How to Earn Teacher Certification in Pennsylvania

If you’re thinking of becoming a teacher in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to get certified, but there are several different routes to take, depending on your current level of education and experience.

Maybe you’re just starting out and need information on degrees that prepare you for initial teacher licensure. Perhaps you have a degree, and just want to know how to get certified in state. Or you might be a teacher planning to move to Pennsylvania and are exploring teaching reciprocity.

In all of these cases, we’ve got the information you’ll need. 

Teaching in Pennsylvania: Fast Facts

Pennsylvania had 124,294 working teachers in 788 school districts in 2021, says the National Center for Education Statistics. However the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2021 that the state is having a teacher shortage crisis and is creating a plan to bring in thousands of new teachers to fill the gaps by 2025.

If you think you might want to become one of them, here are a few more facts you’ll be interested in:

  • Median annual salary secondary school teacher: $75,940 (2022, BLS)
  • Average level of education: 53.9% have a master’s degree and 32.9% have a bachelor’s degree
  • Average students per teacher: 15:1 (2021, Public School Review)
  • Average expenditure per student: $18,907 (NCES)

Pennsylvania Teacher Certification Requirements

Whether you’re new to the profession or you’ve been teaching in another state for many years, you’ll need to earn certification if you wish to teach in Pennsylvania. Teacher certification is granted by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for both in and out-of-state teachers, as long as the certification requirements are met. Keep reading for a breakdown of what you need to do to make sure you’re prepared to teach.

Types of Pennsylvania Teacher Certification

The state of Pennsylvania issues two types of certification, Level I and Level II. The levels of certification are differentiated by whether you’re an in or out-of-state teacher, the amount of time you’ve been teaching, and your education and training. Let’s take a look at the details for each level.

How to Earn Pennsylvania Level I (Initial) Teacher Certification

Level I is a provisional license awarded to new or out-of-state teachers. It lasts for a period of six years unless it is classified as an administrative or intern certification, then it will last five or three years. These certifications cannot be renewed and must be converted to a Level II certification before the allotted time expires.

There are four steps to earning your Level I teacher certification.

  1. Meet Minimum Education Requirements

The Pennsylvania Department of Education requires all those applying for teaching certifications meet the following educational requirements. You must:

Have a bachelor’s degree or, for vocational subject areas, applicants must have two years of work experience in the area of certification.

Complete a PDE-approved program of study that leads to certification. The approved program can be a PDE approved teacher education program that must include a supervised student teaching experience; or for valid out-of-state certification holders with two years of classroom experience, proof of experience and your teaching certification will be required rather than proof of an approved program.

Have at least a 3.0 college GPA.

  1. Complete Student Teaching Requirement

While pursuing your PDE approved teacher education program, you will be expected to complete a supervised student teaching experience where you’ll gain practical experience by working alongside a certified teacher within their classroom. You will observe and take part in the teacher-student relationship, as well as plan and teach lessons.

This experience should be required by your education program. If it is not, verify that the program is PDE approved. Otherwise, you may be ineligible to qualify for a Pennsylvania teaching license.

  1. Pass Pennsylvania Teacher Certification Tests

As a teacher certification candidate, you will be expected to take and pass two educator exams.

The basic skills assessment, known as the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA).

The assessment is broken up into three categories: reading, mathematics and writing. Each assessment can be taken individually or simultaneously, but all must be taken and passed to earn your teacher certification.

A subject matter test related to the desired certification area, provided by Praxis.

The subject matter test will vary depending on the type of certificate that you are interested in obtaining. For example, if you are interested in becoming a 10th grade math teacher, you will need to pass the Praxis Mathematics 7-12 exam. Be sure to check with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to find out what specific requirements you must meet for your subject matter test.

  1. Apply for Certification

Applying for your certification is a straightforward process. Log on to Pennsylvania’s Teacher Information Management System (TIMS) and submit your application. The Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality will then review your application to ensure that you meet all of the above-mentioned requirements. Approximate processing time for applications awaiting evaluation is nine weeks.

Additional requirements include meeting Pennsylvania’s citizenship requirement by having valid proof of citizenship or holding a green card.

