Tennessee Alternative Teacher Certification

Tennessee no longer issues the Apprentice License or the Transitional License, two former alternative pathways to licensure in the state. This means that the alternative path to teacher licensure in Tennessee for career changers who wish to teach traditional subjects requires completing a formal, approved teacher preparation program prior to beginning teaching. This differs from alternative routes in many other states that allow simultaneous teaching and teacher preparation coursework.

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

Although at present Tennessee’s licensing structure no longer allows for the issuance of alternative licenses, candidates who wish to teach career and technical education subjects may qualify for licensure as the guidelines for this field differ from those for traditional subjects.

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. 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

As alternative teacher certification in Tennessee is not a separate pathway, candidates for licensure must pass the same exams as traditional-pathway educators. These include the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) 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 show proof of completing a teacher preparation program approved by the Board of Education in another state. 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 Certification Programs in Tennessee

The following school-based alternative certification programs 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
  • Austin Peay State University
  • Belmont University
  • Christian Brothers University
  • Cumberland University
  • East Tennessee State University
  • Johnson University
  • King University-Bristol, Knoxville
  • Lee University
  • Lincoln Memorial University
  • Lipscomb University
  • Milligan University
  • Rhodes College
  • Tennessee State University
  • Tennessee Tech University
  • Tennessee Wesleyan University
  • Trevecca Nazarene University
  • Union University
  • University of Memphis
  • University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Knoxville, Martin
  • Western Governors University Tennessee

Additional Resources

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