How to Earn Teacher Certification in Wisconsin

If you’re interested in becoming a teacher in Wisconsin, you’ll need to get certified-but there are several different routes to take, depending on your 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 the state and want to specialize and need an endorsement. Or you might be a veteran teacher planning to move to Wisconsin and are exploring teaching reciprocity.

In all of these cases, we’ve got you covered. Watch the short video below for an overview of the teaching landscape in Wisconsin, then read on for a complete explanation of what you’ll need to do.

Licensing Requirements

Certification and licensing ensure that teachers meet high-level standards on a state-by-state basis and the state of Wisconsin has particular requirements for issuing teacher certificates. The standard method for becoming a teacher is through a state-approved program as an undergraduate student. Wisconsin has approved many programs statewide for training new teachers.

While in a college or university’s Education department, you will receive the appropriate coursework and a mentored student teaching program that will give you the experience you will need to succeed. These steps are required for successful completion of a program certification:

  • Complete all required coursework in a state-approved educator preparation program. If you are unsure whether your local college or university’s program is state-approved, ask the program chair or the academic dean. Most teacher-preparation programs in Wisconsin are designed to put you on a streamlined track to the classroom.
  • Successful completion of the Praxis Core Academic Skills Test.
  • Pass a subject-specific Praxis test – Praxis II if you want to teach a focused subject such as mathematics or special education. The University of Wisconsin, for instance, offers a full education program that covers every possible avenue in the teaching profession. There, you can train for any subject area covered in the K-12 years. They also offer specialized studies in Special Education. In fact, the Department of Public Instruction has approved some 33 programs to help you on your way to a teaching career.

Minimum Education Requirements for Wisconsin State

The state of Wisconsin requires you to identify the colleges or universities that are approved and accredited by the state where you complete your bachelor’s degree program. You must then complete all the requirements of the approved state teacher licensure program and apply for the Initial Educator License using the state’s Educator Licensing Online (ELO) System. The ELO system has several pathways, including separate portals for license renewals, license reissues and extensions, Initial Wisconsin Licensure, Initial Non-Wisconsin Licensure, Substitute Teacher or Licenses with Stipulations, and a portal title Other, which includes Initial Master Educator, License via the National Board Exam, Adding a Related Endorsement, License Based on Equivalency, Teacher Intern, Special Education Licensure, and Indian Language & Culture. The three-degree levels offered that are approved by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction at its 33 Wisconsin colleges and universities are bachelor’s, master’s and education specialist.

Student Teaching

Educator preparation programs in Wisconsin require students to pass competency tests in communication skills prior to being allowed admission. As of 2013, state educator prep programs may use one of the college entrance tests as the standardized test of communication skills required for admission to the prep program. These College Entrance Tests include the ACT® Plus Writing Test, the ACT® Test or the SAT® Test (as of 2015), the revised GRE® General Test, and the GRE® Test.

Pass the Wisconsin State Certification Exams

Applicants must demonstrate competency in the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics as well as in the specific area of their educator license. Tests and passing scores are approved by the State Superintendent. Grades for the Praxis Core Academic Skills are as follows:

TestPassing Score

All candidates are required to pass subject tests in order to teach that particular subject. Praxis II content knowledge tests are required for all teaching and pupil services roles, except for school social worker.


The majority of the certification process will include meeting the education and test score requirements in Wisconsin, as well as completing the teacher prep program and specialized state courses. But those choosing to become a teacher in Wisconsin also need to do a few other things. These include passing a background check, no matter if it is an initial or renewal request for licensure. A background check consists of two parts: To complete the Conduct and Competency questionnaire and submit required information and documentation AND Submitting fingerprints to the agency. If some misconduct has occurred, you must prepare a written statement detailing what happened and gather any related documents, such as police reports, disciplinary letters, correspondence, a criminal complaint and judgment findings and make them available for upload into Wisconsin’s Online Application System.

How Much Do Teachers in Wisconsin Make?

