The Colorado Teaching and Certification Resource
Aspiring Colorado teachers must meet the requirements set by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) to each certification in the state. The traditional route to licensure is outlined on this page for those who are looking for information on how to become a teacher in Colorado.
How to Become a Teacher in Colorado
Those seeking Colorado teacher certification must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher and complete an approved teacher preparation program. For traditional pathway teachers, the preparation program is typically completed as part of the bachelor’s degree. Those who did not complete a teacher preparation program but do hold a bachelor’s degree may wish to review the options for alternative teacher certification in Colorado.
Colorado uses a tiered teacher licensing structure. The first stage is an Initial License. In order to be approved by the Colorado Department of Education for the Initial License, which is valid for three years, applicants must complete a bachelor’s degree and approved teacher preparation program and pass a criminal background check as well as Colorado’s exams for educators.
New teachers working under an Initial License complete an induction program through their hiring school district that includes mentorship and ongoing professional development. Candidates who successfully complete the induction program may apply for the next stage of Colorado teacher licensure, the Professional License. Teachers who earn National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification may apply for the Master Teacher Certificate, which is valid for seven years.
- I want to be a teacher in Colorado, but don’t have a degree: Earn an Education Degree
- I want to be a teacher and have a degree, but not in education: Learn about Colorado’s Alternative Certification Process and Programs
- I have a teaching degree and am interested in more education: Learn about Master’s Degree Education Programs or Doctorate Education Programs and Information.
Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Colorado
If a school attended is located in Colorado, the school should hold approval from the Colorado Department of Education. You can see a list of approved schools through the Colorado Department of Higher Education website.
Additionally, the Colorado Department of Education looks for regional accreditation from one of the six regional accreditation agencies that are overseen by the US Department of Education. To be eligible for a Colorado teaching license, candidates must complete a bachelor’s degree and teacher preparation program from a regionally accredited institution. Graduates of programs that are not accredited by own of the six accepted regional organizations will not be eligible for a license.
Schools may also hold accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparedness (CAEP). Although accreditation from this organization is not mandatory, it serves as an indicator of quality in the teacher education field.
See our list of CAEP accredited schools in Colorado.
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment projects 1,134 average annual job openings for elementary school teachers, 604 average annual job openings for middle school teachers, and 709 average annual job openings for secondary school teachers in Colorado from 2014 to 2024.2 Excluding special education, there are about 53,810 elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers in Colorado according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.3 The average annual salary is $24,550 for elementary school teachers, $13,080 for middle school teachers, and $16,180 for secondary school teachers in Colorado.3 The Colorado Education Association is a good resource for current news and information relating to education professionals in the state.
Colorado Teacher Education Requirements
In order to fulfill the requirements for Colorado teacher certification, applicants must complete a bachelor’s degree. The program can be completed in-state or out-of-state, but must either be on the state’s approved institutions list or undergo an evaluation process by the Colorado State Board of Education in order for the applicant to be deemed eligible for Colorado teaching certification. Approval is contingent on acceptable regional accreditation.
Colorado also requires candidates to complete a teacher preparation program, either as part of or following a bachelor’s degree program. Teacher preparation must include clinical hours in student teaching.
Colorado Teacher Testing Requirements
Unlike most states, Colorado does not require a basic skills test, but it does require candidates to take a content test to prove competency in each endorsement area sought. The Department of Education accepts the PLACE assessments, select Praxis II exams, and the National Evaluation Series (NES). The type of exam required is based on the content area that a prospective educator wishes to teach. Refer to the Colorado Department of Education for a breakdown of exams required by subject area.
Additional Colorado Teacher Certification Requirements
All applicants applying for teaching certification in Colorado must pass a criminal background check. Accordingly, all applicants must submit fingerprints to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation prior to applying for certification. Fingerprint cards can be purchased through Colorado Correctional Industries (CCI) and Amazon.com.
Colorado Teachers Licensing Application Process
Once all requirements for licensure have been met, candidates for a teaching credential must apply through the Colorado Department of Education. The required documentation is as follows:
- Submission of passing scores on the appropriate content assessment tests
- Submission of fingerprints for background check to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation
- Verification of completed bachelor’s degree and teacher preparation program, including Approved Program Verification Form
- Completed application and non-refundable application fees
Colorado Teacher Salary and Jobs
|Type||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Preschool Teachers, Special Education||740||$52,950|
|Elementary School Teachers||24,550||$50,180|
|Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School||4,310||$52,510|
|Middle School Teachers||13,080||$50,540|
|Middle School Teachers, Special Education||1,620||$51,510|
|Secondary School Teachers||16,180||$51,980|
|Secondary School Teachers, Special Education||2,160||$53,970|
|Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education||870||$53,410|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.
Colorado School District Requirements
Colorado Teacher Interviews
Interview with Meg Jacobson, President of the Colorado Association of Science Teachers
Interview with Catherine Martin, President of the Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Interview with Joan Sawyer, President of the Colorado Music Teachers Association
Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Teacher in Colorado
Question: How can you become a substitute teacher in Colorado?
Answer: To become a substitute teacher in Colorado, you must earn substitute authorization from the Department of Education. The department issues one-, three-, and five-year authorizations. For the one-year authorization, you only need to have a high school diploma or GED. The three-year authorization requires a bachelor’s degree, and the five-year authorization requires a current out-of-state teaching certificate. Each authorization granted is only valid in the school district through which the application was submitted. Note that not all school districts will accept applicants who only qualify for a one-year authorization.
Teaching and Education Programs
1. Colorado State Department of Education: http://www.cde.state.co.us/
2. Colorado Department of Labor and Employment: https://www.colmigateway.com/vosnet/Default.aspx
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Colorado: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_co.htm
4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Elementary School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252021.htm
5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Middle School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252022.htm
6. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Secondary School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252031.htm
7. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Preschool Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252011.htm
8. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Special Education Teachers, Preschool: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252051.htm
9. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Kindergarten Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252012.htm
10. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252052.htm
11. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Special Education Teachers, Middle School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252053.htm
12. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Career/Technical Education Teachers, Middle School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252023.htm
13. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Special Education Teachers, Secondary School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252054.htm
14. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Career/Technical Education Teachers, Secondary School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252032.htm