Montana Teacher Certification and Career Guide

The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) oversees teacher licensing in the state. The main steps for the traditional path to teacher licensure in Montana 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 Montana.

Table of Contents

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

How to Become a Teacher in Montana

This section outlines the steps for becoming a first-time certified teacher in Montana through the traditional route. Like many states, Montana uses a tiered licensing system for teacher licensure:

  • Class 2 Standard License: For new teachers who have met all of the requirements for teacher certification.
  • Class 1 Professional License: For existing educators who have obtained a master’s degree or National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification.
  • Class 5 Provisional License: For new teachers who have completed their bachelor’s degree but haven’t yet completed the Praxis exam (Class 5A); the teacher preparation program (Class 5B); or the professional development credits needed for renewal (Class 5C).

If you have a bachelor’s degree but haven’t completed a teacher preparation program, check out our guide to alternative teacher certification in Montana.

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

To obtain their teaching license in Montana, candidates must first earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. The bachelor’s degree major will depend on the grade level and subject to be taught. Prospective teachers will also complete an educator preparation program (EPP) approved by the Montana State Board of Public Education (BPE), usually as part of their bachelor’s degree.

You can compare key metrics for state-approved teacher preparation programs on our Montana 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.

Prospective teachers in Montana must complete 14 weeks of practical experience through a student teaching placement. As student teachers, candidates will have opportunities to lead a classroom, plan lessons, and follow a curriculum under the guidance of an experienced teacher. The student teaching assignment should be at the grade level and subject you wish to teach.

3. Pass the required Montana teacher exams.

Montana State SealTeachers in Montana must prove competency in their subject area to qualify for certification. This can be demonstrated in one of the following ways:

  • Passing score on the Praxis Subject exam for the content areas they wish to teach, such as agriculture, general science, elementary education, computer science, and social studies
  • Passing score on the student-teaching portfolio verified by the student’s EPP
  • 3.0 or higher GPA verified by the EPP

Additionally, all candidates must complete a free two-hour online course, An Introduction to Indian Education for All in Montana (IEFA), to qualify for licensure in Montana.

4. Apply for Montana teacher certification.

Once these steps are completed, candidates can apply for their Class 2 License. Applications must be submitted through the Teach Montana (TMT or Teach MT) online portal. Along with the online application, students will submit the following required documents:

  • Official transcripts/verification of accredited bachelor’s degree
  • Proof of completion of state-approved EPP with recommendation
  • Praxis Subject exam scores, passing score on portfolio, or proof of GPA
  • Proof of completion of the IEFA course
  • Application fee
  • Fingerprint background check

Visit the OPI Educator licensure page for further details on Montana’s teacher licensing.

5. Upgrade to a Class 1 License.

Teachers with a Class 2 License who get a master’s degree in education or an endorsable teaching area or who are nationally certified by the NBPTS are eligible for a Class 1 Professional Teacher License. Licenses can be upgraded at any time through the TMT online portal by completing the “Upgrade Your License” application.

Guide to Other Teaching Pathways

Montana Teacher Certification Renewal

Class 1 and Class 2 licenses are valid for five years and renewable. Renewal applications must be submitted online through the TMT online portal. Teachers are eligible to renew their license starting in January of the year of renewal and can check their renewal status through their TMT portal. Class 1 and Class 2 licenses both require 60 professional development units (PDUs) to renew. Class 5 licenses are provisional and valid for one and three years, but not renewable.

Adding Subjects or Grades to a Certificate

After receiving your license, you can only teach the grade and subject you are licensed in, although temporary exceptions can be made on an emergency basis. In Montana, there are three ways to add an endorsement to a license:

  • Complete an approved EPP in the related endorsement area and pass the related Praxis Subject Assessment, receive a passing score on a student teaching portfolio, or have a GPA of 3.0 or higher from the EPP
  • Complete a degree, major, minor, or NBPTS certificate in the requested endorsement area
  • Gain two years of teaching experience and pass the related Praxis Subject Assessment

The second and third pathways are not available for early childhood (P-3), elementary education (K-8), reading (K-12), English as a second language (K-12), school administrator, specialist, or initial special education endorsements.

Endorsement options can be found on Montana’s OPPI endorsement page.

