How to Earn Your Teacher Certification in North Dakota

If you want to teach in North Dakota, your first step will be to earn teacher certification. While there are different ways you can do this, your options depend on your level of education and experience.

Our guide can help you determine the pathway that’s right for you at any point in your career. If you’re just beginning your journey and need to know the basics about the certification process in North Dakota, we have the information you need. Or maybe you want to learn how to earn advanced certification and specialize, or you’re a teacher looking to move to North Dakota from out of 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 North Dakota.

Basic Requirements

All North Dakota teaching licenses are monitored and awarded through the Education Standards and Practices Board (ESPB). The ESPB is an independent board composed of ten professionals in the field of education. Each member is appointed by the Governor and can serve two three year terms.

The ESPB offers two types of certification for new and experienced teachers:

Initial In-State License: New teachers are only eligible to earn this teacher certification after completing all of the requirements, including completing a background check. You can find a detailed account of education and exam requirements in the sections below. The initial license is valid for two years and can be renewed for those who have not yet taught for 18 months.

First Five Year License: Teachers who have taught for 18 months or more and hold an initial in-state license are eligible to apply for this level of licensure. It can be renewed by completing continuing education, or re-education, credits and each renewal is valid for five years.

Meet the Minimum Education Requirements for North Dakota

To begin your traditional pathway to earning an initial license in North Dakota, you must earn a bachelor’s degree in teaching with a minimum GPA of 2.5. Your approved degree program will also include a teacher education program. This program is required to earn an initial license. If your degree program does include a teacher education program it may not be a North Dakota approved program. The program must be approved to fulfill the ESPB education requirements.

Student Teaching

All degree programs will incorporate a student teaching experience. This experience is vital to giving you hands-on training. To complete this experience, you will be paired with a teacher and work with them in their classroom. Through observation and active communication, you will work towards planning and teaching your own lessons. Your mentor will guide you through the student teaching process and let you know what areas you can work to improve and what areas you excel.

Pass the North Dakota Certification Exams

All North Dakota teachers must first pass the Praxis I Core Academic Skills for Educators exam to earn initial certification. This exam covers basic skills including reading, writing and math.

You must also pass the Praxis II exam that corresponds to the area you seek certification in. Because there are a variety of options for these exams, you should always check with your degree program to ensure that you sign up for the right exam. You can find information on some common certification areas and the corresponding test you must take in the Specialty Certifications below.


Once you have completed your background check, degree program and certification exams, you will be ready to apply for your North Dakota initial in-state license. Make sure that your transcripts, background clearance and exam scores have all been submitted prior to completing your application. If you are missing any paper work when the ESPB reviews your application, you may be denied the initial license. You can complete your application on the ND Teach account that you create. When you submit your application you will also include a $30 application fee.

How Much Do Teachers in North Dakota Make?

While the desire to become a teacher isn’t about the money for most people, it’s still an important aspect to consider. The salary you can make as a teacher will vary depending on your education and experience level. It will also vary depending on the school district or school you work in. You can contact your local school district to get a better idea of what salary you can make as a teacher in North Dakota.

salary outlook
Position Median Salary
Early Childhood Educator $30,090
Elementary School Teacher $49,760
Secondary School Teacher $49,730
Middle School Teacher $60,600
Education Administrator $96,960


Job Growth for High School Teachers through 2031

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

Specialty Certifications

North Dakota teaching licenses indicate what grade level and subject you are certified to teach. To gain these qualifications you must earn you license in a specialty area. You can find the requirements for some of the certification areas below.

Early Childhood Education


North Dakota requires that all early childhood educators meet the ESPB standards discussed at the beginning of this article. You will also want your bachelor’s degree to be focused on early childhood education birth to third grade. To earn this certification, you will be expected to pass two Praxis II exams, Early Childhood Education and Principles of Learning and Teaching: Early Childhood. Each exam will focus on assessing your understanding of childhood development and the instructional process.

Elementary – Middle School Teacher


Elementary education in North Dakota covers first to eighth grade (1-8). Kindergarten is taught by teachers who have earned a Kindergarten endorsement. This endorsement is specific for Pre-K and K and will require that you complete coursework specifically focused on the Pre-K and K grade levels.

To teach at the elementary level, your bachelor’s degree should be in elementary education. After completing all other ESPB requirements you will then need to pass the Praxis II Elementary Education: Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment and Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades K-6 exams.

Middle school teachers in North Dakota teach fifth through eighth grade (5-8). You can earn you middle school license in English, math, social studies or science by completing your bachelor’s degree in the subject area you seek to teach. When you meet the additional ESPB requirements you will then need to pass the Praxis II Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 5-9 exam. From there you will need to take Praxis II Middle School test that corresponds to the subject matter you are trained to teach.

Secondary School Teacher


Secondary teaching licenses can cover a variety of grade ranges depending on the subject matter you seek to teach. Most secondary licenses will cover grades ninth through twelfth (9-12). As a secondary teacher you should earn your bachelor’s degree in the subject area that you are interested in teaching.

Every secondary teacher must first pass the Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 7-12 Praxis II exam. You will then need to take the Praxis II content area test. This exam will vary depending on the subject you seek to teach. For example, candidates for a teaching license in chemistry at the secondary level will need to pass the Praxis II Chemistry: Content Knowledge exam, while Economics teachers should pass the Praxis II Economics exam.

