri State Board of Education (BOE) to offer educator preparation programs. At the completion of the program, the institution can recommend you for certification if you have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75 on a 4.00 scale. Professional and certification area coursework must reflect a minimum GPA of 3.00.

If you have a bachelor’s degree, you can complete a post-baccalaureate educator preparation program and earn a certificate or master’s degree as part of the program curriculum.

Student Teaching

Student teaching is required for all areas of certification in Missouri. Approved teacher preparation programs abide by the Missouri Standards for the Preparation of Educators (MoSPE) for student teaching guidelines. MoSPE guidelines direct that candidates have the opportunity to engage in a variety of field experiences with increasing levels of student engagement. At the early level of your teacher education programs, your will participate in a minimum of 30 clock hours of field observation and limited experiences with students. These experiences must occur in PK-12 settings that reflect diverse learning environments and student populations.

At the mid-level of your teacher preparation program, you will engage in at least 45 clock hours of field experiences with observations and structured experiences with students. At the culminating level of your teacher preparation program, you will student teach with a cooperating teacher for a minimum of 12 weeks. Your final student teaching experience should occur with the grade range and certification area you are pursuing.

Before you begin student teaching, you must register at the State Highway Patrol’s Missouri Automated Criminal History Site (MACHS) for fingerprinting at a Missouri-approved fingerprinting location. The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) and the FBI will conduct a background check based on your fingerprints. You also must acquire a Substitute Teaching certificate prior to the start of your student teaching assignment.

Pass Missouri Certification Exams

You must pass a series of Missouri certification exams, called the Missouri Educator Gateway Assessments (MEGA), for an Initial Certificate. The first test in the MEGA series is the Missouri General Education Assessment (MoGEA). This test is required for admission into a Missouri-approved undergraduate educator preparation program. It assesses your skills in English language arts, mathematics, writing, science and social science.

Included in the MoGEA is the Missouri Educator Profile (MEP), an assessment designed to measure your work style and preferences as they relate to the field of education. Your results for the MEP are compiled in a Development Report that shows how your work habits compare to those of experienced teachers and the steps you can take to make improvements.

At the completion of your teacher preparation program, you must complete the Pearson content assessment(s) that align with the certification field you are pursuing. You also must pass a Missouri Standards-Based Performance Assessment that applies to teachers. This examination, called the Missouri Pre-Service Teacher Assessment (MoPTA), is an assessment that is taken during your student teaching clinical experience. You will take either the MoPTA with video (MoPTA-V) if you are allowed to record videos of your student teaching classroom or the MoPTA Non-Video (MoPTA-NV) if you are not permitted to record videos in your classroom.


You can apply for Missouri teacher certification by completing an application online at the DESE website. In the application, you will answer questions regarding personal conduct and sign a sworn affidavit as part of the application. You also must identify the Missouri schools where you earned your education for certification so that the institutions can send verification of your credentials. This includes coursework, student teaching and required assessments. Your request for verification is sent to the appropriate institution, where it is completed and submitted to the DESE.

Official transcripts from all institutions attended must be sent directly to the DESE from your institution. You are responsible for a criminal background check if your current clearance is older than one year.

How Much Do Teachers in Missouri Make?

Salaries for teachers in Missouri are based on levels of education and professional experience. The demand for a specific certification and the budget of an employing school district can impact the salaries that teachers earn. Some average teacher salaries in Missouri are listed here.

salary outlook
Position Median Salary
Early Childhood Educator $29,820
Elementary School Teacher $47,950
Secondary School Teacher $47,310
Special Education Teacher $61,020
Education Administrator $93,810


Job Growth for High School Teachers through 2031

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

Specialty Certifications

You can earn Missouri specialty certifications at the Initial Certificate level that authorize you to teach specific grade levels or subject areas. After you obtain an Initial Certificate or higher, you can add endorsement areas by meeting the educational and assessment qualifications for the specific grade level or content area you want to add.

Early Childhood Education


Early Childhood Education (Birth-grade 3) certification authorizes you teach the youngest students in Missouri. To qualify, you must complete a bachelor’s degree and a state-approved early childhood education teacher preparation program. As a candidate for an Initial Certificate, you can earn a bachelor’s degree as part of your teacher education. If you have a bachelor’s degree, you can earn a certificate or master’s degree in a post-graduate program.

