The Tennessee Teaching and Certification Resource

For those looking to enter the Tennessee education system as educators, there are several pathways to obtain a Tennessee teacher certification. The certification process is overseen by the Office of Educator Licensing within the state’s Department of Education and is outlined in detail below.

How to Become a Teacher in Tennessee

In order to be eligible to earn a Tennessee teacher certification and teach early childhood, elementary or secondary education in the Tennessee public school system, candidates must provide proof that they have completed the necessary education and testing requirements set forth by the Tennessee Department of Education. Like most states, Tennessee requires that all teachers hold a bachelor’s degree and complete an approved Tennessee teachers certification program at an accredited school.

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Most applicants apply for the state’s Apprentice license, which is valid for five years and is renewable. In some cases, candidates who have not yet fulfilled all requirements for a standard teaching license may still be eligible to teach under Tennessee’s alternative route to teacher certification.

For those experienced teachers who hold an out-of-state teacher certification, Tennessee reciprocity may be possible provided applicants fulfill the remaining requirements. For more information on becoming a certified teacher in Tennessee through reciprocity as well as the Tennessee teacher certification renewal process, please contact the state’s Office of Educator Licensing.

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Tennessee

Candidates for teaching certificates in Tennessee should confirm that their chosen teacher preparatory program is provided by an accredited school. Tennessee will not issue teacher certificates unless applicants can prove that they have completed a program at an accredited institution. There are six regional accreditation agencies, which are overseen by the US Department of Education, that accredit schools in the US. Therefore, applicants should first confirm this regional accreditation before committing to a program. For anyone interested in distance programs, any school that offers online teaching certification programs should also be certified by its corresponding regional accreditation agency.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) is responsible for accrediting schools in Tennessee. When evaluating potential Tennessee teachers certification programs, applicants should confirm that the school is SACS-accredited in order to be eligible to work in the Tennessee school system.

Additionally, there is a national accreditation organization that most states look to as a marker of high quality in teacher education sector. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is the result of the recent merger of two former accreditation agencies, TEAC and NCATE. These two former organizations were recognized by the US Department of Education and through CAEP will continue to serve as a standard for rigorous standards in the teacher education field.

See our list of CAEP accredited schools in Tennessee.

Quick Guide

Tennessee Teacher Education Requirements

In order to obtain Tennessee teaching certification a prospective teacher must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institute of higher learning and complete a teacher preparation program approved by the Tennessee Department of Education. Applicants with a bachelor’s degree who have not participated in a Tennessee teacher certification program may qualify for an Alternative/Transitional License until such time that the education requirements are fulfilled.

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Tennessee Teacher Outlook as 2014
According to the Occupational Supply & Demand Survey, Tennessee will have 1,190 average annual job openings for elementary school teachers, 490 average annual job openings for middle school teachers, and 700 average annual job openings for secondary school teachers through 2022. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are about 58,320 elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers in Tennessee (2013). Elementary school teachers earn an average annual salary of $47,770, middle school teachers earn an average annual salary of $48,080, and secondary school teachers earn an average annual salary of $49,250 (BLS 2013). For updates on policy changes, budget allocation or local employment opportunities, visit the Tennessee Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association.

Tennessee Teacher Testing Requirements

Tennessee State SealThe state of Tennessee requires that all applicants for initial instructional certification present passing scores on the Praxis II: Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) as well as the Praxis II: Subject Assessments/Specialty Area tests in order to receive a certificate to teach in Tennessee public school systems. The specific tests the candidate is required to take will be based on the grade level and content area they wish to teach. Teachers from any state who received their teaching certificates before 1984, however, are exempt from the testing requirement.

Additional Tennessee Teacher Certification Requirements

All applicants applying for a Tennessee educator certificate must submit fingerprints and undergo a state and federal criminal background check before they can be issued a certification to teach. The process can be started by registering for a fingerprinting card at Tennessee’s Department of Health.

Tennessee Teachers Licensing Application Process

Once all of the steps towards teaching certification in Tennessee are completed, applicants should send in their applicants to the state’s Department of Education. All applications should include the following:

  1. Submission of background clearance
  2. Official transcripts showing proof of bachelor’s degree
  3. Proof of teacher program completion at an accredited school
  4. Passing score on the required examinations
  5. Completed application for teaching certification in Tennessee
  6. Payment of non-refundable certification processing fee

Office of Educator Licensing
Tennessee Department of Education
12th Floor, Andrew Johnson Tower
710 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37243

Visit the state’s Department of Education for further details on Tennessee teacher certification.

Teacher Quote: “I love the enthusiasm and curiosity of second and third graders. Most of my students still believe they can do anything they want to do, so all I have to do is build on their certainty!” -Mary Pitner, Tennessee Second and Third Grade Teacher

Tennessee Teacher Salary and Jobs

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers 7,380 $26,700
Kindergarten Teachers 4,970 $45,500
Elementary School Teachers 28,530 $46,740
Middle School Teachers 12,120 $47,210
Secondary School Teachers 18,360 $48,330

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2012.

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Tennessee Teacher Interviews

Interview with Dana Lester, Tennessee First Grade Teacher

Interview with Mary Pitner, Tennessee Second and Third Grade Teacher

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Teacher in Tennessee

Question: What are the requirements to obtain a transitional license for teaching in Memphis city schools?

Answer: Memphis City Schools will apply for a one year transitional license on your behalf once you have been offered a position. The license can be good for three years and must be renewed yearly. Successful renewal is dependent on admission to a Teacher Education Program.

Question: How can I become a substitute teacher in Tennessee?

Answer: To become a substitute teacher in Tennessee, you must apply with individual districts. Each district sets its own requirements for substitutes, which may range from a college degree, some college coursework, or just having a high school diploma.

Teaching and Education Programs

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1. Tennessee State Department of Education: http://www.tn.gov/education/
2. US Department of Education: http://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation_pg6.html
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ak.htm#25-0000

Page edited by Charles Sipe.