Montana Teaching License Reciprocity

Out-of-state teachers with a valid teaching license can apply for a Montana license by using their current license to fulfill the demonstration of competency requirement. Teachers can apply for a Class 2 Standard License or a Class 1 Professional License depending on their education level. Out-of-state teachers will complete the same process as new in-state teachers but can submit proof of their out-of-state license in place of the exam requirement. The following documents must be submitted with a teaching license application:

  • Copy of your out-of-state teaching license
  • Official transcripts/verification of regionally-accredited bachelor’s degree
  • Proof of state-approved EPP with recommendation
  • Licensure fee
  • Fingerprint background check
  • Proof of completion of the IEFA course

Out-of-state teachers with a valid license who have not yet met Montana’s requirements for full licensure can apply for a Class 5 provisional license. These licenses are non-renewable and can only be used once during a teacher’s professional career in Montana. Additional information on applying for a Montana teaching license with an out-of-state license can be found on the Educator Licenses page of the OPI website. You can learn more about transferring a teaching certificate or license between states on our guide to certification reciprocity.

In addition to teacher licensure, Montana offers a variety of licenses for supportive and administrative positions. The following licenses are available for staff members interested in becoming licensed as administrators, technical teachers, or support specialists in Montana:

  • Class 3 Administrator’s License: There are four Class 3 licenses preparing individuals to work as special education supervisors, superintendents, principals, or supervisors. All Class 3 licenses require the applicant to have a master’s degree in their field and to have completed an EPP related to their desired license.
  • Class 4 Career and Technical License: Class 4 licenses are for those interested in teaching career or technical subjects such as auto body, horticulture, or welding. The Class 4 license requires applicants to have at least a high school diploma and proof of 5,000 hours of practical experience in their endorsement area. There are three sub-categories of Class 4 licenses based on education level and certificate status.
  • Class 6 Specialist: There are two Class 6 Specialist licenses, one for school counselors and one for school psychologists. Both licenses require applicants to have at least a master’s degree that includes an internship, along with other requirements.

Additionally, Montana offers a Class 7 American Indian Language and Culture Specialist license and a Class 8 Dual Credit Only Post-Secondary Faculty Educator License, both of which require recommendations from approved officials. A complete list of Montana educator licenses can be found on the Educator Licenses page.

Montana Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in MT through 20302*

There were 820 public schools in Montana during the 2017-2018 school year, serving 149,474 students and employing 10,515 teachers.3 This equates to a student-to-teacher ratio of approximately 14:1.3

Job growth projections for educators in Montana are lower than national projections, except for special education positions. Growth for Montana elementary teachers is projected at 8.0% compared to 7.4% nationally; for Montana middle school teachers, 8.3% compared to 13.1% nationally; and for Montana secondary school teachers, 7.9% compared to 13.7% nationally.2

The table below provides a detailed comparison of job growth prospects and salary levels for Montana teachers.

TypeNumber Employed in MT4Average Annual Openings in MT2MT Proj. Job Growth 2020-20302Average Annual Salary in MT425th Percentile Wages in MT575th Percentile Wages in MT5
Preschool Teachers1,32017016.7%$32,750$26,940$36,870
Preschool Teachers, Special Education1020%
Kindergarten Teachers810608.2%$49,170$37,420$58,060
Elementary School Teachers4,7303608%$60,200$40,230$75,790
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Special Education760409.5%$60,980$45,690$74,080
Middle School Teachers2,3101708.3%$60,390$46,680$73,640
Middle School Teachers, Special Education400203.8%$59,550$39,740$66,610
Middle School Teachers, Career/Technical Education160$50,250$19,200$60,470
Secondary School Teachers4,0703207.9%$54,630$38,250$64,280
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education410307.5%$60,170$41,500$74,670
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education270205%$56,750$40,330$68,540

*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 Montana

Montana has reported teaching shortages in many areas for the 2023-2024 school year. According to the US Department of Education, Montana is experiencing the following shortage areas:

Recent research reflected 443 teacher vacancies in Montana during the 2022-2023 school year.7 There were also 438 “underqualified” teachers reported in 2021-2022 in Montana, including teachers working outside of their certification area and those working outside of their field on a temporary or emergency basis.7

Additional Resources

Related Articles

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do substitute teachers in Montana have to be licensed?

Answer: Substitute teachers in Montana do not have to hold a current teaching license, but those who do may be preferred over non-licensed teachers. Non-licensed substitutes must complete at least three hours of approved training, hold at least a high school diploma, and pass a background check.

Question: How many private schools are there in Montana?

Answer: As of 2019-2020, there were 121 private schools in Montana, serving 8,350 students and employing 949 full-time teachers.8 Accreditation is optional for private schools in Montana, and teachers working at non-accredited private schools do not need to be licensed. Teachers employed by accredited private schools must hold a current teaching license per Montana’s state regulations.

1. Montana Office of Public Instruction: https://opi.mt.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, 2017-2018: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/stnfis.asp
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2023 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Montana: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mt.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