Teachers and administrators in Wisconsin can earn healthy salaries, but it’s important to understand that these are median annual salaries can depend upon where you live, years of experience, and what area of education you teach. Here are average salaries as reported by the 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics.

salary outlook
Position Median Salary
Early Childhood Educator $29,180
Elementary School Teacher $60,700
Secondary School Teacher $60,900
Special Education Teacher $97,480
Education Administrator $98,520


Job Growth for High School Teachers through 2031

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

Specialty Certifications

Even if you’re currently teaching a certain grade level of general education in your school district, you’ll need to upgrade your credential by meeting testing and endorsement requirements in the state of Wisconsin. Here are the guidelines to getting certified in some of the more common areas of education.

Early Childhood Education


In the state of Wisconsin, teachers who teach at community based 4K programs in partnership with public school districts must hold an Early Childhood or PK teacher license. Educator licenses are also administered to those who plan to run private ECE facilities. The license is an EC license and covers the ages of birth through age eight. The licenses are issued for a period of three years and include a provisional educator license for those first-time teachers who have successfully completed an approved educator program; a lifetime educator license, for those who have completed six semesters of experience in the category established in their provisional license; and master educator license, which is an optional license granted to educators who have completed a National Board Certification by the NBPTS or a Wisconsin Mater Educator Assessment Process.

Elementary School Teacher


Elementary school teachers in Wisconsin must meet all regular licensing criteria and pass the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading test with a score of 240 or higher. Candidates applying to teach prekindergarten through grades six must have taken coursework preparing the applicant to teach reading and language arts using appropriate instructional methods, including phonics.

Secondary School Teacher


Teachers seeking licensure at the secondary education level are required to complete all initial licensing steps. This includes in-state or out-of-state educators. If you desire to teach a specific subject such as science, social studies computer science, music or dance, you must complete specific coursework and hold a license in the area you wish to teach. Different topics require different education criteria and allow you to teach at specific grades and levels.

Substitute Teacher Certification


Wisconsin offers a five-year substitute license to those who have completed an approved education program and holds, or is eligible to hold, a license either in Wisconsin or in another state. The state does not need candidates to meet a professional growth requirement (continuing education), and the substitute certification allows a licensed teacher to teach the subject and grade level in which they are licensed. It allows for short-term teaching (no more than 45 days) in a subject outside the currently licensed area of expertise. The five-year substitute certification has the option to renew.

Physical Education (PE) Certification


Wisconsin requires certification or licensure of physical education teachers at the elementary, middle school and high school levels. A Praxis exam is required for certification, with a required minimum passing score determined by the certifying school of higher education. Teachers must renew their certification every five years and complete continuing education hours. Wisconsin also requires professional development on relevant topics comparable to other specialized areas. Wisconsin highly encourages PE teachers to gain National Board Certification, and provides a onetime monetary bonus for those who do.

Special Education Certification


Special education teachers in Wisconsin must meet all regular licensing criteria and pass the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading test with a score of 240 or higher. A Special Education Cross Categorical educator must hold a Wisconsin license with the applicable developmental level and subject area for which they want to teach. Wisconsin special education educators may choose from grades Kindergarten – eight or grades five – 12.

English as a Second Language Certification


ACTFL World Language Tests are required for all world language teacher candidates. Wisconsin requires both the Oral Proficiency interview (OPI-OPIc) and Writing Proficiency Test (WPT). The qualifying score for licensure in Wisconsin on both tests are “Intermediate High.”

Certifications for School Administrators


People who fit this pathway profile are teachers or pupil services professionals who wish to pursue a career as an administrator in a Wisconsin public school. Wisconsin administrator licenses require a master’s degree, three years of successful teaching or pupil services experience, and eligibility to hold a teaching or pupil services license at the Professional Educator level. A district administrator license requires the completion of an education specialist or doctoral degree. Candidates must complete the approved administrator preparation program specific to the license they are seeking at an approved Wisconsin university. Upon completion, the Wisconsin university will endorse the candidate for Wisconsin license.

