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How to Get a Teaching License in Montana

Find out what you need to know about getting a teaching license in Montana with this helpful guide.

Requirements

Montana gets good grades for its commitment to education. The state maintained an average 13.3:1 student to teacher ratio in 2016, a ratio lower than the median of 15.2:1 for all U.S. states, according to the National Education Association (NEA). With manageable classroom sizes, getting a teaching license in Montana offers the opportunity to work in environments where you can connect with students to educate and encourage on a more personal basis.

Requirements for the traditional route to Montana teacher certification include completion of a four-year educator preparation program that includes the award of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited Montana university or the equivalent. Nine colleges in Montana are approved by the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) to provide educator preparation programs.

First-time certification candidates also must complete a free, online course in Indian Education. At the conclusion of an educator preparation program, you must complete the appropriate Praxis subject area test that aligns with your certification. You also must achieve the minimum score in the Montana Assessment of Content Knowledge (MACK) prior to recommendation for licensure or endorsement. Meeting all of these requirements qualifies you to apply for a Class 2 – Standard Teacher’s License.

To progress to a Class 1 – Professional Teacher’s License, you must hold a master’s degree in education or an endorsable teaching area from a regionally accredited college or university. Certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) can substitute for the master’s degree requirement. You also must have a minimum of three years of teaching experience within a P-12 state accredited school to progress to a Class 1 – Professional Teacher’s License.

Minimum Education Requirements for Montana Teachers

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education requirement for Montana teachers. Initial certification candidates also must complete a teacher education program accredited by National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE) or one that is a state-approved program from a regionally accredited college or university. Completion of a free online course called, “An Introduction to Indian Education for All in Montana,” also is required.

Student Teaching

Student teaching completed through an educator preparation program is a requirement for teacher certification in Montana. You can expect to complete a 14-week student teaching placement under a cooperating teacher as part of your traditional route to teacher certification here. Your assignment will be specific to the grade level and subject area of our certification. During that time, you will have full responsibility for all aspects of classroom planning, teaching and management for a minimum of five weeks.

Pass Montana Certification Exams

You must pass Montana certification exams after completing an educator preparation program to qualify for a licensure or endorsement recommendation. To do so, you must earn at least 7 of 10 possible points on the Montana Assessment of Content Knowledge (MACK). The MACK verification system is a three-prong score based on three grading rubrics. The first prong is based on an assessment of content knowledge coursework.

Points are awarded based on your final educator preparation program GPA. The second prong is an assessment of content knowledge demonstrated during your student teaching/clinical practice. Ratings are awarded based on knowledge that is “Advanced,” “Proficient,” “Basic,” or “Insufficient.” The third prong is based on your score on the appropriate Praxis Subject Assessment and its comparison to the recommended Montana score. Your points from the three rubrics are combined to yield a total MACK score.

Apply

You can apply for Montana teacher certification by completing an application online at the OPI website. Official transcripts and verification of required Praxis test scores can be sent electronically or mailed in a sealed envelope to OPI.

In addition to the online application, you must submit supplemental forms by mail to complete the application process. These additional forms include a University Recommendation form signed by the appropriate official from your educator preparation program, a notary page on which you sign an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Montana, and your original completion certificate for “An Introduction to Indian Education for All in Montana.” A non-refundable certification fee must be paid at the time of your application.

You also must submit completed fingerprint cards to the Montana Department of Justice so that a fingerprint-based background check can be sent to OPI. A fingerprint-based background check completed for a school district does not satisfy this criteria since the results of a background check can’t be shared between two agencies.

How Much Do Teachers in Montana Make?

Teachers in Montana earn salaries that vary based on levels of education and years of professional experience. Factors such as specific area of certification and finances of an employing school district also can affect teacher salaries. Some average teacher salaries in Montana are listed here.

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Job Growth for Teachers through 2026

Position Average Salary
Early Childhood Educator $27,500
Elementary School Teacher $49,010
Secondary School Teacher $49,760
Special Education Teacher $42,210
School Administrator $77,370
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

Montana offers specialty certifications by content area and grade level for Class 1 and 2 licenses. Grade level endorsements are added consistent with the educator preparation program you complete. You may be able to waive the student teaching requirement for a supervised teaching experience in a given endorsement area if you have previous supervised teacher experience.

Early Childhood Education

type-preschoolYou can earn certification in Early Childhood Education (PK-3) to teach the youngest students in Montana’s schools. For Class 2 licenses, requirements include completion of a bachelor’s degree and an approved early childhood educator preparation program. If you are a first-time student, you can earn a bachelor’s degree as part of the educator preparation program, however you can pursue a post-baccalaureate program that offers a certificate or master’s degree if you have a bachelor’s degree.

