How to Become a Teacher in Iowa
If you are considering becoming a teacher in Iowa, you’ll be glad to know the Hawkeye state offers several traditional and non-traditional career pathways. There are also several opportunities for tuition assistance for IA’s future teachers.
The Iowa Department of Education’s 2018 Annual Report on the Condition of Education states that the number of students attending Iowa’s public schools has grown for seven years. That growth is expected to continue. The state also boasts one of the highest graduation rates—91% in 2017—in the country.
The Iowa Department of Education has reported a teacher shortage in specialized areas such as English as a Second Language (ESL), all foreign languages, and special education. Hundreds of job openings for teachers and classroom aides can be found on TeachIowa.gov.
Iowa Teacher Requirements
Iowa’s teacher requirements are similar to those of most other states, but they provide a number of options for meeting those standards.
Traditional Teaching Degrees in Iowa
The traditional path to becoming a teacher in Iowa involves the following steps:
- Complete a regionally-accredited bachelor’s degree program. To apply, you typically need a minimum GPA of 2.5 or 3.0, ACT/SAT scores that meet program requirements, a personal statement or essay, letters of recommendation, and high school transcripts. You will also need to pay any necessary application fees. Most students can complete the degree program in four years if attending full time.
- Consider a master’s degree program. While a master’s is not required to legally teach in Iowa, you may choose to pursue a master’s degree depending on your education or career goals.
- Fulfill student teaching requirements. Students will need to complete a state-sanctioned teacher preparation program at an accredited college, and that will include student teaching.
- Take the state licensing exam. Graduates will need to earn passing scores on both a pedagogy and content-area test, then take the Praxis and subject assessment exams. (These exams may vary depending on which teaching level you pursue.)
- Pass a background check. You will need to complete a state and federal background check, which includes fingerprinting.
- Submit an Iowa teaching certification application. You will need to submit transcripts from your bachelor’s and teacher preparation programs, required exam scores, and a completed application and fee to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE).
Alternative Paths to Teaching in Iowa
The Iowa BOEE recognizes the following alternative paths to becoming a teacher in Iowa:
- Fast-Track Iowa Teacher Intern Program: This program is geared toward filling secondary school positions in areas of the state where there is a teacher shortage. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree and complete the required content coursework before enrolling in the program. They complete pedagogy coursework in the first year of the program and then secure a full-salary internship (instead of student teaching) while completing the remaining coursework the second year.
- Career and Technical Authorization: Experienced professionals interested in teaching in career and technical fields, such as auto mechanics, culinary studies, technology, or construction, can become teachers even without a bachelor’s degree. To qualify, they must have completed 4,000 hours of work in their field with a relevant bachelor’s degree; without a bachelor’s, they must have worked for 6,000 hours. Interested parties must complete courses in pedagogy online and can begin teaching right away.
- Community College Dual Credit Instruction: Instructors at the community college level can teach in secondary schools without a license.
- Troops to Teachers (TTT): This U.S. Department of Defense program helps selected military personnel become teachers in public schools. The program concentrates on areas with teacher and subject-matter shortages. In order to become licensed in Iowa, a member of the military must complete one of the previously listed pathways.
Additionally, the Iowa BOEE recently updated its rules regarding applicants who completed a traditional program in different states:
- People with three or more years of teaching experience do not have to complete assessments.
- People with bachelor degrees and 10 or more years of experience, or those with master degrees and five or more years, don’t have to complete coursework. They must meet other requirements.
- Administrators must be eligible to acquire a teaching license, but do not need to get one.
Iowa Teaching Certifications and Licensing
Candidates will need to pass both a pedagogy and content-area test, then take the Praxis and subject assessment exams. Depending on the level at which you teach, you may not have to take certain tests.
There are several different types of teaching licenses in the state. Each of the licenses below allows the holder to provide full teaching instruction at the grade levels and in the subject areas (endorsements) listed on the license. They are also able to substitute teach, including long-term substitute teaching.
- Initial Teaching License: Most new teachers who have met the basic requirements will start with this license.
- Requirements: Completion of a state-approved program and one of the endorsement requirements
- Term: Two years, can only be renewed twice
- Standard Teaching License: Once teachers have the requisite classroom experience, they can apply for this license.
- Requirements: Two years of teaching in a public school or three years in a private or out-of-state school
- Term: Five years, renewable
- Master Educator Teaching License: More experienced teachers with a master’s degree can advance to this license.