Earning Level II Teacher Certification

Level II certifications can only be awarded to candidates who hold a Level I certification. You must also have three years of successful teaching that can be verified by a school administrator; 24 post-baccalaureate credits; complete a PDE approved induction program provided by your school district; and present proof of satisfactory achievements in six semi-annual teaching evaluations.

You will apply for a Level II certification conversion through the TIMS online system after meeting all of the requirements.

Maintaining Pennsylvania Teacher Certification

Depending on the level of certification you hold in Pennsylvania, the state requires that you take action to maintain your certification as you continue teaching. A Level I teaching certificate is valid for six years, but you cannot renew it after that time. However, you can begin earning your Level II certificate after three years of teaching at Level I, as long as you have completed your school district’s induction program for new teachers, and have completed 24 post-baccalaureate credits.

Level II certification does not expire, but you must still complete continuing education requirements to maintain it. You can do so through several options:

  • Six post-baccalaureate credits
  • Six Pennsylvania Department of Education approved in-service credits
  • 180 continuing education hours
  • A combination of the options above, where each college credit equals 30 continuing education hours

The requirements for continuing education are set forth by Pennsylvania’s Act 48 of 1999, which stipulates that teachers are required to renew their certification every five years. If you’re looking for continuing education courses to do so, the Professional Education Record Management System (PERMS) allows Pennsylvania teachers to find Act 48 courses, research approved course providers and completed coursework. The Pennsylvania Department of Education also offers courses for a small fee.

Pennsylvania Teacher Certification Reciprocity

The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) created the Interstate Agreement in order to facilitate the transfer of teacher certifications between states.

Within this agreement each state outlines their requirements for teachers seeking reciprocity within their state. See Pennsylvania’s established guidelines below.

NASDTEC Interstate Agreement Yes, Pennsylvania is a participating member of the NASDTEC Agreement.
State Grants Full Reciprocity No.
Coursework Requirements Additional coursework will only be required for candidates who do not meet Pennsylvania’s standards. Contact the Department of Education to find out if you will need to complete additional coursework.
Test-out or Exemption No.
Assessment Requirements Additional assessments are required. Those who without experience may be required to take the basic skills assessment in addition to the core content exam. While those with experience will only need to take and pass the core content exam.
Different Requirements Based on Experience If you currently hold a valid teaching license and have two years of classroom experience you will need to submit official transcripts, identify and apply for a comparable Pennsylvania certification, submit a copy of your current certification. provide proof of experience, take and submit content area test scores to Pennsylvania’s Department of Education, complete and submit application for Pennsylvania certification.
Performance Requirements Teachers with experience must have a previous employer verify their experience level as satisfactory. A report of non-satisfactory, even with the required experience will not count towards certification.
Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials There are three credential levels: Intern, Instructional I and Instructional II. Instructional II is available for out-of-state candidates who meet post-baccalaureate credit and experience requirements.

As reported by the Education Commission of the States .

Pennsylvania Alternative Teaching Certification

Alternative pathways for earning a Pennsylvania teaching certification work well for those who are interested in teaching but don’t have a bachelor’s degree in the field of education. So, even if you have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you can still pursue your teaching certification through several intensive programs. Through these programs, you’ll be able to teach in your field of expertise with a provisional teacher certificate that puts you in a classroom as soon as possible.

Keep in mind that you’ll still want to apply for full teacher certification. Passing the necessary exams, background checks and filling out the required application materials as outlined in the beginning of this article will be your next steps.

Teach for America

Teach for America (TFA) is one of the most well-known alternative pathways to teacher certification. They work across the nation, within 53 different regions to bring qualified individuals into high-needs schools.

Pennsylvania’s TFA branch is located in Philadelphia and works within schools throughout the Greater Philadelphia area. TFA members in the Greater Philadelphia area could earn salaries ranging from $40,000-$48,000.