To earn a recommendation for certification in Early Childhood Education, you must achieve a MACK score of 7 or above. This score is complied by a combination of scores that include your GPA, content knowledge demonstrated during your early childhood clinical experience and your score on the Praxis II Early Childhood Education subject assessment.

Elementary School Teacher

type-elementaryFor certification as an elementary school teacher in Montana, you can earn the Elementary (K-8) specialty certificate that authorizes you to teach all subjects at this grade level. The traditional route to Class 2 licensure requires a bachelor’s degree and an approved elementary educator preparation program. You can complete these requirements in a program that offers a bachelor’s degree, post-baccalaureate certificate or master’s degree.

The final requirement for certification in Elementary K-8, is to earn a MACK score of 7 or above from a combination of scores that include your GPA, content knowledge demonstrated during your elementary school clinical experience and your score on the Praxis II Elementary Education: Content Knowledge assessment.

Secondary School Teacher

type-highschoolA secondary school teacher in Montana is certified in a content area to teach in a departmentalized classroom environment for grades 5-12. For a specific subject area secondary school certification, you must have a bachelor’s degree with a major of at least 40 semester hours in your subject area or 30 semester credits in an approved major plus 20 semester credits in an approved minor. You also must complete an approved educator preparation program of at least 16 credits. You can accomplish this by enrolling in a teacher preparation program that awards a bachelor’s degree, post-baccalaureate certificate or master’s degree upon completion, depending on your previous education.

To qualify for content area certification for secondary school, you must earn a MACK score of 7 or above from a total of scores that combine points awarded from your GPA, content knowledge demonstrated during a clinical experience in your subject area and your score on the Praxis II subject assessment that aligns with your specific area of certification.

Substitute Teacher Certification

type-substituteMontana does not award substitute teacher certification. Substitute teachers are hired by individual school districts. Each school district can establish education requirements, though most have a minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree. State law mandates that preference be given to substitute teachers who hold a regular license.

A substitute teacher can teach in the same classroom for up to 35 consecutive teaching days in Montana. Substitute assignments longer than 35 days must be filled by a licensed teacher under contract to the employing school district. The employing school district must conduct a fingerprint background check prior to hiring a substitute teacher hired for any length of time.

Physical Education (PE) Certification

type-physical-educationYou can earn Physical Education (PE) certification for grades K-12 in Montana. A bachelor’s degree or higher with a major in physical education or a related degree with a physical education student teaching experience is required. For a Class 2 license, you can earn a bachelor’s degree as part of a teacher preparation program, however there are post-baccalaureate certificate or master’s degree programs if you qualify.

To earn a recommendation for a Physical Education (PE) certification, you must earn a MACK score of 7 or above from a combination of scores that includes your GPA, content knowledge demonstrated during a clinical experience in physical education and your score on the Praxis II Health and Physical Education: Content Knowledge assessment.

Special Education Certification

type-special-educationYou can choose Special Education (P-12) certification in Montana. You also can earn special education certifications that correlate with specific disabilities, including Special Education (P-12) Hearing Impairment or Special Education (P-12) Vision Impairment. All certifications require a bachelor’s degree or higher and an approved special education teacher preparation program. If you have a graduate degree in an endorsable area, you may be able to apply experience instructing in a related college or university courses as credit in that endorsement area for licensure.

You can earn a recommendation for a Special Education (P-12) Class 2 license if you must earn a MACK score of 7 or above from a combination of scores that includes points awarded based on your GPA, content knowledge demonstrated during a special education clinical experience and your score on the Praxis II Special Education: Core Knowledge and Applications assessment.

English as a Second Language Certification

type-tesolYou can earn English as a Second Language (ESL) (K-12) certification in Montana if you enjoy helping people from different backgrounds learn a new language. This certification requires a bachelor’s degree or higher and an approved ESL educator preparation program. You can earn your bachelor’s degree, a post-baccalaureate certificate or master’s degree as part of an educator preparation program, based on your education experience.

To earn a recommendation for a Class 2 English as a Second Language (ESL) license in Montana, you must earn a MACK score of 7 or above when scores are totaled from the points awarded based on your GPA, content knowledge demonstrated during an ESL student teaching experience and your score on the Praxis II English to Speakers of Other Languages assessment.

Certifications for School Administrators

type-principalCertifications for school administrators in Montana are offered as Class 3 Administrator’s Licenses for Superintendent or Principal. The minimum requirement for a Class 3 Administrator’s License is completion of a master’s degree or higher from an approved professional educator preparation program. A minimum of three years of teaching experience with a standard license also is required.