Your student teaching component requires experiences in each of the three different age levels covered by this certification, including infant/toddler, Pre-K/Kindergarten or primary K-3. To qualify for an Initial Certificate recommendation from your institution, you must achieve a 2.75 overall GPA and a 3.00 GPA in early childhood education and professional education courses.

Qualifying scores in tests included in the MEGA also is required. For an Initial Certificate in Early Childhood Education (Birth to grade 3), this includes the Pearson Early Childhood Education assessment.

Elementary School Teacher


For certification as an elementary school teacher in Missouri, you can earn certification in Elementary Education (grades 1-6). Qualifications include a state-approved bachelor’s degree and an approved elementary education teacher preparation program. You can earn a bachelor’s degree as part of your teacher education or enroll in a post-graduate certificate or master’s degree program, depending on your education credentials. Students in an approved Elementary Education program must complete 21 semester hours in an area of concentration

Qualifications for an Initial Certificate recommendation from your college or university require a 2.75 overall GPA and a 3.00 GPA in elementary education and professional education courses. You also must complete the MEGA assessments required for all Missouri teachers. This includes the Pearson Elementary Education Multi-Content assessment, including the subsets for English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.

Secondary School Teacher


To become a secondary school teacher in Missouri, you must be certified in a secondary content area to teach grades 9-12. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 30 semester hours in your specialty area and a state-approved teacher preparation program. Depending on your education experience, you can enroll in a teacher preparation program that awards a bachelor’s degree, post-baccalaureate certificate or master’s degree upon completion.

To qualify for an Initial Certificate after your teacher education program, you must earn a 2.75 overall GPA and a 3.00 GPA in your major subject courses. You also must complete the MEGA series required for all Missouri teachers, including the Pearson Professional Knowledge: Secondary assessment and the Pearson content area assessment(s) for the specific area of certification you desire.

Substitute Teacher Certification


Substitute teacher certification is not required if you have a valid Missouri teaching certificate. If your certificate has expired or you never qualified for one, you need a substitute certificate and a current background check. A Content Substitute certificate allows you to teach in a K-12 classroom. To qualify, you must have completed at least 60 semester hours of credit at a regionally accredited college or university.

A Career Technical Substitute certificate allows you to teach only in a career center or an approved vocational program. This substitute certificate is awarded based on occupational experience and training in a specific field. To qualify for a Career Technical Substitute certificate, you must have a bachelor’s degree associated with the subject area you will be teaching and 4,000 hours of related occupational experience, or an associate’s degree in the subject area you will be teaching and 5,00 hours of related occupational experience. If you don’t have a degree, a total of 6,000 hours of related occupational experience is required.

Physical Education (PE) Certification


If you want to teach physical education, you can earn Grades K-12 – Physical Education (PE) certification in Missouri. To qualify, you need a bachelor’s degree or higher with a major in physical education or a related subject area, with at least 30 semester hours in physical education courses. You also must complete an approved teacher preparation program. This can be done in conjunction with earning a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or post-baccalaureate certificate.

You must earn a 2.75 overall GPA and a 3.00 GPA in your major courses to qualify for an Initial Certificate. Qualifying scores in the state-required MEGA series, including the Pearson Physical Education content area assessment also are required.

Special Education Certification


You can obtain Special Education certification in Missouri that defines the type of students you want to teach. Your options for certification include a Special Education Certificate in Blind and Low Vision (Birth to Grade 12), Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Birth – Grade 12), Early Childhood (Birth – Grade 3), Mild/Moderate Cross Categorical (K-12) or Severely Developmental Disabilities (K-12). All Special Education certifications require a bachelor’s degree or higher and a state-approved special education teacher preparation program. A 2.75 cumulative GPA and a 3.00 GPA in your major courses is necessary to apply for an Initial Certificate.

Requirements for an Initial Certificate include earning a 2.75 cumulative GPA and a 3.00 GPA in special education courses. You also must pass the MEGA series, including the Pearson Special Education content area assessment(s) required for your specific certification.

English as a Second Language Certification


In Missouri, English as a Second Language (ESL) certification is awarded as a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) (K-12) add-on endorsement. This certification only is available if you have an Initial Certificate or higher in another area. You can earn this certificate as part of a post-baccalaureate certificate program, a master’s degree program or a master’s degree in English with an emphasis on TESOL program in Missouri. A 2.75 cumulative GPA and a 3.00 GPA in your major TESOL courses is necessary to apply credits toward a TESOL endorsement. The specific MEGA series required depends on the type of program you enter.

