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Pennsylvania Teacher Certification and Career Guide

All public school teachers in Pennsylvania must be certified according to the requirements set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). The main steps for the traditional path to teacher certification in Pennsylvania are:

  1. Complete a state-approved bachelor’s degree with a teacher preparation component.
  2. Complete a student teaching placement.
  3. Pass the required teacher certification exams.
  4. Apply for a teaching certificate or license.
  5. Upgrade your license.

Continue reading to learn more about the traditional certification pathway in Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents

Steps to Become a Teacher in Pennsylvania
Teacher Certification Renewal
Adding Subjects or Grades to a Certificate
Teaching License Reciprocity
Related Licenses
Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs
Pennsylvania School District Requirements
Additional Resources
Frequently Asked Questions


How to Become a Teacher in Pennsylvania

The following steps outline the traditional pathway to certification in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania uses a tiered certification process for educators:

  • Level I Certification (6 service years): Initial certificate for all instructors who have met the PDE’s certification requirements.
  • Level II Certification (5-year): For teachers who have between three and six years of experience.

If you are a bachelor’s degree holder who has yet to complete a teacher preparation program, check out our guide to alternative teacher certification in Pennsylvania.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree that includes an approved teacher preparation program.

All prospective teachers in Pennsylvania must earn a bachelor’s degree from a nationally accredited college or university. The bachelor’s degree major pursued will depend on the grade level and subject of the desired Pennsylvania certificate. As part of the bachelor’s degree, all teachers must also complete a PDE-pproved teacher preparation program.

You can compare key metrics for state-approved teacher preparation programs on our Pennsylvania schools page. You can also read about two important accreditations to consider, institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation, on our teaching schools guide.

2. Complete a student teaching placement.

As part of the teacher preparation program, all Pennsylvania educators must complete a minimum of 12 weeks of full-time student teaching. Student teaching must take place under the direction of a supervisor with experience in the new teacher’s certification area. Supervising teachers must also have at least three years of experience as a certified teacher, including at least one year at their current school.

3. Pass the required Pennsylvania teacher exams.

Pennsylvania State SealPennsylvania has a number of testing requirements for new teachers, which vary by certification area. Pennsylvania tests teachers on basic skills, fundamental subjects, and their content area. The basic skills requirement, which will take effect in 2025, can be fulfilled by passing the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA), with modules in mathematics, reading, and writing. The fundamental subjects requirement must be met for teachers who will be certified in the PK-12 grade span and is given by Praxis. The primary tests used for content area assessment are the Praxis exams, which are administered by ETS, and the Pennsylvania Educator Certification Tests (PECT). For more information, review the Required Testing page.

4. Apply for Pennsylvania teacher certification.

After the above steps are complete, candidates can apply for their Pennsylvania Level I Certification. To complete the certification process, applicants must create a profile on Pennysylvania’s online certification system, the Teacher Information Management System (TIMS). The following items must be submitted with the application:

  • Verification of bachelor’s degree
  • Verification of completion of a PDE-approved teacher education program
  • Passing exam scores
  • Payment of non-refundable processing fees

5. Upgrade to a Level II Certificate.

Level I Certificates are valid for up to six years of service and cannot be renewed, so to continue working in Pennsylvania, teachers must convert their Level I Certificate to a Level II Certificate. To qualify for a Level II Certificate, teachers must:

  • Have at least three years of teaching service in Pennsylvania with a Level I Certificate
  • Complete 24 semester hours of post-baccalaureate credits
  • Complete a PDE-approved induction program
  • Have at least six semi-annual assessments from their employer

As part of their 24 semester hours, teachers must complete at least six semester hours directly related to the content area of their certificate. The credit hours required to upgrade to a Level II Certificate are separate from the continuing professional education (CPE) credits. Visit the Level I to Level II explainer page for more details on how to upgrade a Pennsylvania certificate.

Guide to Other Teaching Pathways

Pennsylvania Teacher Certification Renewal

Level I Certificates in Pennsylvania cannot be renewed and must be upgraded to a Level II Certificate. Level II Certificates are valid for five calendar years. To renew a Level II Certificate, teachers must complete six semester hours of collegiate study, six PDE-approved CPE credits, or 180 hours of continuing professional education programs, activities, or learning experiences with a PDE-approved provider. The PDE will notify teachers 12 months before expiration with a complete list of unfulfilled requirements that must be completed prior to renewal. The PDE offers additional details about renewal requirements on the Act 48 and PERMS page.

Adding Subjects or Grades to a Certificate

Once certified, teachers in Pennsylvania can only teach in the subject and grade level they are authorized to teach in, though occasional, temporary exceptions are made. In Pennsylvania, the only way to add a subject or grade in Pennsylvania is to complete a new certificate, which requires completing a teacher preparation program in the desired area. Non-instructional endorsements, such as the Autism Endorsement or the Instructional Coach Endorsement, can be added to indicate knowledge in a new area that does not have a designated certification. More information on endorsements and certification areas can be found on the PDE’s approved certification programs page.

Pennsylvania Teaching License Reciprocity

Pennsylvania offers certification for out-of-state teachers who meet certain requirements. Those who have an active out-of-state certificate and at least two years of experience can apply for Pennsylvania certification by submitting the following documents:

  • Official transcripts
  • Photocopy of current, valid out-of-state certificate
  • Verification of Experience form (completed by current/former employer)
  • Passing test scores from ETS, ACTFL and/or ES Pearson

Out-of-state applicants must complete the required Pennsylvania testing requirements unless their current certificate’s testing requirements are deemed equivalent. Applications must be completed online through TIMS. For additional details about reciprocity in Pennsylvania, including the reciprocity process for those with National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification, refer to the Out-of-State Educators page.