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 Wisconsin

NASDTEC Interstate Agreement Wisconsin does not participate in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement.
State Grants Full Reciprocity No.
Coursework Requirements Out of state candidates must take coursework related to minority groups, including history, culture and tribal sovereignty of the American Indian tribes located in Wisconsin. Those choosing to teach economics, social studies or agriculture must complete classes in cooperative marketing and consumer cooperatives. Science and social studies teachers must take classes in the conservation of natural resources.
Test-out or Exemption No.
Assessment Requirements Assessment requirements are in place but not for all candidates. Those who are not eligible for the License Based Upon Reciprocity pathway must submit passing scores on Praxis II content assessments. These tests cannot be completed in another state. These candidates must also submit evidence of passing a basic skills test comparable to the Praxis CORE assessments required of in-state candidates or evidence of passing an approved college entrance examination. In addition, candidates with less than one year of teaching experience or at least one-half time employment must post a passing score on the edTPA, which stands for Teacher Performance Assessment. If a candidate completed an edTPA as part of an educator preparation program in another state and received a passing score in that state, Wisconsin will honor the score as passing. If the other state has not established a baseline for passing, the individual will need to meet the score established in Wisconsin. Candidates applying for a license in elementary education, special education or reading are required to pass the Foundations of Reading Test for Wisconsin.
Different Requirements Based on Experience In-state candidates can take the traditional route to Wisconsin teacher certification while the License Based on Reciprocity Pathway program states that out-of-state candidates who have taught for at least one year in their sending state are eligible to receive an initial license to teach if they hold a valid license in good standing from their sending state and they have received an offer of employment to teach in a school district in the state. The License Based on Reciprocity pathway provides for a five-year license to teach. Under the Out-of-State Pathway, applications from candidates who do not have one year of teaching experience are reviewed to determine comparability with Wisconsin preparation, testing and statutory requirements. Candidates working to meet licensure requirements may be eligible to receive a Five-Year Substitute License based on the Out-of-State License or an Emergency License or Permit.
Performance Requirements The state of Wisconsin does not require out of state teachers to provide performance effectiveness.
Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials Wisconsin is not a tiered system state as far as licensure, so out-of-state applicants who qualify for licensure through reciprocity are given an initial license, and then must fulfill state requirements.

Alternate Teaching Certification

Wisconsin is eager to recruit non-traditional teachers into the educational system. If you have a bachelor’s degree and have been in a career for a while, but desire a change, the state does not require that you return to school for another full 4-year education. Rather, it offers an alternative for prospective teachers. The state will prepare you for a license if you desire to teach in one of these shortage areas: Mathematics, Science, Special Education, ESL, Bilingual/Bi-cultural, World Languages, Technology Education, and Business Education. Note that your bachelor’s degree must be in one of these areas, or an equivalent. Consult with an Alternative Route Program Provider to see if your current credentials are a fit.

Teach for America

One other way to become certified to teach in Wisconsin is to go through the Teach for America program (TFA). TFA supports its members as they work in low-income urban and rural settings. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree in an appropriate subject area is welcome to apply. Their training and professional development supports will ensure success and a path to full certification. To apply for certification, you must have all of your transcripts for all of the courses you may have taken. That means that if you took an extra course at a community college during summer break one year, you need a transcript for that class. You must also have passing scores from the Praxis I and II academic skills tests.

Transition into Teaching for Career Changers

Wisconsin has recently introduced new programs to help career changers who want to teach, make the transition into the career field. Marquette University received a $1.2 million dollar National Science Foundation grant to develop a 14-month master’s program for people who already hold a bachelor’s in science, technology, engineering or math, to become certified STEM middle and high school teachers. Another transitional program is the result of a partnership between Concordia University, the Center for Urban Teaching, some suburban school districts and charter and private voucher schools to help classroom aides become licensed teachers. A third Milwaukee-based program offers training for hard-to-fill positions in middle and high schools. Candidates first work as teacher residents while completing their coursework. In year two, they are hired full time at a base salary with benefits. The four-year program offers a $20,000 grant upon completion to offset education costs. The main path people transition into teaching in Wisconsin is through the state’s Pathway Program. Candidate’s must hold a bachelor’s degree, be a career changer, or are a college graduate seeking to become a teacher. This program primarily allows changers to complete requirements of an approved alternative route licensure program and apply for licensure using the ELO System. The purpose of the Pathway Program is to fill vacancies where there are teacher shortages. Subjects include math, science, career and technical subjects, world languages, special education and ESL.

Post-Certification Requirements in Wisconsin

Within one year of receiving an initial license, candidates must demonstrate competency in resolving conflicts between pupils and between pupils and school staff; assisting pupils in learning methods of resolving conflicts between pupils and between pupils and school staff, including training in the use of peer mediation to resolve conflicts between pupils; and dealing with crises, including violent, disruptive, potentially violent or potentially disruptive situations.