In addition, candidates for Superintendent certification must complete at least 18 semester graduate credits in a school superintendent preparation program, with at least 12 credits beyond a master’s degree in education leadership. Superintendent candidates also must have at least one year of successful experience while licensed in an administrator position.

Additional requirements for both Superintendent and Principal certification include three semester credits of college courses in Montana school law, including special education law, and completion of the Indian Education course requirement.

Teaching Reciprocity Agreements in Montana

Teaching reciprocity agreements in Montana allow you to use education and experience earned in another state to meet requirements for a new certification here. If you have a valid out-of-state license, reciprocity agreements can help you expedite the process of becoming an educator in Montana.

Requirement Description
NASDTEC Interstate Agreement Montana participates in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement.
State Grants Full Reciprocity Montana does not grant full reciprocity.
Coursework Requirements Out-of-state teachers have coursework requirements. They must show completion of an online course in Indian education and proof of a supervised teaching experience to earn a Professional – Class 1 or Standard – Class 2 license. Teachers who do not meet this criteria may qualify for a Provisional – Class 5 license with proof of passing the Praxis subject test that aligns with their certification along with an in-state address or offer of work from an accredited P-12 Montana school. Out-of-state candidates with a degree over five years old and without a valid license must show proof of six semester credits within the five-year period before the date the license was effective.
Test-out or Exemption Montana does not offer test-out or exemptions.
Assessment Requirements Out-of-state candidates with proof of an educator preparation program must show a qualifying score on the Praxis subject test that aligns with their certification to qualify for a Professional, Standard or Provisional License. Proof of a current address in Montana or P-12 school job offer is required for a Provisional License.
Different Requirements Based on Experience Out-of-state teachers must demonstrate five years of "successful" experience with documentation from an out-of-state P-12 school employer or educational institution in order to qualify for a Standard – Class 2 License. Those not meeting experience criteria may qualify for a Provisional – Class 5 License with proof of a qualifying grade on the Praxis subject assessment, an address in Montana or job offer from an approved Montana school.
Performance Requirements Out-of-state teachers must demonstrate five years of "successful" experience with documentation from an out-of-state P-12 school employer or educational institution in order to qualify for a Standard – Class 2 License.
Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials Out-of-state teachers with advanced credentials are eligible for a nonrenewable Provisional – Class 5 License valid for three years unless they prove qualified for full certification.
Information reported by the Education Commission of the States.

Alternate Teaching Certification

You can earn alternate teaching certification in Montana by participating in non-traditional licensure options. These programs offer opportunities for candidates who meet education and experience requirements to achieve teacher certification. Minimum requirements typically require a bachelor’s degree, but each program may have additional qualifications such as state residency.

Courses offered in the evenings, on weekends or online accommodate adult learners who have full-time employment. In some cases, you may be able to work in a classroom while you learn. Alternate teaching certification may be a good option for you if you are looking for a workable option to a full-time educator preparation program.

Teach for America

Teach for America, a national nonprofit dedicated to supporting education equality in the United States, places teachers in 53 needy communities across the United States. These locations are desperate for committed and certified teachers. Teach for America corps are top college graduates who live and work in school districts where they can make a difference as teachers and community leaders. Unfortunately, Teach for America does not place teachers in the state of Montana.

Troops to Teachers

Troops to Teachers provides mentoring to active or retired U.S. military members who want to transition their leadership skills and training into a career in teaching. This Department of Defense program, managed by DANTES, assists service members in meeting the requirements necessary to obtain Montana teacher certification. The service helps to reduce veteran unemployment while also working to remedy the teacher shortage by directing participants toward positions in schools where they are needed most. Eligible military personnel may qualify for a stipend toward certification expenses or a bonus for teaching in a high need school.

Transition into Teaching for Career Changers

A Montana Class 5 Provisional Licensure with K-12, Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle, Secondary, or Special Education (P-12) Endorsement may be appropriate for you if you are a career changer considering transitioning into teaching. You can apply for this license if you have a bachelor’s degree from an approved college or university and a proof of a certification plan of study from an accredited educator preparation program. This plan must verify that you can meet admission standards and complete the qualifications to earn a full license within the three years that the Class 5 license is valid. This plan allows you to begin teaching while you complete the credentials necessary for full licensure under a Class 2 license.

Montana Quality Educator Loan Assistance Program

Montana’s Quality Educator Loan Assistance Program is available for eligible K-12 educators in the state. The program is supported by the MEA-MFT, a state labor union that includes public K-12 school teachers. The program provides the repayment of school loans for amounts up to $3,000 annually for up to four years. Specific amounts are determined based on the schools and academic areas in which the applicants teach. Qualifications include holding a valid educator license, teaching in an impacted school and in an academic area affected by significant educator shortages.

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