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How to Get a Teaching License in Pennsylvania

On this page, you’ll find everything you need to know about becoming a teacher in Pennsylvania. But first, here’s a quick video overview of how much teachers make, where the teacher shortages are, and more!

Pennsylvania Department of Education Requirements

A teacher in Pennsylvania can be awarded one of two certifications: Level I and Level II.

Level I 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 certification:

Meet the Minimum Education Requirements

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) requires all those applying for teaching certifications meet the following educational requirements:

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

Completion of 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 teacher 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.

Complete a Student Teaching Program

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.

Pass Pennsylvania Certification Exams

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

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.

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.


Applying for your certification is straight forward. 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.

Level II 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.

How Much Do Teachers in Pennsylvania Make?

Pennsylvania teachers 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.


Job Growth for Teachers through 2026

Position Average Salary
Early Childhood Educator $28,060
Elementary School Teacher $62,250
Secondary School Teacher $64,320
Special Education Teacher $64,160
School Administrator $76,590
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

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

type-preschoolEarly childhood education 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

type-elementaryThe elementary/middle school 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

type-highschoolIn 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:

Biology Chemistry
Citizenship Education Speech Communication
Earth and Space Science English Language Arts
General Science Mathematics
Physics Social 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.

Substitute Teacher Certification

type-substituteTo be eligible to become a substitute teacher in Pennsylvania you must have a bachelor’s degree.

You must also hold a teacher certification or emergency permit. While holding one of these can allow you to substitute teach, there are certain stipulations to inactive certifications or 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.

Physical Education (PE) Certification

type-physical-educationYou 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

type-special-educationYou 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

type-tesolTo 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

type-principalThere 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.

Teaching Reciprocity Agreements in Pennsylvania

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.

Requirement Description
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 .

Alternate 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.

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 within Philadelphia and works within schools throughout the Greater Philadelphia area. TFA members in the Greater Philadelphia area 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 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.

Troops to Teachers

Troops to Teachers is designed to help Service members and veterans transition into teaching careers. The program operates nationwide, and has a certification and licensure program specifically for Pennsylvania.

In May 2017, the Pennsylvania Troops to Teachers was awarded a $400,000 grant. This grant program will aid Troops to Teachers in many important ways:

  • Enables veterans to gain classroom skills and experience
  • Helps veterans navigate the certification process
  • Helps veterans secure a job in the education field
  • Pairs veterans with a teacher mentor during their first year
  • Pairs veterans with a Pennsylvania Department of Education certification staff member for guidance
  • Discounted certification costs
  • Expedited teacher certification application processing

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; however, it must relate to the subject you intend 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 will allow you to teach full-time 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.


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