Certifications for School Administrators


Certifications for school administrators in Missouri are offered for Principal, Special Education Director, Career Education Director and Superintendent. Candidates for these certificates must have a minimum of two years of career education or secondary/adult subject area teaching experience. Educational requirements include completion of a master’s degree or higher in educational administration from a college or university offering a state-approved educational administration degree program. Completion of a course in Psychology/Education of the Exceptional Child, which can be completed as part of a degree program, also is needed.

The Pearson Building-Level Administrator assessment is required for Principal Special Education Director or Career Education Director certification. For Superintendent certification, the Pearson Superintendent content area assessment is required.

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 Missouri

If you earned education and experience in another state, reciprocity agreements in Missouri can help you earn state teaching certification faster. You often can save time and educational expenses by using a valid an out-of-state license to meet requirements for a new certification here.

NASDTEC Interstate Agreement Missouri participates in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement.
State Grants Full Reciprocity Missouri grants full reciprocity by issuing a Professional Certificate in the specialty that most closely matches an out-of-state certification equal to the years of teaching experience. This applies to a candidate who has a valid teaching license from another state and or whose academic and professional credentials alone make the candidate eligible to teach in banking or financial responsibility only, when the state board determines the candidate should receive certification based on a relevant bachelor’s degree and passing the specified exit exam. Certification through these routes requires completion of state requirements for continued certification.
Coursework Requirements Out-of-state teachers do not have additional coursework requirements. All candidates must have college transcripts that demonstrate a minimum a GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale for certification.
Test-out or Exemption Missouri does not offer test-out or exemptions.
Assessment Requirements There are no additional assessment requirements for out-of-state teachers.
Different Requirements Based on Experience There are no different requirements based on experience. Out-of-state candidates with education and experience level credentials may qualify for a higher certification tier than those without these credentials.
Performance Requirements Out-of-state teachers do not have to meet performance requirements.
Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials Out-of-state candidates with an out-of-state license qualify for an Initial Professional license. Those with valid licenses who also meet education and experience criteria may receive a higher level of certification.

Information reported by the Education Commission of the States.

Alternate Teaching Certification

Missouri offers alternative or innovative routes to teacher certification. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a content area, you can return to a college of education for a program of study to take courses in a post-baccalaureate program and teach simultaneously. In this case, you work under a two-year Provisional Certificate while completing about 30 semester hours of coursework. At the completion of the college program, you earn a certificate or a master’s degree, depending on the curriculum. After passing the required assessments, you qualify for an Initial Certificate. Some alternate programs are offered online to accommodate a full-time teaching schedule.

Teach for America

Teach for America recruits, trains and assigns teachers in the St. Louis area to facilitate education equality. This national organization works to increase students’ life opportunities by improving schools and classroom experiences. Teach for America corps consists of top college graduates who make a two-year commitment to live and work in low-income school districts. Before beginning their classroom assignments, participants complete a summer training program to earn a teaching certificate in their teaching field.

Transition into Teaching for Career Changers

The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) is an option for career changers who want to earn Missouri teacher certification. This fast-track program requires applicants to pass an Educational Testing Service (ETS) assessment in the content area they want to teach. Students take courses online and attend a series of meetings to learn classroom management and instructional skills. When the program is complete, graduates earn a one-year Initial Certificate. The new teacher is subject to the same requirements for mentoring and professional development that all new teachers must satisfy.

Only certain subject areas are available for certification under ABCTE in Missouri. ABCTE certificate-holders do not qualify for a regular Missouri license in Early Childhood Education or Special Education.

Ozarks Teacher Corps

The Ozarks Teacher Corps helps to develop a community of teaching candidates who commit to teaching in their rural home communities for a minimum period of three years. The program’s objective is to encourage passionate new teachers to remain in their home communities as teacher-leaders. The Ozarks Teacher Corps is open to third-year college students who grew up in rural communities in the Missouri Ozarks. Upon selection, participants receive an $8,000 scholarship, divided between their junior and senior years of college in exchange for a three-year teaching commitment.