Teaching Certificate Programs
If you’re already in the classroom and want to expand your skill set to open new professional doors—without spending the time and money to get a master’s degree—a teacher certificate program might be a great option for you.
Getting a graduate certificate can expand your skill set and prepare you for a new career in a specialized area. Read on to learn more about teacher certificate programs.
What Is a Teaching Certificate?
A teaching certificate is a type of diploma that you can earn as an alternative to getting a graduate-level degree. Pursuing a teaching certificate can put you on a fast track to changing your teaching focus or specializing in a particular area. It’s ideal for people who don’t have the time or resources to pursue a master’s degree.
Note that a teaching certificate is not the same thing as teacher certification. A certificate is something you earn as a result of completing specialized coursework. Certification is the process of getting your license. Certification can vary in different states, so check this state page to learn more about the requirements in your state. (You might also see teaching certificates referred to as add-on certificates, graduate certificates, or post-bachelor’s certificates.)
Teacher certificate programs are generally designed for teachers who already have a teaching license but want to become qualified to teach a new content area or grade level. Some schools will admit students with a bachelor’s in education who don’t have a license yet; others will accept students with no degree but with significant work experience.
Getting a certificate can boost your career in a short period of time—and may well lead to a boost in salary as well. Many school districts pay teachers more for a certain number of educational credits beyond a bachelor’s degree. Check with your school district to find out if an add-on certificate could boost your pay.
Types of Teaching Certificates
There are a variety of certificates to choose from. There are certificates in specific subjects at specific levels, such as secondary math, and certificates that focus on particular specialties, such as special education or reading and literacy. Other possible specialties include:
- Early childhood education
- Gifted and talented education
- English as a second language (ELS)
- Instructional technology
- Adult education
- Administration and leadership
Refer to our school listings on this page to learn about other types of certificate programs.
Most certificates are categorized as either “additional endorsement” or “level change.” You should seek an “additional endorsement” certificate if you want to teach a new subject or focus on a particular education specialty. Level change certificates permit you to teach at a different grade level than you are currently licensed to teach.
Here are scenarios of certificates that a teacher might pursue:
- Elementary math certificate, additional endorsement: You are an elementary school teacher who wants to expand your knowledge of math.
- Post-secondary science certificate, level change: You are a middle school science teacher who wants to teach science at the high school level.
- Instructional design certificate, additional endorsement: You are an elementary school teacher who wants to work in curriculum design.
Teaching Certificate Programs
Professional teaching certificate programs vary in length, but most take anywhere from a few months to one year. Programs may include coursework, classes, and fieldwork. Online programs are also available.
Certificate Program Requirements
To enter a certificate program you usually need at least a bachelor’s degree, generally with a minimum GPA. Note that some schools will waive the degree requirement if you have significant work experience. Many programs require you to have a teaching license.
Other requirements may include letters of recommendation, a resume, an interview, and official transcripts.
Cost of Getting a Teaching Certificate
CosthelpEducation.com reports that an online teaching certificate program can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000. Compared to the average cost for a master’s program as reported by Collegraptor—$40,000—going the certificate route can result in big savings in money as well as time.
Teacher Certificate Programs Curriculum
Your curriculum will depend on your area of concentration. However, general courses may include the following:
- Introduction to teaching methods and learning: This course emphasizes the history, philosophy, and current educational trends in teaching. It explores the research and learning theories teachers apply to create successful learning in the classroom.
- Principles of learning: Promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills in your students is paramount to successful learning. This course focuses on discipline-specific principles of effective teaching and learning. The design of teaching materials requires methods of hypothesis testing, educational research, and conceptual frameworks that can be evaluated and refined.
Depending on your area of expertise, your course will apply specific methods for teaching concepts and procedures of mathematics, social studies, or other areas of instruction for teaching.
- Cognitive development and education: This course explores the development of thinking and language perception in preschool, elementary, and secondary students. As a teacher, you may be expected to identify the different learning styles of students and adapt teaching methods that meet their needs for successful learning. Special attention is devoted to how humans perceive learning and the identification of differences in levels of cognition.
- Curriculum design and evaluation: Best practices for curriculum construction are defined by research grounded in learning theories and conceptual frameworks. In this course, you may learn how to design course materials, incorporate learning technologies, and design classroom activities that are the most effective teaching tools for your area of mastery.
- Evaluation and testing of learning methods: Evaluation of learning methods and materials is a continuous process that begins with a clearly designed curriculum and incorporates assessment of both teaching and learning. This course provides instruction on testing and evaluating course materials and activities for the entire classroom.
Online Post-Graduate Certificate in Education Programs
Because certificate programs generally don’t require student teaching, they’re offered online much more often than some other types of education degrees, giving you many options if you’re considering pursuing your teacher certificate online.
Should I Pursue an Online Certificate Program?
In deciding whether to pursue an online-only program, you’ll want to consider your learning style. If you’re self-motivated and learn well by combing through a textbook and participating in web discussions, an online certificate program may be a good fit for you.
On the other hand, if you learn best when you’re able to bounce ideas off your instructor and fellow students in person, then you may want to consider an on-campus degree. Online teaching schools require a high degree of self-discipline and motivation for success.
How to Find the Best Online Teaching Certificate Program for You
Before committing to an online certificate program, do your research. Check with people you trust, such as administrators in your district, and ask if they think the online certificate programs you’re considering will help you reach your professional goals. Look around online, and read reviews. If former students say they felt well supported in a particular program, that may be a program you’ll want to consider.
As a rule of thumb, you should contact multiple online schools for teaching to compare the critical factors. There are significant differences between programs in terms of cost, admissions requirements, and other characteristics. As with many things in life, the way to find the best teacher certificate program is to spend some time shopping around.
Note that some online programs may not be as flexible as others. If the school uses a cohort structure, you will be one member of a learning community going through the program together, at the same rate, taking the same classes in a specific order. Research indicates that people learn better in groups, so the cohort structure is becoming more common. If you need more flexibility in your program, make sure to check whether a school uses a cohort structure.
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