How to Become a Teacher in New York: Education & Certification Guide

If you want to be a teacher in New York state, your first step after earning your degree 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 NYS certification process. Or maybe you want to learn how to progress to advanced certification, or you’re a teacher looking to move to New York 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 New York state. Use the Table of Contents to quickly find the information that you want.

Teaching in New York: Fast Facts

Though New York ranks third in U.S. by number of teachers, the state has a declining educator workforce. In 2020, New York state employed 8,600 fewer teachers than it did in 2013, totaling 3% less educators. Compared to 2010 totals, the 2020 workforce represents a 7% drop, or 21,000 fewer teachers.

The situation isn’t likely to improve soon. About 32% of current New York state teachers are age 50 or older. In addition, enrollment in teaching programs at State University of New York (SUNY) declined by 50% between 2007 and 2016, indicating there will be fewer new teachers to fill positions left vacant from retirements.

If you’d like to explore teaching opportunities in New York state, here are some facts to consider:

  • Average starting salary: $44,935 – just over 16% above the national average
  • Average salary: $81,902 – more than 37% above the national average
  • Average level of education: 84% have a master’s degree, nearly 9% have an EdS or doctoral degree, and roughly 4% have a bachelor’s degree
  • Average students per teacher: 11.87 – compared to 15.96 for the national average
  • Average expenditure per student: $23,265 – twice the national average

New York State Teacher Certification

New York state requires that all teachers, administrators, and pupil personnel service providers hold New York certification to work in any of the state’s public schools. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) Office of Teaching Initiatives approves all educator licensures.

You can explore what you’ll need to earn any type of certification in any specific subject area and grade level using the NYSED certification requirements search tool.

Since a traditional pathway is the most common, let’s start by looking at the NYS teacher certification requirements via this route.

How to Become a Teacher in New York

The Initial Certificate is the starting point for all teachers who are new to the profession or seeking certification based on out-of-state credentials. Considered an entry-level license, the Initial Certificate is valid for 5 years and leads to the permanent Professional Certificate.

Your Initial Certificate specifies the subject and grade level that you’re authorized to teach. Requirements for individual specialties can vary, but there are baseline standards for all Initial Certificates.


Meet minimum education requirements

High school graduates who want certification in New York state must earn a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5 from a state-registered teacher preparation program. If you have an undergraduate degree in a subject area other than education, but no prior teaching experience, your teacher education program will be at the graduate degree level.

Enrolling in an approved program ensures that you’ll study the coursework components required for certification. As part of your program, you must complete 6 hours of coursework or training in Harassment, Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Discrimination Prevention and Intervention, also called Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) training.

To apply for an Initial Certificate, you’ll also have to attend a Child Abuse Identification and Reporting workshop, as well as training related to the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education program.


Complete student teaching requirement

An approved teacher preparation program will help you meet the Initial Certificate student teaching requirements, which include both:

  • Field observation totaling at least 100 hours, or 150 hours for dual certification programs, in the subject area and grade level range of your expected certificate; and
  • At least 2 college-supervised student-teaching experiences of at least 20 school days each in the subject area and grade level range of your expected certificate

Pass NYSTCE teacher certification exams

The New York State Teacher Certification Examinations (NYSTCE) program creates all the exams for New York state certification. Test results are then sent to the New York State Education Department.

To earn an Initial Certificate in New York, you must pass:

edTPA: This is a certification-specific teacher performance assessment that examines your level of preparedness as a teacher.

Educating All Students Test (EAS): This exam checks your level of proficiency in teaching diverse student populations, English language learners, and students with disabilities. It also assesses your skills in handling teacher responsibilities and school-home relationships.

Content Specialty Tests (CSTs): The CST you take to earn your Initial Certificate will depend on the certification you’re seeking. A typical CST includes multiple-choice questions and a written assignment.


Apply for certification

You’ll apply for certification at TEACH Online Services. Your TEACH account stores all certificate documentation. This includes a recommendation from your educational institution proving that you completed specific certification components, fingerprint clearance, and your application fee.

