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Teaching Programs in Tennessee

The number of jobs for Tennessee teachers is projected to grow much faster than nationwide averages, making this an excellent time to explore becoming a teacher in the state. A recent statewide survey found that although 75% of Tennessee teachers are satisfied with their school’s teaching environment, at least one in three is considering leaving the profession, and the number of retirements is expected to grow exponentially in the next 10 years. In addition to jobs opening naturally, the state is seeking out new educators, with a particular emphasis on hiring teachers of color to work in rural districts.

How Can I Get a Teaching Degree in Tennessee?

To earn a teaching degree in Tennessee, you need to complete an approved teacher training program. Tennessee only issues teaching certificates to applicants who have completed an accredited program that’s overseen by the Department of Education.

There are three main pathways to getting your initial teaching certification in Tennessee: earn a traditional education degree, pursue alternative certification, or obtaining a career and technical education certification. If you are a teacher coming from another state, Colorado also has a reciprocity agreement that is likely the best option for you.

Traditional Pathway to Becoming a Teacher in Tennessee

The most common way to become a teacher in Tennessee is to earn a bachelor’s degree in education. Most teacher preparation programs in Tennessee will set you up with the appropriate teaching license.

Once you complete a bachelor’s in education, which includes hands-on experience, you can take the exams and apply for an initial practitioner license in Tennessee.

Your education may vary based on the position or grade you wish to teach. If you want to work in leadership or administration, you may need a master’s or doctorate in education. Those interested in secondary education may need to earn endorsements in the subject they want to teach.

The Office of Educator Licensing in the state’s Department of Education handles licensure after you complete your education. In Tennessee, the licensure system for educators is tiered. You can apply for an entry-level initial practitioner license with a bachelor’s degree and an approved Tennessee teacher preparation program.

To get licensed to teach in Tennessee, you will also need to pass the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching exam and possibly a Praxis content-area exam on the subject and grade level you hope to teach. Your endorsement area determines the tests you need.

All applicants must also go through criminal background checks and submit fingerprints before being licensed. You can register online through the Tennessee Department of Health.

The initial practitioner license is valid for three years, and you can renew it once. During this period, you must attend continuing education courses to gain 30 Professional Development Points (PDPs), and accumulate three years of teaching experience in your field. After that, you can advance to a professional license.

Becoming a Teacher Through Alternative Certification or as a Career Switcher

If you already hold a degree in another field but haven’t completed a teacher certification program, you can switch careers by earning an alternative teaching certificate in Tennessee.

If you follow this path, you will still need to complete an approved teacher preparation program and take the Praxis exams. Unlike some other states, Tennessee doesn’t allow you to teach and complete your coursework simultaneously.

Many students choose to earn a master’s degree in education because you can complete an approved program in the state and qualify for your teaching license immediately after graduation.

Career and Technical Education Teacher Certification in Tennessee

Although Tennessee doesn’t issue alternative licensure in the same way as other states, you can qualify for licensure to teach career and technical education (CTE) subjects following alternative guidelines.

Teaching certificate programs allow you to teach in a new or specialized area without spending the extra time and money on a degree. There are a wide variety of certificates based on the subject and level you want to teach, such as early childhood education, ESL, special education, or CTE.

If you’re already a licensed teacher, Tennessee will enable you to enter this pathway without completing additional coursework. All you need for CTE licensure are:

  • An approved education program
  • Five years of industry experience
  • Passing scores on all the required exams

CTE can focus on agriculture, business education, family and consumer science, marketing education, or technology education.

Teachers Moving to Tennessee from a Different State

If you already teach in another state, you can get licensed to teach in Tennessee through a reciprocity agreement. This allows experienced teachers to move from other states and gain certification without having to go through traditional licensure steps.

To qualify for an occupational teacher license in Tennessee, out-of-state teachers must have a bachelor’s degree, proof of a completed and approved teacher program, valid licensure in another state, and all professional assessment requirements or area endorsements.