If you are interested in this alternative pathway, you can expect the process to look a little something like this:

  1. Apply for the program.
  2. Once you apply you will be considered a candidate and put through an interviewing and screening process.
  3. If you are accepted, you will request to be placed in Philadelphia.
  4. You will then go through an intensive month-long training where you will undergo a crash course in teaching and classroom management.
  5. From there, you will be relocated to a high-needs area within Greater Philadelphia where you will begin working as a teacher for two years.
    1. Most corps members begin working on an ‘intern certificate’ awarded by the PDE. To earn an intern certificate, you must have passed all the required certification exams and be enrolled in a PDE approved alternate route to certification program. TFA makes these programs easily accessible to members by having a program established with two different educational institutions: University of Pennsylvania and Relay Graduate School of Education.
    2. While you fulfill your two-year commitment, you will work towards earning your teacher certification by completing the alternate route to a certification program that you are a part of.
    3. Upon completion of your two-year TFA commitment, you will have earned your teacher certification and may be able to continue teaching within the same school or relocate to a different school within Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Teacher Intern Certification Program

To be eligible for the Pennsylvania Teacher Intern Certification Program you must already have a bachelor’s degree. The bachelor’s degree does not need to be related to the field of education, but it must relate to the subject you want to teach. You must also have completed basic coursework in core content area, which is often covered by your prerequisites, and have earned a minimum 3.0 GPA.

After taking and passing the required certification exams, which includes your basic skills and core content assessments, you will be awarded an Intern Certificate. This certificate allows you to teach full-time for up to three years while completing the intern program. Once you complete the program, you will be eligible to apply for your Pennsylvania Level I teacher certification.

Pennsylvania Temporary Teaching Permit/ABCTE Passport to Teaching

If you hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in an approved content area, you can apply for a Temporary Teaching permit. To be eligible, candidates must earn a Passport to Teaching credential through the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE). This permit grants candidates the ability to teach for one year while they complete the Point Park University alternative certification program. Once you complete the basic requirements for licensure, you can apply for an initial Instructional I certificate.

Substitute Teacher Certification

To be eligible to become a substitute teacher in Pennsylvania, you must have a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification or an emergency permit.

While holding one of these can allow you to substitute teach, there are certain restrictions around inactive certifications and emergency permits. Level I or Level II active certificates allow substitute teachers to teach for an unlimited number of days per school year, while Level I or Level II inactive certificates restrict substitute teachers to no more than 90 days of teaching per school year. Emergency certificates allow teaching only on a day-to-day basis, with no more than 20 consecutive days in the same assignment; these certificates can only be awarded by a school district when all attempts at finding a fully qualified substitute teacher have failed.

Finally, you must clear an FBI Criminal Background Check and a PA Criminal Background Check. You should also apply and submit a PA Child Abuse Clearance History.

One of the most efficient ways to begin working as a substitute teacher in Pennsylvania is to get in touch with a prominent substitute agency, such as Substitute Teacher Service, Inc. Agencies like this often work with school districts to help supply substitute teachers on a day-by-day basis, or even long term.

Once you get in touch with one of these agencies, they may want to set up an interview with you. If you meet their qualifications, one of those being holding a bachelor’s degree, they might be interested in speaking with you about employment. For those hired, the sub-agency will start to guide you through the process of becoming a substitute teacher step by step.

Teacher Salaries in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania teachers tend to earn higher salaries than the reported average U.S. teacher salary. While this can be an exciting prospect for those considering a Pennsylvania teaching job, it is important to note that the projected average salary varies by district. Some districts may pay well above the national average, and others may pay below. Be sure to investigate the salary range for the specific district you seek to teach in.

salary outlook
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education
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Median Hourly WageN/A

Job growth1%

Total Employment49,130

Metro area Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Pittsburgh, PA $79,570 $50,910 $131,290
Lancaster, PA $79,010 $50,160 $97,730
Reading, PA $78,850 $49,770 $94,190
East Stroudsburg, PA $78,840 $51,430 $101,710
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD $77,960 $49,150 $101,580
Chambersburg-Waynesboro, PA $77,830 $49,740 $94,110
York-Hanover, PA $77,370 $50,590 $100,880
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ $76,970 $49,990 $93,900
Gettysburg, PA $75,860 $49,140 $88,210
Williamsport, PA $75,850 $47,200 $80,690

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.


Job Growth for High School Teachers through 2032

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2022

How Advanced Degrees Impact Salary

Getting a master’s degree has more benefits than increasing job opportunities. With a master’s degree, you may expect to earn a higher salary than with just a bachelor’s degree. According to the 2022 BLS, people with a master’s degree earn $1,661 on average per week as opposed to $1,432 for those with a bachelor’s.

