The Pennsylvania Teaching and Certification Resource

There are several routes to earn Pennsylvania teacher certification based on previous experience and education. The Pennsylvania State Department of Education Division of Certification Services oversees the certification process, which is outlined below to help you learn how to become a teacher in Pennsylvania.

How to Become a Teacher in Pennsylvania

In order to earn Pennsylvania teacher certification, applicants must meet certain education and testing requirements. All candidates for certification are required to hold a bachelor’s degree and must attend a teacher education program approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. You can view a list of approved teacher preparation programs in Pennsylvania on the state Department of Education website. Those who have previously earned a bachelor’s degree but have not completed an approved teacher preparation program may wish to review our guide to alternative teacher certification in Pennsylvania.

Candidates for teacher certification in Pennsylvania following the traditional route to licensure must decide on the type of teaching certificate and subject area they plan to teach before applying for certification. All candidates must pass the same battery of exams appropriate to the subject(s) and grade level(s) to be taught before a certificate is issued. These exams are discussed in further detail below.

Quick Guide

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Pennsylvania

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in PA through 20262

One of the most important steps towards Pennsylvania teacher certification is completing a teacher education program approved by the Department of Education that also holds regional accreditation. There are six regional accreditation agencies overseen by the US Department of Education. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) is responsible for accrediting Pennsylvania schools. Aspiring teachers looking to work in the state must confirm that their school of choice is MSCHE-accredited and holds Department of Education approval. Otherwise, they may not be eligible for Pennsylvania certification. Additionally, applicants who are considering online teaching preparation or teaching preparation through an out-of-state school must confirm that the school offering the program is accredited by the corresponding regional accreditation body. You can compare key metrics for state-approved teacher preparation programs in Pennsylvania by using the sortable table on our Pennsylvania schools page.

In addition to regional accreditation, many schools that offer Pennsylvania teacher preparation programs apply for accreditation through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP accreditation is held as a distinguishing marker of rigorous standards within the teacher education sector.

Pennsylvania Teacher Education Requirements

Individuals pursuing Pennsylvania teacher licensing must complete an approved teacher education program and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, which should include a recommendation from the institution attended for a teaching certificate. The institutional recommendation verifies to the Department of Education that the applicant has completed state-mandated requirements for coursework in core subjects including mathematics, English, ESL education, and teaching skills, as well as a teaching internship.

Candidates for a teaching license who have a bachelor’s degree or higher in an endorsed content area who have not completed a traditional teacher preparation program may be eligible for a Pennsylvania teaching certificate through alternative certification.

Pennsylvania Teacher Testing Requirements

Pennsylvania State SealPennsylvania requires that all individuals seeking initial educator certification at the bachelor’s degree level take and pass basic skills tests as well as subject-area expertise exams in the content area they wish to teach. Candidates will typically take the first set of exams prior to admittance to a program. The first set of required exams include the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA) modules and the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (CORE) modules, which measure knowledge in reading, writing, and mathematics. Next, candidates must take and pass the proper Praxis subject assessments for the subject(s) to be taught, as well as the pedagogy (teaching skills) exam modules that align with the grade levels to be taught.

Educational Specialists who are already licensed in another area such as school psychology or nursing are exempt from the testing requirements. Those who are seeking certification as vocational or career and technical educators must take the Occupational Competency Assessment (OCA) and the vocational Basic Skills Assessments.

Additional Teacher Certification Requirements

Pennsylvania law requires all applicants for employment in public and private schools to undergo background checks. All teaching applicants must submit a fingerprint-based state and federal background check before applying for Pennsylvania educator certification. The process is started by registering through the web-based application Pennsylvania Access To Criminal History (PATCH).

Pennsylvania Teaching License Application Process

Once all of the above steps to Pennsylvania teacher certification have been completed, applicants can apply for licensure through the Teacher Information Management System (TIMS). The following documentation must be provided:

  • Verification of bachelor’s degree.
  • Verification of completion of an approved teacher education program.
  • Submission of passing test scores on all required exams.
  • Payment of non-refundable processing fees.

