North Dakota Teacher Certification and Career Guide

State teacher certification is required for prospective educators who plan to work in North Dakota’s public K-12 school system, and the North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board (ESPB) oversees this process. The main steps for the traditional path to teacher certification in North Dakota 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 an initial teaching certificate or license.
  5. Upgrade your license.

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

Table of Contents

Steps to Become a Teacher in North Dakota
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 North Dakota

This section details the teacher licensing process for applicants seeking a teaching license in North Dakota through the traditional route. North Dakota uses a tiered licensing system:

  • Initial In-State License: Two-year license for new teachers who have met all North Dakota licensure requirements.
  • Two-Year License: For teachers who have been working in North Dakota for less than 18 months.
  • Five-Year License: For teachers who have been working in education for at least 18 months.

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 North Dakota.

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

Candidates for a North Dakota teaching license must earn a bachelor’s degree from a state-accredited institution. The bachelor’s degree major will depend on the grade level and subject to be taught. All prospective teachers will also complete a teacher preparation program approved by ESPB, usually as part of the bachelor’s degree. All ESPB-approved programs are reviewed every seven years to ensure they continue to meet state requirements. North Dakota applicants should have a minimum overall GPA of 2.50.

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

All teacher candidates must complete a student teaching placement, which will be verified via official transcripts submitted at the time of application. In North Dakota, prospective teachers must complete 10 weeks of full-time, supervised student teaching, as outlined by ESPB. The student teaching placement should be in the same subject and grade level as the desired license.

3. Pass the required North Dakota teacher exams.

North Dakota State SealNorth Dakota requires applicants to pass all three content areas of the Praxis Core and the required Praxis Subject Assessments. Praxis exams are administered by ETS and can only be taken after the candidate completes their teacher preparation program.

4. Apply for North Dakota teacher certification.

Once all requirements have been completed, applicants can apply for their Initial In-State License through the ND Teach portal. Applicants will first need to create an ND Teach account to access the online application. The following documents will need to be submitted with the online application:

  • Fingerprint-based background check
  • Official transcripts showing a minimum 2.50 GPA
  • Passing scores on the required certification exams
  • Payment of required licensing fees

Visit the ESPB licensing page for additional information on receiving an educator license in North Dakota.

5. Upgrade to a Two-Year or Five-Year teaching license.

North Dakota’s initial teaching license is not renewable and expires on the teacher’s birthday. At the end of the initial license, educators must upgrade their credentials to a Two-Year or Five-Year License. Those renewing before working for 18 months can apply for a Two-Year License. To qualify for a Five-Year License, teachers must have worked in North Dakota for at least 18 months at the time of application. Both licenses are renewable up to six months before expiration.

Guide to Other Teaching Pathways

North Dakota Teacher Certification Renewal

The exact requirements for renewing a teaching license in North Dakota depend on the license being renewed. The initial teaching license expires on the applicant’s birthday and is not renewable. Instead, those with an initial teaching license will renew with a Two-Year License or a Five-Year License, depending on their experience.

  • Two-Year License: Can be renewed up to three times without re-education, and are for teachers who worked less than 18 months of their contracted time.
  • Five-Year License: Can be renewed with six semester hours of re-education.

Additional renewal requirements can be found on the online ND Teach portal, including requirements for updated background checks. For more details on renewal, visit ESPB’s renewing a license page.

Adding Subjects or Grades to a Certificate

Once you receive your teaching license, you will only be eligible to work as a teacher in the grade levels and certification areas listed on your certificate, though occasional, temporary exceptions are made. Teachers who already hold an initial, two-year, or five-year teaching license can apply to add an endorsement certification through the ND Teach portal. While specific endorsement requirements vary, in general, educators can add a Major Equivalency Praxis Endorsement by passing the related Praxis subject exam for the desired endorsement.

North Dakota Teaching License Reciprocity

North Dakota offers out-of-state reciprocity to teachers from states whose teacher licensing standards are equivalent to North Dakota’s. Those with an active teaching credential in another state can apply for an Other State Educator License (OSEL). A two-year and a five-year OSEL are available depending on the educator’s experience. Applicants whose program did not include a mental health competency course must complete an approved mental health professional development course before becoming licensed. North Dakota also offers a two-year Out-of-State Reciprocal License for those who received their education degree in another state but do not hold a teaching license. Teachers with this license will have up to four years to meet North Dakota’s license requirements.

More details about the reciprocity process are available on ESPB’s types of license explanation page. You can learn more about transferring a teaching certificate or license between states on our guide to certification reciprocity.