You can also use applicable graduate course credits toward Level II certification to satisfy education requirements.

Teacher Shortage Areas and Job Outlook

Across the nation, there are subject shortage areas in need of teachers. When it comes to Pennsylvania, the state is following in the national trend. If you’re interested in teaching, consider one of these areas, which are in need of teachers:

  • Fine and Performing Arts (Pre-K though 12)
  • English as a Second Language
  • Foreign Languages (Pre-K through 12)
  • Math (Middle and secondary levels)
  • Science
  • Special Education
  • Hearing Impaired
  • Visually Impaired
  • Vocational

Pennsylvania Instructional Add-On Certifications

Subject matter classifications enable you to teach and work with a specific group of kids and must be completed along with your basic skills assessment and other PDE requirements to earn certification. You cannot earn a Pennsylvania teaching certification without choosing a specific subject matter to specialize in.

Early Childhood Education


Elementary/middle school in Pennsylvania includes Pre-Kindergarten through fourth grade, and is referred to by the PDE as “Pre-K-4.” The assessment for Pre-K-4 is given by Pearson Education and includes three modules:

Module 1: This module covers Child Development and Professionalism Assessment. It is comprised of 36 questions over the course of 45 minutes. You must earn a passing score of at least 197.

Module 2: This second portion covers Language, Social Studies and Arts. It includes 45 questions that must be answered in 75 minutes with a passing score of 193.

Module 3: Math, Science and Health are the primary topics covered in this module. It will include 45 questions and you will be allotted 90 minutes. The passing score is 193.

Although the modules may be completed individually or simultaneously, they must all be completed to earn a PreK-4 certification.

Elementary School Teacher


The early childhood education teacher certification for Pennsylvania covers grades fourth through eighth and can be a little tricky to navigate, depending on what age range you are interested in teaching.

To teach “middle-level 4-8,” you must earn a certification in a specific subject area by passing the corresponding Praxis test. The available subject areas and tests are as follows:

Citizenship Education: For this test, you will answer 90 selected-response questions over the course of an hour and 30 minutes. The questions will cover five categories: United States History, World History, Government/Political Science, Economics, and Geography.

English: The exam is comprised of 90 selected-response questions and will last an hour and 30 minutes. There will be three distinct categories that you will be tested on: Reading, Writing and Media Literacy and Literacy Development.

Mathematics: This exam includes 60 selected-response questions and allots two hours of exam time. A calculator is allowed. Exam material will cover: Arithmetic and Algebra, and Geometry and Data.

Science: The science exam covers 90 selected-response questions over an hour and 30 minutes. The exam material is broken into four subject categories: Basic Principles and Processes, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Earth and Space Sciences.

Here’s where it becomes a little tricky. Pennsylvania also makes a separate classification for “elementary grades 5-6.” This classification states that earning a certification in this grade range is only available to those holding a valid Pennsylvania PK-4 certification. After earning that certification, you will then be able to take the two required Praxis subtest for grades 5-6:

English Language Arts and Social Studies & Mathematics and Science

Praxis combines the subtests into one exam that takes three hours and 30 minutes to complete. It covers 210 questions and includes: pedagogy, English language arts and social studies, and mathematics and science.

Secondary School Teacher


In Pennsylvania, secondary education refers to grades seven through 12. Praxis offers 10 subject certification exams for potential secondary school teachers that measures the content teachers need to master for specific subjects. They include:

Citizenship EducationSpeech Communication
Earth and Space ScienceEnglish Language Arts
General ScienceMathematics
PhysicsSocial Studies

Upon passing one of these subject area exams, along with completing the other state requirements, you will only need to apply and earn approval to receive your Pennsylvania teaching certification.

Physical Education (PE) Certification


You can be qualified to teach PE in Pennsylvania by passing the Praxis exam for Health and Physical Education PK-12 with a score of 160. The exam is taken electronically and composed of 130 selected-response questions that must be completed in 130 minutes.

There are five content categories that you will be tested on: Health Education as a Discipline/Health Instruction; Health Education Content; Content Knowledge and Student Growth and Development; Management, Motivation, and Communication/Collaboration, Reflection, and Technology; and Planning, Instruction, and Student Assessment.