Substitute Teacher Certification


Earning a substitute teacher certification in North Dakota is a simple process. First, you will submit your official college transcripts. They should document that you have completed at least 48 semester hours of college coursework. You will also need to clear a background check. The background check is the same that all North Dakota teachers complete and can be done with the ESPB. Once those steps are completed you will complete your online substitute license application and submit an $80 fee. The license is good for a two year period and will expire on your birthday. With a North Dakota substitute license you can teach any K-12 grade level in all North Dakota public schools.

Physical Education (PE) Certification


To become a PE teacher in North Dakota, you must earn your teaching certification in PE. As a certified PE teacher your bachelor’s degree should be in a PE focused program. You will also need to meet all other ESPB requirements discussed at the very beginning of this article. That includes completing the appropriate Praxis tests. As a PE teacher you must pass the Praxis II Physical Education: Content Knowledge exam.

Special Education Certification


Earning your qualification as a special education teacher will require that you earn your bachelor’s degree in special education and take the Praxis II Special Education: Core Knowledge and Applications exam, in addition to all other ESPB requirements.

If you seek to work with a specific special education population, you should earn a special education endorsement. These include specific learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, intellectual disabilities, or the strategist, which combines all three endorsement areas. In addition, there are also endorsements for: hearing impairment and visual impairment, early childhood special education, and gifted and talented. Each endorsement will require that you complete coursework related to that population and that you pass the Praxis II exam that corresponds to the endorsement area.

English as a Second Language Certification


Teachers of ESL first earn their degree in TESOL. When you complete all of the ESPB initial certification requirements, you will then be able to apply for your initial teacher certification and an ESL endorsement. There is no standardized exam for ESL teachers in North Dakota.

If you are already an established teacher and are interested in changing your teaching credentials to ESL, you can earn an additional endorsement in ESL. This will require that you complete coursework that is focused on TESOL.

Certifications for School Administrators


There is no certification for school administrators in North Dakota. To become a school administrator you will add a credential to your five-year professional teaching license. Credentials can be added by logging into your ND Teach account. There are two credential options for school administrators: principal and superintendent. These credentials are offered by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction and often require completion of master’s level coursework in school administration as well as having administrative experience.

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 North Dakota

If you are a teacher looking to transfer your out-of-state license into a North Dakota teacher license, you will do this through reciprocity. North Dakota is an active participant in the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification’s (NASDTEC) Interstate Agreement. The agreement allows all participating states to create a statement of reciprocity, which establishes the expectations and requirements for all out-of-state teachers seeking licensure.

NASDTEC Interstate Agreement Yes, North Dakota is a participant.
State Grants Full Reciprocity No, all teachers must meet the ESPB requirements to earn licensure.
Coursework Requirements Yes. First the ESPB will review your transcripts. If you are missing any required coursework you will be notified and expected to complete it. North Dakota also requires teachers to complete coursework in Native American studies, cultural diversity, strategies for creating learning environments that contribute to positive human relationships and strategies for teaching and assessing diverse learners. If you do not meet these requirements you may be eligible to teach through an out-of-state reciprocal license for two to four years. You must complete all of the coursework requirements to earn the next level of licensure, an initial license.
Test-out or Exemption No, the ESPB does not offer test-out or other exemptions for coursework.
Assessment Requirements Yes. ESPB may require that you pass the Praxis II content exam that relates to the area you teach, along with a basic skills and/or pedagogical exam. It is possible to teach for two to four years with an out-of-state reciprocal license while you complete these requirements. If your state requires the same testing that North Dakota does and you can show proof of meeting the ESPB required score, you may not be required to complete the testing requirements.
Different Requirements Based on Experience In some cases, you may be eligible to submit evidence of your full-time teaching experience in lieu of completing the pedagogical assessment requirements.
Performance Requirements There are no performance requirements.
Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials There are three teacher certification offered to out-of-state teacher in North Dakota: Out-of-State Reciprocal License, Initial License, and Out-of State Highly Qualified License. If you do not meet all of the coursework and testing requirements you are eligible to earn the out-of-state reciprocal license. If you do meet the requirements, or once you complete all of the requirements, you can earn the initial license. Out-of-state teachers who are distinguished as ‘Highly Qualified’ on their license and meet all ESPB requirements can earn the highly-qualified license.

Information reported by the Education Commission of the States.

Alternate Teaching Certification

When the traditional route to licensure doesn’t work with your education or experience level, an alternative route to licensure might be the better option. You should consider an alternative pathway if you earned your bachelor’s degree in anything outside of the education field or if you are a working professional outside of the education field looking to transition into a teaching career. These pathways can be found at the national and state level.

Teach for America

Teach for America (TFA) is a program that places individuals with bachelor’s degrees in a high-needs school for a two-year commitment. During this commitment, you will work as a teacher and complete all of the state requirements for earning a teacher certification. Unfortunately TFA does not currently work within North Dakota. However, they do work across the nation in a variety of other regions. If you are interested, you can relocate to a new region and work with TFA to earn your teacher certification. Once you have earned it you can then seek reciprocity in North Dakota. If you meet all of their requirements you will then be eligible to work in North Dakota as a certified teacher.

Transition into Teaching for Career Changers

One alternate route to earning a teaching certification is through a North Dakota Alternate Access License. These can only be issued in areas that have documented teacher shortages. You do not need to have a teaching degree to earn this certification, but you must have a bachelor’s degree in the subject area that the school needs to fill.

If the school can find no qualified teaching candidates, a local school administrator will then request an alternate access license for you. To earn it, you must complete an online application, submit your college transcripts and work towards earning your teaching degree. This license is issued one year at a time for up to three years. To renew the license you must be working towards your teaching degree. You can show proof of your progress by submitting your plan of study. It should indicate that you are on track to completing 1/3 of the program each year.