If you completed a teacher preparation program outside of Tennessee, the practitioner license allows you to teach in the classroom in many endorsement areas. You may also need your official transcripts, experience verification forms, and scores from your Praxis (or similar) exams.

Average Salaries and Projected Job Growth for Tennessee Teachers

Compared to national averages for job growth, the outlook for all Tennessee teachers is bright. The expected job growth for most teachers in Tennessee, according to O*Net, is much higher than the 3% to 4% nationwide average growth for elementary, middle school, and secondary school teachers.

Career 2018 Mean Annual Salary Projected Job Growth 2018–2028
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education $52,610 +9%
Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education $52,260 +9%
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education $53,620 +9%
Postsecondary Teaching $75,109.42* n/a

Salary data from BLS. Career growth information from Career One Stop. *Average from all postsecondary salaries

Teacher Training Programs in Tennessee

Various schools in Tennessee offer teacher training programs. The following are a few of the top education programs across the state:

Cumberland University (Lebanon)

If you want to teach early childhood, elementary education, or English or History for grades 6–12, Cumberland has a program for you. The school is diverse and offers scholarships for certain in-demand subjects. They even have a master’s program in education. Tuition estimates for 2019–2020 are $22,950 per year for undergrads and $550 per credit hour for graduate students.

Lee University (Cleveland)

A high-ranking medium-sized private university, the Helen Devos College of Education offers bachelor’s degrees in early childhood and elementary education, middle school education,  and special education. The school also offers several different master’s degree programs. The estimated tuition cost for 2019–2020 is $9,060 per semester for undergraduates and $755 per credit hour for graduate students.

Lipscomb University (Nashville)

Lipscomb’s College of Education offers many hard-to-find programs for undergrad and graduate students, like special education, elementary school French, or secondary science subjects. Undergraduate tuition for 2020–2021 is $32,080 per year for undergrads. Graduate tuition is $953 per credit hour.

The University of Memphis (Memphis)

Unlike other programs on this list, the University of Memphis’ College of Education offers endorsements in Chinese, dance, and earth science. They have bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees and research institutes in early childhood education and education policy. On-campus tuition and fees for 2019–2020 are about $4,956 per semester for resident undergrads, and close to double that rate for non-resident applicants. Graduate students who are Tennessee residents pay about $5,970 per semester, while non-residents will pay about twice that amount.

Union University (Jackson)

This top-ranked Christian university is one of the few to offer endorsements in business education, music, or French. The School of Education has lots of educator preparation programs. Tuition for 2020–2021 is about $16,740 per semester for undergrads.

Vanderbilt University (Nashville)

For a top-ranked special education program, check out Vanderbilt. The private university offers high-quality elementary education programs, lots of endorsements for grades 6­–12, and even graduate programs in administration. Some of the programs are available partially online. Tuition for 2019–2020 is around $50,800 per year, plus fees, for undergrads. Graduate students pay $1,938 per credit hour.

Tennessee Teacher Resources

The following Tennessee teacher resources can help you find a program that’s right for you, earn scholarships or grants, or better prepare you for licensure:

  • EDU Toolbox: A resource from the Tennessee Department of Education full of information on academic standards and support, including instructional and assessment tools.
  • Professional Educators of Tennessee: This is a professional educator organization providing a wealth of information, professional development opportunities, and benefits for all kinds of educators across the state.
  • Tennessee Department of Education: The state board of education has a searchable list of all the approved educator preparation programs, information for licensure, grant opportunities, and current educational policies.
  • Tennessee Education Association (TEA): Joining TEA allows you to participate in industry events, apply for jobs, find information on licensure requirements, and even find a mentor. They offer advice for new teachers and cover what you need to know about teaching in the state.
  • Tennessee Electronic Library: A free resource for Tennessee teachers and students, this library comes with databases for research, information on lesson plans, and fun student activities.
  • Tennessee Nashville Teaching Fellows (TNTP): This state organization provides testing preparation, program enrollment requirements, interview preparation, and financial resources for students.