Visit the Pennsylvania Department of Education website for further details on teacher certification in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

There were an estimated 3,004 K-12 public schools in Pennsylvania during the 2016-2017 school year, which served over 1.7 million students.3 With 122,551 public school teachers, this gave Pennsylvania a student-to-teacher ratio of 14:1.3

Projections suggest that there will be 3,890 average annual job openings for elementary school teachers, 1,820 average annual job openings for middle school teachers, and 3,240 average annual job openings for secondary school teachers in Pennsylvania through 2026.3 Elementary school teachers in the state make an average annual salary of $66,860, while middle school teachers make an annual average of $67,950 and secondary school teachers an annual average of $64,830.4 For additional information regarding employment opportunities and education policy, visit the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers13,480$29,250
Preschool Teachers, Special Education570$54,160
Kindergarten Teachers3,350$62,510
Elementary School Teachers55,200$66,860
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School6,010$66,860
Middle School Teachers21,640$67,950
Middle School Teachers, Special Education2,390$69,040
Secondary School Teachers50,460$64,830
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education8,510$63,260
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education3,560$65,540

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2018.4

Teacher Shortages in Pennsylvania

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

  • Academically Advanced (Gifted Education), Pre-K-12
  • Art and Music Education, Pre-K-12
  • Career and Technical Education, 7-12
  • Career and Technical Education (Business Technology Education), Pre-K-12
  • Career and Technical Education (Computer Science), Pre-K-12
  • Career and Technical Education (Family and Consumer Science), Pre-K-12
  • Core Subjects (Elementary Education), Pre-K-8
  • English as a Second Langauge, Pre-K-12
  • Health and Physical Fitness (Physical Education), Pre-K-12
  • Language Arts (English), 7-12
  • Mathematics, 7-12
  • Science (Life Sciences), Pre-K-12
  • Social Studies, 7-12
  • Special Education (Generic, Language and Speech), Pre-K-12
  • World Languages, Pre-K-12

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), the number of Instructional I and Instructional II teaching certificates issued has been dropping since 2010.6 During the 2010-2011 school year, 21,045 Instructional I certificates and 14,389 Instructional II certificates were issued.6 Compare those numbers to the 2019-2020 school year, when just 6,937 and 6,186 certificates were issued, representing 67% and 57% drops, respectively.6 Meanwhile, enrollment in Pennsylvania public schools has remained steady over the decade, at around 1.7 million.6

In December of 2021, the Pennsylvania governor signed a bill that is meant to address the state’s need for substitute teachers due to the pandemic.7 The new law will expand eligibility for substitute teachers by allowing retired teachers as well as eligible college students and recent graduates to fill substitute positions. It will also expand the length of time substitutes can work, allowing certified teachers (both in and out of state) to be day-to-day subs for 20 days or longer and inactive teachers to be subs for 180 days per school year (instead of 90 days). Finally, the law will allow individuals who are at least 25 years old, have at least 60 college credits or at least three years of paraprofessional experience, and complete classroom management training to serve as classroom monitors, assisting teachers by delivering them planned assignments.

Pennsylvania Teacher Interviews

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Answer: To be a substitute teacher in Pennsylvania, you must have a bachelor’s degree. With a degree, you can substitute for up to 20 days in one position. To work for longer than 20 days in the same position, you must obtain an emergency permit through the Pennsylvania Department of Education or have state certification. Note that most school districts prefer substitutes who have an active teaching license.

Question: How do I become an elementary school teacher in Pennsylvania?

Answer: To be an elementary teacher in Pennsylvania, you must earn a certificate in elementary education through the state. This requires candidates to have a bachelor’s degree and complete a teacher preparation program. A student teaching experience is also required, as are passing scores on the state’s certification exams.

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

Answer: To become a high school teacher in Pennsylvania, you must be granted a secondary education certificate. This requires that you have a bachelor’s degree and take appropriate education coursework, which includes earning student teaching experience in a secondary classroom. You must also pass the required teacher certification exams.

1. Pennsylvania State Department of Education Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality: https://www.education.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx#.VjJWMLerTcs
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 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Pennsylvania: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_pa.htm
5. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/#/reports
6. Pennsylvania Department of Education, Act 82 of 2018: Report on Educator Preparation and Certification: https://www.education.pa.gov/DataAndReporting/Pages/Act82.aspx
7. Governor Tom Wolf, “Gov. Wolf Signs Bill to Support Schools, Teachers Staffing to Keep Children in Classrooms During Pandemic:” https://www.psea.org/sublegislation