- Requirements: Master’s degree and five years of teaching experience
- Term: Five years
- Regional Exchange Teaching License: This license is intended for those who completed their education and teacher preparation outside of Iowa.
- Requirements: Completion of a state-approved teacher preparation program from an accredited college not located in Iowa, and any coursework deficiencies
- Term: Two years
There are several other licenses available. For full descriptions, requirements, and additional information, refer to the Iowa BOEE website.
License renewal requirements vary, but they typically involve a certain number of continuing education credits and training in being a mandatory child and dependent adult abuse reporter. As of 2019, these trainings are available online for free through the Iowa Department of Human Services.
How Much do Education Programs in Iowa Cost?
The cost of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs may vary depending on many factors. For instance, annual tuition at a community college is usually cheaper than tuition at a four-year college. You can often transfer credits from a community college to a four-year program, but be sure to check with the bachelor’s program to verify before taking this route. Whether or not the program is online or in a brick-and-mortar school can also affect costs.
At Eastern Iowa Community Colleges—which includes Clinton, Muscatine, and Scott Community Colleges—an in-state student who takes on 16 credits a semester will pay about $5,300 in tuition for a year. Tuition and fees at the University of Iowa run around $9,830 a year for in-state students and $31,793 for out of state. A private school like Briar Cliff University charges $30,988 per year for tuition. At the University of Northern Iowa, an online master’s degree program in elementary education will run graduate students about $10,500 a year. These tuition rates don’t include room and board, and they also don’t factor in any financial aid you may be awarded. Overall, once all fees and housing costs are factored in, you can expect to pay anywhere from around $20,000 to $130,000 on a program before financial aid.
Tuition Assistance, Scholarships, and Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers in Iowa
As a student or teacher, you have many opportunities to save money on your education, get help with loan repayment, or qualify for a professional monetary award. Here are some options for you to consider:
- Professional Educators of Iowa. This organization issues several teacher-focused awards, including Teacher of Tomorrow ($500 scholarship) and Teacher Associate of the Year ($200 award).
- T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® IOWA. If you’re an early child care and education provider, see if you qualify for a T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship. This scholarship may cover the costs of Child Development Associate (CDA) assessments, teacher license renewals, and even bachelor’s degrees.
- Teach Iowa Scholar Program. Teachers who work in shortage areas and meet other eligibility requirements can apply for this program and win up to $4,000 a year for up to five years of full-time employment.
- TeachTomorrow.org. This website provides links to university-specific scholarships in Iowa.
Be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see what grants, low-interest loans, and other financial aid you may qualify for as a student. It is also valuable to visit your institution’s financial aid office to inquire about scholarships and other assistance they offer.
Career Outlook for Educators in Iowa
Overall, the job outlook for teachers who want to work in Iowa is good. Depending on your area, new job opportunities are described as anywhere from “average” to “very likely.”
Here are the percentage increase and projected job openings for teachers in Iowa, according to CareerOneStop:
- Elementary: 7% change | 1,710 annual projected job openings
- Middle school: 7% change | 900 annual projected job openings
- Secondary: 7% change | 1,090 annual projected job openings
- Postsecondary education: 10% change | 70 annual projected job openings
- Preschool special education: 7% change | 230 annual projected job openings
|2018 Median Annual Teaching Salaries in Iowa|
|Middle school: $55,060|
Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
*Average of all individual post-secondary teaching salaries provided by BLS.
Iowa currently has a teacher shortage in certain subjects, listed on their education department’s website. If you are interested in teaching in one of these areas, which include several electives and special education classes, you may have an easier time getting a position.
Whether you’re looking for licensing information or something new to bring to the classroom, here are five resources you can use as an educator in Iowa:
- Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE): The board establishes professional standards for teachers in the state. You can apply for or renew your teaching license on the website.
- Iowa Core: This is a set of standards and expectations for students that includes valuable, real-world skills. Educators can sign up for newsletters, find subject-specific professional development content, and access other resources to help them prepare their students.
- Iowa Department of Education: The department oversees Iowa’s education system, from the public school system to education agencies to teacher-preparation programs. You can also access data and reporting, read about different education-related task forces and committees, and find legal resources here.
- Iowa Department of Natural Resources: Classroom Resources: This website provides PDFs and videos for use in the classroom, teaching students how to safely enjoy the great outdoors. The site also links to Teachers Going Green, which shares lessons, resources, and even award and scholarship opportunities for eco-friendly schools.
- Iowa State Education Association: ISEA is a community of educators that supports current and retired teachers and school staff. Members have access to benefits like professional development.
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