When your application is complete, NYSED will review it and post an official decision in your TEACH account.

After earning an Initial Certificate, you’ll have 5 years to meet the requirements and apply for a permanent Professional Certificate specific to your chosen subject area and grade level. Candidates for all Professional Certificates must prove status as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

New York Professional Certificate

In addition to certificate-specific requirements, all candidates for Professional Certificates must meet standard criteria.

Meet minimum education requirements

To earn a Professional Certificate, you’ll need a master’s degree, including 12 graduate semester hours in the content core of the certificate you’re seeking. For some certificate titles, the master’s degree may be in the content area of the Initial Certificate or in a closely related subject. The NYSED posts a guide to common graduate degrees that it considers related to specific Initial Certificate subject areas.

If you earn a master’s degree unrelated to the subject of the certificate you’re seeking, you’ll need 12 semester hours of graduate coursework in the content area of your Initial Certificate or in content-linking pedagogy.

Complete teaching requirements

To qualify for a Professional Certificate, you’ll also need 3 full years of classroom teaching experience. If you taught in a public school, your first year must be mentored unless you had 2 years of teaching or educational leadership prior to earning your Initial Certificate.

Pass NYSTCE teacher certification exams

To qualify for a Professional Certificate, you’ll have to pass the EAS and certificate-related edTPAs and CSTs. If you’re pursuing a Professional Certificate in the same subject as your Initial, you don’t have to retake the same NYSTCE exams. However, you’ll need further testing if you’re seeking certifications that have different versions of the edTPAs and CSTs that you passed for your Initial Certificate.

Apply for certification

Your educational recommendation, proof of mentorship, employment experience, exam scores, and fingerprint clearance will be submitted via your TEACH account. You’ll receive an official decision from NYSED here.

Renewing Your Certification

If you haven’t earned the 3 years of teaching experience required to gain a Professional Certificate, you can request a 1-time Initial Certificate Reissuance. This lasts for a period of 5 years.

To qualify, you’ll have to complete 75 hours of Continuing Teacher Education and Leader Education (CTLE) in the year before application. You’ll also have to retake certification-related CSTs within 1 year of applying for the reissuance.

A 2-year extension of an Initial Certificate can be requested if you took a leave from teaching due to extreme circumstances including childbearing and serious illness.

A Professional Certificate doesn’t expire as long as you complete 100 acceptable CTLE hours during every 5-year registration period. You can request an extension if extenuating circumstances interfered with completing your hours. If your Professional Certificate expires, you can apply for reinstatement after meeting the CTLE requirements.

New York State Teacher Certification Reciprocity

The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) created the Interstate Agreement to promote the transfer of certifications between participating states. Within this agreement, each state outlines its own reciprocity agreement with other participating states.

Although New York doesn’t participate in NASDTEC, it does have reciprocity options. Ultimately, the NYSED makes all final decisions on certificate acceptance. If you’re considering transferring an out-of-state license toward New York teacher certification, find out what you can expect in the chart below.

NASDTEC Interstate Agreement No.
State Grants Full Reciprocity No.
Coursework Requirements Out-of-state candidates must complete training related to child abuse identification/reporting; school violence prevention/intervention; and harassment, bullying, and discrimination prevention/intervention.
Test-out or Exemption No.
Assessment Requirements If you have at least 3 years of “effective” teaching experience within the past 5 years, as well as a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, you won’t have to take the NYSTCE exams. However, if you completed a “substantially equivalent” out-of-state teacher education program, but didn’t meet experience requirements, you must pass the EAS test and respective CST before teaching. If you hold a Conditional Initial Certificate, you can teach while completing your edTPA performance assessment.
Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials No. All out-of-state candidates must qualify for an Initial Certificate before working toward a Professional Certificate.

Sourced from the Education Commission of the States.

Alternative Teacher Certification in New York

You might be a candidate for alternative teacher certification if you have a bachelor’s degree in a major unrelated to teaching.

The popularity of alternative teacher certification programs has increased as schools look for ways to solve the growing teacher shortage. These programs let you begin teaching while you fulfill certification requirements.

