How to Become a Teacher in Arizona
Nothing changes lives and improves societies like education, and teachers are the backbone of that system. Education in the United States is a hot topic in the news, with Arizona occasionally making headlines, but things are looking up for this southwestern state. In addition to Arizona teacher pay increasing, according to the Governor of Arizona’s Fiscal Year 2017 report, the state also will be investing $371 million in education between 2018 and 2023. Individual districts largely will control how they spend their funding based on their needs, with projected expenditures to cover initiatives such as upgraded technologies, schoolroom supplies, and general infrastructure.
In addition to the exciting progress being made in Arizona schools, many people love living in The Copper State. The Grand Canyon may be the state’s best-known attraction, but there are also cities for people who enjoy fast-paced living and opportunities for stargazing for those who want to get away from it all. The state is steeped in Native American and Old West history, offering wonderful learning experiences for field trips. While the state is a great place for those hoping to escape cold winters, there’s still the opportunity to enjoy the slopes: Flagstaff offers snow skiing.
Teacher Requirements in Arizona
Arizona’s teacher education requirements are unusual. It is possible to become a teacher through traditional methods—a bachelor’s degree, formal teacher training, and certification exams—but aspiring teachers also may follow five other pathways. Every teacher is required to have a certification, regardless of the route taken to get it.
If you’re beginning the search for degree programs, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in education is a great way to get started. However, it’s a common misconception that having a degree in a different field will prevent you from achieving your dream of teaching. The truth is, if you already have a bachelor’s in a different subject, you can get certification through an alternative program and begin your career.
In 2017, Subject Matter Expert Certification (SME) began in Arizona. This option exists for those who want to teach grades 6 through 12 without completing teacher preparation programs; it is not available for elementary educators. While a bachelor’s degree is not technically required for those who take this route, having one is a possible way to obtain this certification. The other routes require a great deal of precertification work, such as five years of employment relating to the desired subject. The Arizona Department of Education’s website provides information about other ways to obtain this certification.
Five of the six aforementioned routes to certification require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. For full-time students, these programs take an average of four years to complete. To begin a bachelor’s program, most schools have minimum high school GPA requirements. Check with your school of interest to see if they do.
Other requirements include:
- Application and fee
- SAT/ACT scores
- High school transcript
- Letters of recommendation
Having a master’s degree is not a requirement for classroom teachers, but it can make you a more desirable job candidate. These degrees typically result in higher pay for teachers when compared to their peers who have bachelor’s degrees only. Whether you choose an online or traditional program, the admission requirements are similar:
- Application and fee
- Transcripts from undergraduate school
- Recommendation letters
- Personal statement
Some programs can allow you to become an education specialist or earn a doctorate in the field.
If you need help with funding your education, learn some of your options on our Financial Aid for Education Students page.
Certification and Endorsement
Arizona offers certification and endorsement options. While these words are occasionally used interchangeably, they mean very different things. “Certification” is a legal requirement, and you won’t be allowed to teach without an Arizona teaching certificate. It is possible to start work with an out-of-state certificate, but you must immediately work toward obtaining an Arizona one. “Endorsement” is not legally required, but earning one shows special dedication to your chosen subject and may increase your chance of getting a teaching job in that specific field. Certifications must be renewed periodically, and endorsements will automatically renew with the relevant certificate to which they were attached.
The Arizona teacher certificate process, minus the previously mentioned SME process, has several steps. Before you are granted a certificate, you must meet a few requirements:
- Achieve a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- Complete a teacher preparation program OR earn teaching experience OR earn an out-of-state teaching certificate.
- Complete a professional knowledge exam and a subject knowledge exam. Three years of teaching experience may be accepted instead.
Arizona teaching endorsements also have requirements, but these vary greatly by subject. The only universal expectation is that any courses and programs must be taken through accredited educational institutions. When looking for an education program, be sure to check that both the institution and program itself are accredited. The Arizona Department of Education provides specific information about the requirements for each possible endorsement.
Arizona Teacher Salary and Career Outlook
Arizona is experiencing a statewide teacher shortage at all levels and in most subject areas. Whether you want to be a high school science teacher, an elementary art instructor, or anything in between, there’s likely a high need for your dream job.
Outlook for Arizona Teachers
Arizona is expected not only to attempt to fill the currently available teacher positions, but also to add new positions as well. Between 2016 and 2026, the number of teacher jobs at all levels is expected to grow by about 10%.
Arizona Teacher Salary
If you want to become a teacher in Arizona, now is a great time, thanks to recent pay increases.
- High School:$48,610
Statistics provided by the BLS
However, this does not account for the recently passed statewide pay increase of 9%, bringing the overall median salary to $52,725. A recently developed plan includes an average salary of $58,130 by the fiscal year 2021. With these changes, Arizona’s teacher pay will soon match the national average.
- Arizona Department of Education (ADE)
- Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessments (AEPA)
- The Best Books for Teachers in 2019
Professional Education Organizations in Arizona
- Arizona Education Association (AEA)
- Arizona Educational Foundation (AEF)
- Arizona K12 Center
- Arizona Professional Educators (AZPE)
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