In addition to standard educator licenses, North Dakota offers a variety of licenses and endorsements in support and administrative areas. While ESPB handles teacher licensing, most support staff credentials are issued (or jointly issued) by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Administrative credentials include:

  • Level I Professional Principal: Level I Principals must have a master’s degree in educational administration or an equivalent degree approved by ESPB. Candidates must also have at least three years of teaching or administrative experience at the applicable grade levels. The DPI issues an Elementary Principal Credential (K-8), a Secondary Principal Credential (5-12), and a K-12 Principal Credential.
  • School Counselor: To become a school counselor in North Dakota, applicants must have an ESPB valid teaching license and a master’s degree in counseling, education, or a similar human services field. The degree curriculum must include specific coursework, including elementary school counseling and counseling theories.
  • Special Education Technician: Special education technicians conduct screenings, document student progress, and complete other duties as assigned by the supervising special education teacher and local administrator. They must be credentialed by DPI, which requires a Paraprofessional Certificate of Completion. Technicians must complete 40 credit hours of college education and a minimum of 100 supervised fieldwork hours for their certificate.

A variety of other paraprofessional certificates, such as Speech-Language Pathology Paraprofessional Certificate of Completion and Title I Paraprofessional Certificate of Completion, are overseen by DPI in cooperation with ESPB. Further details on additional endorsements and credentials can be found on ESPB’s website. For more information on DPI-managed credentials, check the DPI website.

North Dakota Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in ND through 20302*

According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there were an estimated 111,920 students enrolled in North Dakota’s 524 K-12 public schools during the 2017-2018 school year.3 Based on an estimated 9,284 teachers during the same time period, North Dakota had a student-to-teacher ratio of around 12:1.3

Overall, job growth prospects for educators in North Dakota are higher than national averages. Job growth for North Dakota elementary teachers is projected at 12.1% compared to 7.4% nationally; for North Dakota middle special education school teachers, 10.5% compared to 7.5% nationally; and for North Dakota secondary school special education teachers, 12.2% compared to 7.7% nationally.2

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

TypeNumber Employed in ND4Average Annual Openings in ND2ND Proj. Job Growth 2020-20302Average Annual Salary in ND425th Percentile Wages in ND575th Percentile Wages in ND5
Preschool Teachers54017017%$38,370$30,780$44,250
Preschool Teachers, Special Education801012.5%$63,100$51,470$76,600
Kindergarten Teachers5405011.1%$55,140$47,720$60,180
Elementary School Teachers4,58035012.1%$55,530$47,610$60,640
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Special Education5205011.8%$59,990$49,220$68,810
Middle School Teachers1,41011012.4%$58,600$48,560$62,940
Middle School Teachers, Special Education2402010.5%$57,620$49,400$62,960
Middle School Teachers, Career/Technical Education801015.4%$59,480$49,070$70,140
Secondary School Teachers2,98021012.6%$56,510$47,890$61,510
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education3704012.2%$59,350$50,610$63,890
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education4904013.3%$60,890$50,100$64,390

*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 North Dakota

North Dakota is experiencing several teaching shortages. According to the US Department of Education Teacher Shortage Area report for 2023-2024, North Dakota has designated the following deficits:

According to recent research, there were approximately 480 unfilled teaching positions in North Dakota during the 2022-2023 school year.7 A further 73 teachers in the state were considered underqualified for their position, which includes teachers assigned to classrooms outside their certification field on a temporary or emergency basis.7

Additional Resources

Related Articles

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What are the requirements to become a high school teacher in North Dakota?

Answer: High school teachers in North Dakota must hold at least an initial teaching license. To qualify for the license, you must have a bachelor’s degree with a teachable major and have completed a teacher preparation program. You must also have at least 10 weeks of student teaching experience in a secondary classroom, pass a background check, and pass the required Praxis exams.

Question: How do you become a substitute teacher in North Dakota?

Answer: North Dakota offers a license for subs who have at least 48 college credits and can pass a background check. If you are interested in becoming a licensed a href=”/careers/substitute-teacher/”>substitute teacher in North Dakota, you should visit the ESPB website.

Question: How many private schools are there in North Dakota?

Answer: As of 2019-2020, there are 57 private schools in North Dakota, facilitating 9,552 students and employing 904 full-time teachers.8 According to North Dakota state regulations, all private school teachers must be licensed or approved to teach by the education standards and practices board and hold a degree related to their position.

1. North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board: https://www.nd.gov/espb/
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 2022 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, North Dakota: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nd.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022 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