Teach for America

Teach for America (TFA) is a national nonprofit organization that supports educational equality for all students. It serves 53 geographic regions in the U.S.

TFA corps members in New York state live and work in low-income communities throughout NYC. TFA members here earn annual salaries ranging from $40,000 to $58,000.

TFA acceptance includes passing a competitive screening and interviewing process. Prior to teaching, you’ll complete an intensive month-long course on basic teaching and classroom management.

As a TFA corps member in New York, you’ll teach under a New York state Transitional B certificate. This license requires that you enroll in a TFA-subsidized master’s degree program during your 2 years of service. You’ll also have to pass 3 initial NYSTCE exams for your license area, take 3 special topic New York state teaching workshops, and acquire fingerprint clearance.

You can apply for an Initial Certificate at the end of your TFA assignment.

Transition into teaching for career changers

If you’re a career changer interested in teaching, New York state offers several alternative pathways that combine educational coursework and professional mentoring. Accelerated programs can help get you working in a paid teaching position as you earn your certification requirements. While in these programs, you’ll work under a Transitional Certificate that’s tied to the school where you work.

If you have a bachelor’s degree and want to teach in the subject area in which you majored, you can qualify for a 3-year Transitional B Certificate to lead to an Initial Certificate. This certificate lets you work as a teacher in your subject area of expertise while you complete your NYSED requirements.

If you have a master’s degree and want to teach in the subject area in which you majored, you can qualify for a 3-year Transitional C Certificate to lead to a Professional Certificate. This authorizes you to work in a paid teaching position in the subject area of your degree while meeting certification requirements. It’s unique in that it leads directly to a Professional Certificate without a prior Initial Certificate.

If you want to teach career-and-technical classes for grades 7-12, but don’t meet the Initial Certificate requirements, you can apply for a 3-year Transitional A Certificate to lead to an Initial Certificate. You’ll also need at least an associate’s degree and 2 years of related occupational experience.

Substitute Teacher Requirements

New York state doesn’t offer a certificate for substitute teaching, but it does have state requirements. Individual school districts can impose additional restrictions.

If you hold NYSED teacher certification, you can work as a substitute teacher for up to 40 days per year in the same school district. For longer assignments, you’ll need certification for your specific subject area and grade level.

If you don’t have NYSED certification, you can work for an absolute maximum of 40 days in the same school district. To teach longer than this, you must be working toward certification and completing collegiate study at a minimum of 6 semester hours annually. Your assignment must be in the subject area and grade level for which you’re seeking certification.

When there’s an urgent need for a substitute teacher, a school district can extend the employment period past these limits.

New York State Teaching Assistant Certification

If you have a high school diploma, you can qualify for NYS teaching assistant certification. A certified teaching assistant provides direct student instruction under the general supervision of a New York state certified teacher. There are several options in the NYS teacher assistant certification process.

3-year Level I Teaching Assistant Certificate is an entry-level license that requires:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • A passing score on the NYSTCE Assessment of Teaching Assistant Skills (ATAS)
  • A Child Abuse Identification workshop
  • A School Violence Intervention and Prevention workshop
  • DASA training
  • Fingerprint clearance

To qualify for a nonrenewable 3-year Level II Teaching Assistant Certificate, you’ll need a Level I Certificate, 9 semester hours of college coursework toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, and 1 year of certified teaching assistant experience. If you don’t meet these qualifications before your Level I Certificate expires, you can apply for a 1-time 3-year Teaching Assistant–Level I Renewal Certificate.

You can bypass a Level II Certificate and apply for a Level III Teaching Assistant Certificate if you have a Level I certificate plus 18 semester hours of college coursework, 1 year of experience as a certified teaching assistant or classroom teacher, and status as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Holders of Level III Teaching Assistant certificates issued after June 30, 2016 must complete 100 hours of CTLE requirements within a 5-year registration period.

