Tennessee Alternative Teacher Certification

Alternative teacher preparation programs, also known as non-traditional programs, are designed for those who have a bachelor’s degree outside of education and typically lead to the award of a certificate or master’s degree. All paths to licensure in Tennessee require candidates to complete an approved teacher preparation program. If you don’t already have a bachelor’s degree, see our guide to traditional certification in Tennessee. If you do have a bachelor’s degree, continue reading to find out more about alternative pathways to teacher licensure in the state.

Requirements for Alternative Certification

Candidates who already hold a bachelor’s degree but have not completed a teacher preparation program may qualify for a Tennessee teaching license by completing an educator preparation program. A common pathway for these candidates is completing a master’s degree in education or teaching. A master’s degree in the subject to be taught that includes an approved teacher preparation program can also qualify candidates for a teaching license.

Note that any teacher preparation program completed must be authorized and approved by the Tennessee Board of Education and Higher Education Commission. This includes online and distance learning programs. Refer to the Tennessee Department of Education’s section on Educator Preparation for further details.

Types of Alternative Teaching Licenses in Tennessee

Tennessee offers two alternative routes for classroom teachers, the Practitioner Teacher License for traditional classroom subjects and the Practitioner Occupational Education License for career and technical education subjects. Note that the guidelines for career and technical education licenses differ from those for traditional subjects. Be sure to visit the Tennessee Department of Education website for more detail on the requirements and to find approved programs.

Practitioner Teacher License

For those who would like to teach while completing the education and teaching requirements for regular licensure, Tennessee offers the Practitioner Teacher License, sometimes referred to as the job-embedded program. Once issued, this license is valid for three years and can only be renewed once. To qualify for the license, candidates must already have a bachelor’s degree and ensure that the department has all transcripts from higher education institutions; meet education requirements in at least one endorsement area; and be enrolled in an approved teacher preparation program that participates in the Practitioner Teacher License program.

Practitioner Occupational Education License

The Occupational Education License for career and technical education subjects requires that candidates be admitted to or have completed an educator preparation program. Candidates must be recommended for licensure by the program in which they are enrolled and meet endorsement experience requirements. Minimum qualifications for career and technical education licensure typically include a high school diploma plus five years of industry experience, as well as holding a recognized industry-related certification or license.

Testing Requirements for Tennessee Alternative Certification

Candidates for licensure via an alternative route must pass the same exams as traditional-pathway educators. These include the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) for the appropriate grade levels and Core Academic Skills for Educators exams, as well as the Praxis Subject Assessments tests appropriate to the content area(s) and grade(s) the candidate wishes to teach. See the Praxis website to determine which content area exams are required for each endorsement area.

Transferring Teaching Licenses from Another State

For experienced teachers who hold out-of-state teacher certification, Tennessee reciprocity may be possible. To qualify for licensure by reciprocity candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree, verify content knowledge by taking (or provide proof of previously passing) the appropriate Praxis exams, and submit a recommendation from a teacher preparation program approved by the Board of Education in another state using the Out-of-State Educator Preparation Verification Form. For more information on becoming a certified teacher in Tennessee through reciprocity, review our guide to interstate reciprocity or contact the Tennessee Department of Education.

Schools with Alternative and Master’s Programs in Tennessee

The following school-based certification programs typically lead to a certificate or master’s degree and have been approved by the Tennessee Department of Education (DOE). It’s important to check that any program you are considering has been approved by the state, as an unapproved program is unlikely to qualify you for licensure.

  • Aquinas College* (Master’s)
  • Austin Peay State University* (Alternative, Certificate, Master’s)
  • Belmont University* (Alternative, Certificate, Master’s)
  • Carson Newman University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Christian Brothers University* (Alternative, Certificate, Master’s)
  • Cumberland University (Master’s)
  • East Tennessee State University (Master’s)
  • Freed-Hardeman University* (Master’s)
  • Johnson University (Master’s)
  • King University* (Master’s)
  • Lee University* (Master’s)
  • Lemoyne-Owen College (Certificate)
  • Lincoln Memorial University* (Master’s)
  • Lipscomb University* (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Maryville College* (Master’s)
  • Middle Tennessee State University* (Alternative, Certificate, Master’s)
  • Milligan University (Master’s)
  • Southern Adventist University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Tennessee State University (Master’s)
  • Tennessee Tech University* (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Tennessee Wesleyan University* (Master’s)
  • Trevecca Nazarene University* (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Tusculum University* (Master’s)
  • Union University (Master’s)
  • University of Memphis* (Master’s)
  • University of Tennessee-Chattanooga* (Certificate, Master’s), Knoxville* (Alternative, Certificate, Master’s), Martin* (Master’s)
  • Vanderbilt University (Master’s)
  • Western Governors University in Tennessee (Master’s)

*Schools with an asterisk offer programs that can include paid classroom placements, subject to qualifications and experience. The student may be responsible for securing their own placement. Contact program(s) of interest for further information.

Additional Resources

1. Tennessee Department of Education: https://www.tn.gov/education/