Pennsylvania has a unique instructional certificate for each subject area in the PK-12 setting. In addition to the standard teaching certificates, Pennsylvania offers several certificates in support and administrative areas, such as:

  • Administrative I (Principal) Administrative Certificate: To become a principal in Pennsylvania, teachers must obtain their Administrative I Certificate, which requires at least a bachelor’s degree, three or more years of professional experience, completion of a graduate-level principal preparation program, and passing scores on the required certification tests.
  • Educational Specialist Certificate: Education Specialist Certificates are for social workers, nurses, psychologists, speech and language pathologists, and dental hygienists in PK-12 schools. Like the standard instructional certificates, Educational Specialist Certificate holders must complete a preparation program in their subject area and hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Library Science Certificate: Those interested in becoming a school librarian in the K-12 settings must have a Library Science Certificate. To earn a Library Science Certificate, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree or higher and complete a professional preparation program focused on library science. The Library Science Certificate is separate from the PDE Public Librarian Certificate, and the two are not interchangeable.

Additional certificates for English as a Second Language (ESL) specialists, supervisory roles, and career and technical supervisors are also available. All Pennsylvania certificates require the completion of a professional preparation program in the subject area, and many advanced certificates also require a master’s degree. For more information and a complete list of Pennsylvania certificates, visit the PDE Educators certificates page.

Pennsylvania Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

Projected Job Growth

5.4%

Growth in Teaching Jobs in PA through 20302*

Data provided by NCES from the 2017-2018 school year reports approximately 121,917 teachers educating 1,726,809 students in Pennsylvania.3 The overall student-teacher ratio in Pennsylvania is just over 14:1.3

Overall, job projections for teachers in Pennsylvania are lower than national averages, particularly for middle and high school educators. Job growth for Pennsylvania elementary teachers is expected to be 5.1% compared to 7.4% nationally; for Pennsylvania middle school teachers, 5.2% compared to 13.1% nationally; and for high school teachers, 5.6% compared to 13.7% nationally.2 The table below provides a detailed comparison of job growth prospects and salary levels for Pennsylvania teachers.

TypeNumber Employed in PA4Average Annual Openings in PA2PA Proj. Job Growth 2020-20302Average Annual Salary in PA425th Percentile Wages in PA575th Percentile Wages in PA5
Preschool Teachers19,9002,00016.5%$33,120$28,910$36,000
Preschool Teachers, Special Education6804011.9%$63,310$56,650$76,610
Kindergarten Teachers3,2003405.7%$68,170$57,160$79,250
Elementary School Teachers51,5603,9605.1%$69,700$59,710$79,660
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Special Education6,2704405.4%$69,450$53,410$77,970
Middle School Teachers24,8101,7105.2%$71,140$52,950$80,710
Middle School Teachers, Special Education3,2702105%$78,310$58,700$102,000
Middle School Teachers, Career/Technical Education420304.8%$84,300$64,410$106,330
Secondary School Teachers49,1303,6705.6%$73,810$60,260$81,520
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education10,4606105.4%$66,880$50,840$78,710
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education3,5302804.9%$73,070$60,950$82,220

*The estimated job growth average is based on projections for mainstream kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school teachers. Projections for other categories, such as special education and career and technical education, may be higher or lower than the average.

Teacher Shortages in Pennsylvania

Like most states, Pennsylvania is facing teaching shortages in a variety of subject areas. According to the US Department of Education Teacher Shortage Area report for 2023-2024, Pennsylvania has designated the following deficits:

In addition to the shortages, Pennsylvania also reported 343 unfilled positions during the 2017-2018 school year (the most recent data available).7 Furthermore, 13,337 teachers during the 2020-2021 school year were deemed underqualified for their positions, including those teaching outside their certification area on a temporary or emergency basis.7

Pennsylvania School District Requirements

If you would like to learn more about becoming a teacher in Philadelphia, visit our Philadelphia page below. Here you’ll find information about how to become a teacher in Philadelphia, including information on private and charter schools, substitute teaching requirements, and more.

Additional Resources

Pennsylvania Teacher Interviews

Related Articles

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What are the requirements to be a substitute teacher in Pennsylvania?

Answer: To be a substitute teacher in Pennsylvania, applicants must have a valid Pennsylvania or out-of-state certificate and pass a background check. Those without valid certification who have a bachelor’s degree or higher can be issued a one-year emergency permit. Prospective teachers should reach out to the school district they wish to teach in, as individual school districts may have additional requirements for substitute teachers in Pennsylvania.

Question: How many private schools and private school teachers are in Pennsylvania?

Answer: There were 2,458 private schools in Pennsylvania as of the 2019-2020 school year.8 Those schools employ 25,276 full-time teachers who teach 245,171 students.8 The PDE requires that all teachers working at a private school licensed by the Department of Education hold public or private academic certification.

References:
1. Pennsylvania Department of Education: https://www.education.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
3. National Center for Education Statistics, State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey Data, 2017-2018: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/stnfis.asp
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2023 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Pennsylvania: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_pa.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2023 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
6. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/#/reports
7. Teacher Shortages in the United States, Tuan D. Nguyen et al.: https://teachershortages.com/
8. National Center for Education Statistics, Private School Universe Survey, 2019-20: https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pss/tables/TABLE15fl1920.asp