The highest level of teaching assistant certification is a Teaching Assistant–Pre-professional Certificate. In addition to a Level I Certificate, you’ll need:

  • Enrollment in a state registered teacher preparation program
  • 18 semester hours of college coursework
  • 1 year of verified experience as a teaching assistant

NYS Teacher Salaries

With salaries averaging $44,935 for new teachers and $81,902 for those with experience, New York state teacher salaries are well above the national average. Your individual compensation will depend on your teaching experience, educational specialty, and school district location. Learn the average salaries for some specific specialties, with data sourced by the 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

salary outlook
Position Median Salary
Preschool teachers $36,880
Elementary school teachers $78,920
High school teachers $97,340
School administrators K-12 $128,190


Job Growth for High School Teachers through 2031

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

How advanced degrees impact salary

Advanced degrees can have a positive impact on the salary you earn as a certified teacher. In 2022, the New York City Department of Education reported that its starting salaries for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no prior teaching experience began at $61,070, while new teachers with a master’s degree and no prior experience started at $77,953.

In New York state, 84% of teachers hold a master’s degree, so you’re likely to need an advanced degree to stay competitive in the market. You’ll also need a graduate degree to qualify for a Professional Certificate.

New York Teacher Shortage Areas & Job Outlook

You’re likely to increase your career opportunities if you prepare for a teaching position in one of New York state’s subject shortage areas These subject and grade level specialties have the highest needs for certified teachers, as reported by the U.S. Department of Education:

  • Bilingual Education (General): all grades
  • Career and Technical Education: all grades
  • Special Education (Not Bilingual): elementary grades
  • Special Education (Not Bilingual): middle/secondary grades
  • Special Education (Bilingual): all grades

Overall, long-term projected job growth for NYS teachers is expected to average 7%-8% through 2030, with an average of 8,500 openings annually.

Additional Teaching Certifications

Your Initial or Professional Certificate identifies the subject area and grade level in which you’re authorized to teach. There may be additional requirements unique to each specialty certification.

The NYSED has a searchable database for the requirements of every certification offered. Some of the most common certification areas are described below.

Early childhood education

substitute teacher with kids

In New York state, Early Childhood Education certification includes birth to grade 2. You’ll have to pass the EAS, Early Childhood edTPA, and the Multi-Subject: Teacher of Early Childhood CST. Multi-Subject CSTs have 3 parts: Literacy and English Language Arts; Mathematics; and Arts and Sciences.

It’s helpful to know that Part 3 of the Multi-Subject exam is shared by all 4 NYSTCE grade level Multi-Subject tests. You only need to take Part 3 once.

Elementary school

special education teacher raising hand in class

The NYS certification that authorizes you to teach elementary school is Childhood Education (grades 1-6).

Along with general requirements, you’ll have to pass the 3 parts of the Multi-Subject: Teachers of Childhood CST, the Elementary Education edTPA, and the EAS.

Middle school

To teach middle school in New York state, you’ll need the Generalist Certificate in Middle Childhood Education (grades 5-9). In addition to meeting general requirements, you’ll have to take the Multi-Subject Teachers of Middle Childhood CST, the Elementary Education edTPA, and the EAS.

Secondary school

tesol student and teacher

As a secondary school teacher in New York state, you’ll concentrate on 1 subject area for Certification. General secondary school certification is only available to teachers of students with disabilities.

CSTs and edTPAs vary according to the specific secondary school subject area in which you’re seeking certification. For example, if you’re planning to teach biology, you must pass both the Biology CST and the Secondary Science edTPA.

Physical education (PE) certification

physical education gymnasium

Physical Education (PE) certification in New York covers pre-K to grade 12 students. This certification requires the NYSTCE Physical Education CST, which tests Individual Growth and Development; Health-Related Fitness; Movement Concepts, Skills and Activities; Physical Education Curriculum and Pedagogy; and Pedagogical Content Knowledge. You also must pass the EAS and the edTPA for PE.

Special education certification

Special Education certifications in New York state allow you to focus on 1 type of disability or work as a generalist with all disabled students in a certain age group.

