The Iowa Teaching and Certification Resource

Teacher certification in Iowa is overseen by the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners. The traditional pathway is outlined below for those who want to learn how to become a teacher in Iowa.

How to Become a Teacher in Iowa

Like all US states, Iowa requires teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree and complete an approved teacher education program at an accredited institution. However, unlike most other states, applicants are not required to take the Praxis Subject Assessments to evaluate knowledge in the subject(s) to be taught. There are three types of Iowa teacher certification: Initial, Standard, and Master Educator.

The Initial Certificate is valid for two years and is issued to new teachers who meet the state’s basic requirements. Once two years (in a public school setting) to three years (in a private school setting) of successful teaching are accomplished, based upon local evaluations, teachers may apply for a Standard License which is valid for five years. Both Initial and Standard certificates may be renewed. Teachers may also earn a Master Educator License, which is valid for five years, by successfully completing five years of teaching and earning a master’s degree in the appropriate endorsement area.

Quick Guide

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Iowa

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in IA through 20262

Candidates for teacher licensure in Iowa must complete a bachelor’s degree as well as a state-approved Iowa teacher preparation program at an accredited school. You can see approved programs on the Iowa Department of Education website. You can also compare key metrics for these state-approved teacher preparation programs by using the sortable table on our Iowa schools page.

Schools located out-of-state or offering online teacher preparation must be accredited by one of the six regional bodies overseen by the US Department of Education.

Additionally, schools may be accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) This organization was formed by the consolidation of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). CAEP accreditation is a respected marker of excellence in teacher education.

Iowa Teacher Education Requirements

Iowa State SealIowa has specific educational requirements for individuals who wish to obtain Iowa teacher certification. In order to obtain an Initial teaching license, the qualifying bachelor’s degree must be earned from a regionally-accredited institution and include an approved teacher preparation program. Depending on the type and level of license sought, candidates will typically need to have completed coursework in a teachable subject as well as coursework in human relations, literacy, and learners with exceptionalities (special education). Candidates will also need to successfully complete student teaching. For those who complete their qualifying education out-of-state or through an alternative program, there is also a recency requirement that candidates have taken at least six semester hours of college credit in the last five years prior to applying for a teaching license (sometimes informally referred to as a certificate). One year of teaching experience may be substituted for this requirement.

Iowa Teacher Testing Requirements

As of 2022, Iowa teacher candidates who completed a state-approved program are not required to complete professional testing in order to become eligible for licensure. For more information, refer to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners.

Additional Iowa Teacher Certification Requirements

Like in most states, those applying for teaching certification in Iowa must complete a state and federal background check. Initial license applicants must either be fingerprinted by the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners or request a fingerprint card to be completed at a local law enforcement agency. To review information on the process and order the fingerprinting card, visit the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners licensing portal.

Iowa Teachers Licensing Application Process

After completing the required steps listed above, candidates may submit an Iowa teacher certification application. Required supporting documentation includes:

  • Transcripts from bachelor’s degree and teacher preparation coursework from an approved institution.
  • Completed application along with non-refundable processing fee.

Applications may be sent to:

Board of Educational Examiners
Grimes State Office Building
400 East 14th St
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0147

Visit the Iowa Department of Education for further details on Iowa teacher licensing.

Iowa Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

There were approximately 1,328 public schools operating in Iowa during the 2016-2017 school year, with a K-12 student enrollment of 509,831.3 There were 35,808 public school teachers in the state during this timeframe, giving a student-to-teacher ratio of 14:1.3

Excluding special education, projections show 1,830 average annual openings for elementary school teachers, 830 average annual openings for middle school teachers, and 1,180 average annual openings for secondary school teachers in Iowa through 2030.2 Excluding special education, the average annual salary for elementary school teachers in Iowa is $55,470, the average annual salary for middle school teachers is $57,940, and the average annual salary for secondary school teachers is $57,890.4 For information on education legislation and policy visit the Iowa State Education Association, the largest active teachers union in Iowa.

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers4,770$27,030
Preschool Teachers, Special Education90$49,330
Kindergarten Teachers800$53,200
Elementary School Teachers19,040$54,500
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School1,400$56,300
Middle School Teachers7,940$55,300
Middle School Teachers, Special Education750$58,890
Secondary School Teachers13,010$56,510
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education1,080$57,730
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education420$56,510

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2018.4

Teacher Shortages in Iowa

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

  • Academically Advanced (Gifted Education), Pre-K-12
  • Art and Music Education (Art), Pre-K-12
  • Career and Technical Education (Agricultural Science and Technology; Business Education; Family and Consumer Science; Industrial Technology), 5-12
  • Early Childhood (Birth through Kindergarten), Pre-K-K
  • Science (Earth and Space Science), 5-12
  • Special Education (All Exceptionalities, Hearing Impairment, Visual Impairment), Pre-K-12
  • Support Staff (Counseling), Pre-K-12
  • World Languages (Any World Language), Pre-K-12

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How do I become an elementary teacher in Iowa?

Answer: You must earn an initial teaching license to become an elementary teacher in Iowa. The requirements for the license (sometimes referred to as a certificate) include earning a bachelor’s degree and completing a teacher preparation program. You must also gain experience through student teaching in an elementary classroom.

Question: How do I become a substitute teacher in Iowa?

Answer: To become a substitute teacher in Iowa, you will need a minimum of an associate’s degree or 60 credit hours. Those who meet this requirement are eligible for the Substitute Authorization, which allows the holder to fill short-term substitute roles (no more than 10 days in a row in the same position in any 30-day period). For a Substitute License, candidates must hold or be eligible to hold a regular Iowa teaching license. Those with a Substitute License may fill short- as well as long-term substitute roles (up to 90 days in a row in the same position).

Question: In what areas does Iowa need teachers?

Answer: According to the US Department of Education, Iowa reports teacher shortages for the 2021-22 school year in subjects such as science, career and technical education, special education, and world languages.5 Teachers in these areas may have an easier time finding teaching jobs in Iowa.

1. Iowa Board of Educational Examiners: https://boee.iowa.gov/
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 2021 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Iowa: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ia.htm
5. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/