Special Education Certification


You will be required to take and pass a special licensure Praxis test in order to earn a special education certification for Pennsylvania. There are three specialized areas that are available for certification:

Hearing Impaired PK-12: Covers 120 selected-response questions over the course of two hours about content pertaining to Characteristics of Learners and Their Developments; Assessment, Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Program Planning; Instructional Content and General Pedagogy; Planning and Managing the Teaching and Learning Environment; and Foundations of Deaf Education and Professional Practice.

Speech and Language Impaired PK-12: It will span an hour and 40 minutes and ask 130 selected-response questions about Foundations and Professional Practice; Screening, Assessment, Evaluation, and Diagnosis; and Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation of Treatment.

Visually Impaired PK-12: You will have two hours to answer 120 selected-response questions about Principles and Educational Rights for Students with Disabilities; Development and Characteristics of Students with Visual Impairments; Planning and Managing the Learning and Teaching Environment; Implementing Instruction; Assessment; and Professional Practice, Collaboration, and Counseling.

Remember, this Praxis exam is to be completed along with the PAPA exam and additional PDE requirements prior to earning your teacher certification.

English as a Second Language Certification


To be an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in Pennsylvania, you must have a valid and active Level I or II teacher certification and successfully complete a PDE approved ESL preparation program. Completion of the program results in a valid Program Specialist ESL certificate. The ESL certificate requires no additional testing.

Certifications for School Administrators


There are two levels of certification for school administrators in Pennsylvania.

Level I certification for a school administration position requires you to have at least three years of successful instructional experience. You must also complete a graduate-level PDE approved program that prepares you for the organizational and educational administration of a school. You have up to five years to convert your Level I administrative certification to a Level II before it becomes invalid.

A Level II Administrative Certification can be awarded to candidates who have completed three years of satisfactory service while holding a Level I administration certificate and completed the PDE approved Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership (PIL) Induction Program.

Did You Know?

In case you’re looking to gain additional certifications without further education, this is the full list of subject areas that you can become certified in by just passing the necessary exams in Pennsylvania:

Agriculture PK-12
Art Education PK-12
Biology 7-12
Business, Computer and Information Technology PK-12
Chemistry 7-12
Citizenship Education 7-12
Communications 7-12
Earth and Space Science 7-12
English 7-12
Environmental Education PK-12
Family and Consumer Science PK-12
Foreign/World Languages PK-12
General Science 7-12
Grades PK-4
Health Education PK-12

Grades 4-8:

  • English Language Arts
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Library Science PK-12
Marketing Education PK-12
Math 7-12
Music Education 7-12
Physics 7-12
Safety/Driver Education 7-12
Social Studies 7-12
Technology Education PK-12

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 and Loan Forgiveness for Pennsylvania Teachers

Lucky for you, financial aid opportunities for teachers are widespread. There are countless organizations and universities that grant scholarships for teachers of all kinds. And with the growing demand for teachers, there may be even more scholarships available every year.

Even if you don’t have a scholarship and must take out a loan to fund your education, much like most people have to do, loan forgiveness programs could help. The federal government has outlined several loan forgiveness programs for teachers, depending on the type of loan you have.

Pennsylvania also offers state-specific educational funding, which includes their Pennsylvania State Grant Program. Because this is a grant, you won’t need to repay your award amount back. This grant program also incorporates online education students, as long as their school base is located in-state.

Finding Pennsylvania Teaching Jobs

So now that you’re ahead of the game and well-educated on what it takes to enter the teaching field in Pennsylvania, here are a few resources to get you started on applying for teaching positions.

You can always find teacher applications through Pennsylvania school districts, but if you’re a student attending any Pennsylvania approved teacher education program, your school will also supply them. Depending on the school district, you may be required to submit additional application materials, so make sure you follow up when you apply.

If you’re looking online, be sure to visit the Pennsylvania Regional Education Applicant Placement (PA REAP) website. It is home to the Pennsylvania School Applications Network, dedicated to recruitment and application services for educators in-state.

Even if you’re not ready to apply for a teaching position, you can always start the research process or talk to experienced teachers to learn more. It’s never too early to be prepared for your future as a teacher.