To qualify for any of the special education age-level certifications, you must pass all the Initial or Professional Certificate requirements, along with the EAS and the edTPA for Special Education. You also must pass the general Multi-Subject CST exam specific to Early Childhood, Childhood, Middle Childhood, or Secondary students, depending on your certification. In addition, you’ll have to take the Students with Disabilities CST.

You can specialize in teaching pre-K to grade 12 students who have a specific disability with 1 of the following certifications:

Blind and Visually Impaired: This certification requires passing the Blind and Visually Impaired CST and edTPA for Special Education.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: The required CST for this certification is the Deaf and Hard of Hearing CST. The edTPA for Special Education also is required.

Speech and Language Disabilities: For this, you’ll need a Speech and Language Disabilities-centered teacher preparation program, an institutional recommendation, and completion of the EAS test. This certification has no edTPA or CST.

English as a second language certification

In New York state, you can teach English as a second language by earning certification in English to Speakers of Other Languages. You must pass the English as an Additional Language edTPA and the CST for English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

Certifications for school administrators

school principal taking a moments rest

If you’re a new candidate interested in certifications for school administrators, you can pursue 1 of 3 distinct pre-K to grade 12 titles. Both traditional and alternative pathways are available. You’ll need fingerprint clearance and U.S. citizenship or USCIS Permanent Residence status for these certifications.

School Building Leader (Principal): You can earn an Initial or Professional Certificate for this certification. To earn the Initial Certificate, you need:

  • A master’s degree
  • Completion of a state-registered preparation program
  • Passing scores on the NYSTCE for School Building Leader Parts 1 and 2 and EAS test
  • 3 years of teaching or administrative experience
  • DASA training

A Professional Certificate requires both 3 years of teaching experience and 3 years of administrative experience.

School District Business Leader: This is only offered at the Professional Certificate level and requires:

  • A master’s degree, including 60 semester hours of related coursework
  • A completed NYS registered teacher preparation program
  • Passing scores on the NYSTCE School District Business Leader Parts 1 and 2
  • DASA training

School District Leader (Superintendent): The traditional pathway to this certification leads to a Professional Certificate and requires:

  • A master’s degree with 60 semester hours of related coursework
  • Completion of a registered teacher preparation program
  • 3 years of teaching or administrative experience
  • Passing scores on the NYSTCE School District Leader Part 1 and Part 2 and EAS
  • DASA training

FYI, A fourth certification, School Administrator/Supervisor, is only available to candidates who hold a Provisional certificate in this title. NYS no longer offers the Provisional Certificate, but allows those who still hold it to proceed to earn a permanent certificate with this title. I didn’t include because it doesn’t seem relevant to new candidates, who can’t apply for it.

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.

Financial Aid & Loan Forgiveness for New York Teachers

As a prospective educator, you’re eligible to apply for a wide range of scholarships for teachers. With the growing teacher shortage, more educational institutions, philanthropic organizations, and private businesses are offering scholarships to help education students meet their financial obligations.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants can help you pay for college if you commit to teaching in a low-income school district or a high-need field of study after graduation.

If you’ve used student loans to meet your financial obligations, you may qualify for federal programs that offer partial or complete student loan forgiveness. Most federal loan relief requires that you teach for a minimum of 5 full and consecutive academic years in a school that the U.S. Department of Education considers low income.

You can find resources specific to New York state from the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC). The HESC administers the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), more than 20 scholarship and loan forgiveness programs, and student financial outreach programs.

Finding New York Teaching Jobs

After you’ve achieved your new teacher certification, you’ll be ready to start finding New York teaching jobs. You can search for open teaching positions by region using the Online Application System for Educators (OLAS). If you’re interested in New York City opportunities, you’ll find open positions on the NYC school district website. Many school districts also maintain their own job websites.

Ready to Get Started?

If you’re ready to get started on your career, make sure you understand the specific requirements that you’ll need to earn certification in the subject area and grade level you choose. Knowing your career goals can save you time and money in earning the right qualifications for the certification you want.

To begin your journey toward a rewarding career in teaching, use the Find Schools button to search for an educator program near you.