The Wisconsin Teaching and Certification Resource

Wisconsin teacher licensure, known in other states or referred to informally as certification, is required to be eligible to work in the state’s public K-12 school system. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) oversees the licensing process, which is outlined below to help you learn how to become a teacher in Wisconsin.

How to Become a Teacher in Wisconsin

Similar to most US states, those pursuing Wisconsin teacher licensure must hold a bachelor’s degree, complete a Wisconsin-approved teacher certification program, and pass the required subject and content examinations. Once all the requirements are met, prospective teachers are eligible to apply for initial Wisconsin educator certification.

Candidates who have a bachelor’s degree but did not complete a teacher preparation program may be eligible for alternative teacher certification in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin uses a tiered licensing structure for teachers: Initial, Professional, and Master. Teachers must complete professional development to renew their licenses and advance through the licensure tiers. The requirements are as follows:

  • Provisional Educator License: Requires completion of a bachelor’s degree, a teacher preparation program, and passing scores on the required educator exams.
  • Lifetime Educator License: Requires completion of at least six semesters of teaching at the provisional license level.
  • Master Educator License: Requires certification through the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) or completion of the Wisconsin Master Educator Assessment Process (WMEAP).
Quick Guide

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Wisconsin

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in WI through 20262

Candidates for Wisconsin educator certification are required to complete a state-approved teacher preparation program at an accredited school. In order to find an approved program, prospective teachers should refer to the state’s approved educator preparation programs list. You can compare key metrics for these state-approved teacher preparation programs by using the sortable table on our Wisconsin schools page.

Applicants evaluating schools, especially those out-of-state or online, should also confirm that the school is in good standing with its regional accreditation agency. Wisconsin only considers accreditation from one of the six regional accreditation agencies recognized by the Department of Education. Graduates from schools that lack this accreditation will not be eligible for a teaching license.

Additionally, many schools apply for accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP accreditation is highly regarded for its rigorous standards for teacher preparation.

Wisconsin Teacher Education Requirements

As with most states, the most direct route to a Wisconsin teaching license is graduation from a bachelor’s degree program that includes a state-approved teacher preparation program. Those who have a bachelor’s degree but did not complete teacher preparation may be eligible for alternative teacher certification in Wisconsin.

Additionally, all candidates must complete coursework in the study of the American Indian Nations (Tribal Nations) of Wisconsin and, for some subjects, environmental education. A Provisional Educator License may be issued without this coursework provided that the applicant completes the requirements within the initial five-year period. You can read more about these and other stipulations through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Wisconsin Teacher Testing Requirements

wisconsin-state-sealTo obtain teacher certification in Wisconsin, applicants must show their competence in the subject area(s) to be taught. There are several methods of measuring competency approved by the DPI. Each teacher preparation program chooses the method or methods to be used. Candidates may therefore have to pass one or more of the following assessments:

  • Pass the appropriate Praxis II subject assessments or the ACTFL World Language Tests (for teachers of world languages)
  • Have a GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) or better in their content or license area
  • Complete a content portfolio

In addition, teachers seeking endorsements in early childhood, elementary education, or special education and reading teachers and reading specialists must take and pass the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test. Questions about testing requirements should be directed to the candidate’s educator preparation program.

Additional Wisconsin Teacher Certification Requirements

All prospective teachers in Wisconsin must complete a state and federal background check, which may be based on a fingerprinting record check. There are several options for having fingerprints taken and the background check processed, which you can review through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Wisconsin Teachers Licensing Application Process

Once the steps towards Wisconsin teacher certification are fulfilled, candidates must submit an application to the state’s Department of Public Instruction. The application should include the following:

  • Official transcripts showing proof of bachelor’s degree and coursework appropriate to endorsement sought.
  • Proof of completion of a teacher preparation program.
  • Payment of non-refundable certification processing fee.
  • Proof of passing scores on the required examinations.
  • Completed application for teaching certification in Wisconsin.

Applications must be submitted through the online Educator Licensing Online (ELO) system. The department recommends that all documents be scanned as a single file for easy uploading to the system. Visit the Department of Public Instruction for further details on teaching certification in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

During the 2016-2017 academic year, there were an estimated 864,432 students attending Wisconsin’s 2,256 K-12 public schools.3 Given an estimated 59,010 teachers during this time period, the state had a student-to-teacher ratio of about 15:1.3

According to estimates, there will be 2,240 average annual new job openings for elementary school teachers, 1,050 average annual job openings for middle school teachers, and 1,370 average annual new job openings for secondary school teachers in Wisconsin from 2020 to 2030.2 Elementary school teachers in the state earn an average annual salary of $60,080, while middle school teachers earn an average annual salary of $58,450 and secondary school teachers earn an average annual salary of $61,440.4 The Wisconsin Education Association Council, an affiliate of the National Education Association, is another resource for education policy and local employment in the state.

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers10,180$26,550
Preschool Teachers, Special Education110$45,780
Kindergarten Teachers1,630$57,340
Elementary School Teachers27,280$56,770
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School1,640$56,210
Middle School Teachers13,240$59,880
Middle School Teachers, Special Education1,050$55,350
Secondary School Teachers20,070$58,360
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education1,350$53,310
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education780$58,670

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2018.4

Teacher Shortages in Wisconsin

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

  • Art and Music Education (General), Pre-K-12
  • Career and Technical Education (General), Pre-K-12
  • Early Childhood (General Curriculum/Early Childhood), Pre-K-3
  • English as a Second Language (Bilingual/Bicultural, General), Pre-K-12
  • Health and Physical Fitness (General), Pre-K-12
  • Language Arts (Reading), Pre-K-12
  • Mathematics (General), 4-12
  • Science (General), 4-12
  • Special Education (Multi-Categorical), Pre-K-12
  • Support Staff (Library/Media Specialist), Pre-K-12
  • World Languages (General), Pre-K-12

Wisconsin Teacher Interview

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How can I become a substitute teacher in Wisconsin?

Answer: To work as a substitute teacher in Wisconsin, you must have a license from the state Department of Public Instruction. A three-year short-term substitute license requires candidates to have an associate’s degree from an accredited institution and to have completed an approved substitute teacher training program. A five-year substitute permit requires a bachelor’s degree and the completion of an approved teacher preparation program. Once licensed, subs can teach in any Wisconsin school district.

Question: Is there a teacher shortage in Wisconsin?

Answer: For the 2021-22 school year, Wisconsin reported teacher shortages in many areas including subjects like English as a second language (ESL), early childhood education, science, languages, and others.5

Question: How do I become a high school teacher in Wisconsin?

Answer: To become a high school teacher in Wisconsin, you must be licensed through the state. To get a license, you need to complete a bachelor’s degree program (in some cases, an associate’s degree may be acceptable for short-term assignments) and an approved teacher preparation program. You must also pass a background check and pass the state-mandated exams.

1. Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction: https://dpi.wi.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, 2016-2017: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/stnfis.asp
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Wisconsin: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wi.htm
5. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/