Alternative Certification Teacher Degrees

Stated simply, alternative teacher certification is a way for a person that usually already has a bachelor's degree in a non-teaching education area of study to earn a degree in teaching and become a teacher.

There are state-by-state specific requirements, but alternative teaching certification programs can provide a path to teacher certification while allowing you to actually teach while simultaneously taking classes and earning your degree.

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The alternative certification degree is becoming increasingly popular and much more common in the education world. A National Council on Teacher Quality whitepaper stated that nearly 20 percent, or about 1 out of every 5 teachers, have an alternative certification degree in teaching. Twenty years ago, hardly anyone had the degree.

Alternative certification for teachers is an excellent way for educated bachelor’s or above degree holders to get into the teaching field, which was the intention of the program. Most people that are working on earning their alternative teaching certification degree take all or the majority of their coursework online or at online schools. This allows them with the flexibility to teach during the day and finish up assignments and studying at night.

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In the United States, nearly every state has an offering that has Alternative teaching certification, but a lot of universities have found that bringing this particular degree online helps more people to become a teacher. Thus, there is a wide range of online universities that offer the alternative certification degree.

Alternative Teacher Education Degrees

Becoming a teacher in any state requires completion of at least a bachelor’s degree program. Teachers that always knew they wanted to be teachers generally complete a degree in teaching and obtain certification for a certain grade level or specific subjects. Some individuals, however, earn degrees in non-teaching field and later want to become teachers. Rather than having to earn a second degree, they enroll in an alternative teacher education program. This program is referred to as “alternative” because it gives a bachelor degree holder an alternative way to becoming a teacher other than earning another bachelor degree.

This alternative provides students with a faster and less expensive way to earning a teaching license. Alternative teacher education programs may also allow a student to teach while actually earning his or her degree if certain requirements are met. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, one in five new teachers nationwide has become licensed teachers through alternative teacher education programs. Learn more about this attractive teaching option.

Online Alternative Teacher Certification Programs

Alternative teacher educational programs are generally only at the bachelor and master degree level. Although students and teachers can advance their education by pursuing doctoral degrees, these programs usually require that the student already have a master degree. Although traditional teaching programs, particularly graduate degree programs, may be offered online, online alternative teacher education programs are rare.

The reason for this is because alternative teacher programs typically require some sort of internship or student teaching experience. These experiences must take place in an actual classroom. Students that have teaching degrees and are pursuing additional certification or master degree degrees have completed the hands-on training while earning the original bachelor’s degree teaching program.

The American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence, however, does offer an online alternative teacher certification program in certain states. ABCTE’s program, which can be completed in less than a year, offers certification in ten different subjects.

Bachelors Degrees in Alternative Education

The main requirement of an alternative teacher education program is having a bachelor’s degree. Students may also be required to pass basic skills and subject matter tests to be eligible for entry into alternative teacher education programs. Some programs also have work experience requirements. States may vary with their requirements. New York, for instance, has two types of alternative certification programs. One requires the applicant have a bachelor degree and the other require a master degree.

One example of an alternative teaching program can be found at Central New Mexico Community College. This 21-credit-hour certificate program, which results in a Level I Provisional Teaching License, includes courses in effective teaching methods and strategies; curriculum development assessment and evaluation; foundations of education; and literacy education. Students also complete a supervised teaching experience consisting of at least 160 hours in a classroom setting. In addition to completing this program, graduates must still pass licensing exams.

Masters Degrees in Alternative Education

An example of an alternative teaching certification program resulting in a master degree can be found at University of Louisville. Non-teaching bachelor degree holders can earn a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) degree in Special Education: Moderate and Severe Disabilities and can teach special education students in grades Pre-12. In addition to completing student teaching, the student will have courses in autism: introduction and understanding; teaching mathematics to students with disabilities; applied behavior analysis; curriculum and methods; augmentative communication; and assessment of exceptional learners. This program is two years long.

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College also offers an alternative teacher certification program that results in a Master of Education (M.Ed.). Students in this program can obtain certification in elementary education (gr 1-8); secondary education (gr 6-12) and special education (K-12). This 48-credit-hour program has courses like mathematics in elementary education; principals of curriculum development; learning and instruction; assessment and evaluation for children with special needs; and language and literacy, among others. Students also complete apprenticeship teaching courses and complete a research-based project.

Alternative Certification vs. BA/MA in Education Teaching Degree

Traditional teacher certification is earned through completing a bachelors or masters degree in education, taking the required standardized Praxis tests, and meeting the state requirements. Generally the process takes a while (sometimes 3-6 years), and can be complicated.

Alternative teacher certification is earned while simultaneously teaching. Because people seeking the degree usually already have a Bachelor’s or above degree, many processes and classes are bypassed to speed up the process towards teaching certification. There are still state requirements and standardized tests, but some states actually waive or modify them to make it easier for educated people to become a teacher.

Teacher Licensing and Certification

The type of career a licensed teacher can have will vary by the teacher’s experience and certifications. Whereas a graduate of an elementary education bachelor degree program with few or no additional endorsements will only be able to teach elementary age students, a teacher that holds a teaching degree with concentrations/certifications in secondary education, mathematics, English or other additional endorsements will be able to teach in more settings, thus increasing their employment opportunities.

Career Options for Alternative Certification Teachers

Licensed teachers make very good wages, particularly those who have multiple certifications. Since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, many teachers have advanced their education and earned master degrees to increase both their value in the classroom and their earning potential. As of May 2014, elementary school teachers earned average yearly wages of $54,120 while middle school teachers earned $54,940 and secondary school teachers earned $56,310, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Factors that can affect a teacher’s wages include number of certifications, years of experience and location.