The Colorado Teaching and Certification Resource

Aspiring Colorado teachers must meet the requirements set by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) for the type of Colorado teacher certification they are seeking. 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 the appropriate content assessments 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, which is valid for five years. After holding the Professional License, teachers who go on to earn National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification may apply for the Master Teacher Certificate, which is valid for seven years.

Quick Guide

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Colorado

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in CO through 20262

Teacher preparation programs completed in order to earn Colorado educator licensure 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. You can also compare key metrics for these state-approved teacher preparation programs by using the sortable table on our Colorado schools page.

Additionally, the Colorado Department of Education looks for regional accreditation from one of the six regional accreditation agencies that are recognized 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 Preparation (CAEP). Although accreditation from this organization is not mandatory, it serves as an indicator of quality in the teacher education field.

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. To qualify graduates for a teaching credential, the teacher preparation program must include clinical hours in student teaching.

Colorado Teacher Testing Requirements

Colorado State SealUnlike 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 recently adopted the Praxis exam series for content endorsements. PLACE assessment scores will continue to be accepted through 2022 if taken before May 6, 2017. Refer to the Colorado Department of Education website for a detailed 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 uses an online e-Licensing system to process all new applications. Visit the Colorado State Department of Education for full details on how to become a teacher in Colorado.

Colorado Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

During the 2016-2017 school year, an estimated 905,019 students were enrolled in Colorado’s 1,888 K-12 public schools.3 About 52,014 public school teachers worked in these schools, for a statewide average student-to-teacher ratio of 17:1.3

Projections show 2,750 average annual new job openings for elementary school teachers, 1,370 average annual job openings for middle school teachers, and 1,670 average annual job openings for secondary school teachers in Colorado from 2016 to 2026.2 The average annual salary is $53,400 for elementary school teachers, $53,400 for middle school teachers, and $55,110 for secondary school teachers in Colorado.4 The Colorado Education Association is a good resource for current news and information relating to education professionals in the state.

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers8,700$33,140
Preschool Teachers, Special Education890$56,830
Kindergarten Teachers3,630$50,020
Elementary School Teachers24,910$53,400
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School3,510$54,500
Middle School Teachers13,070$53,400
Middle School Teachers, Special Education1,800$54,920
Secondary School Teachers16,950$55,110
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education2,290$55,780
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education750$55,890

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2018.4

Teacher Shortages in Colorado

According to the US Department of Education Teacher Shortage Area report for 2021-2022, Colorado broadly has the following shortages5:

  • Art and Music Education (General), Pre-K-12
  • Career and Technical Education (Business Education), 7-12
  • Early Childhood (General), Pre-K-3
  • English as a Second Language (General), Pre-K-12
  • General Shortages (Education General in Rural areas), Pre-K-12
  • Mathematics (General), 6-12
  • Science (General), 6-12
  • Special Education (Cross Categorical; Speech and Language Impairment), Pre-K-12
  • Support Staff (Counseling, Physical Therapy, Psychologist, Social Worker), Pre-K-12

Colorado Teacher Interviews

  • Former President, Colorado Association of Science Teachers, Meg Jacobson
  • Former President, Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Catherine Martin
  • Former President, Colorado Music Teachers Association, Joan Sawyer

Colorado School District Requirements

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a teacher in Denver, check out our city page below. On this page, you will find a step-by-step description of how to become a teacher in Denver’s public school district as well as information on private and charter schools in the area, becoming a substitute teacher, and school contact information.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Question: Does Colorado have a teacher shortage?

Answer: According to the US Department of Education, Colorado reports teacher shortages for the 2021-2022 school year in math, science, special education, career and technical education, English as a second language (ESL), and other support staff, among others.5

Question: How much do Colorado teachers get paid?

Answer: Elementary school teachers in the state earn an average annual salary of $53,400, while middle school teachers earn $53,400 and high school teachers earn $55,110 per year.4 Teacher salary depends on many factors including location, education, and years of experience.

1. Colorado State Department of Education: http://www.cde.state.co.us/
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, 2016-2017: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/stnfis.asp
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Colorado: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_co.htm
5. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/