Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Certification in Arizona

Arizona has made changes to its certification requirements in the recent past. The changes create additional paths for people who want to teach specialized subjects at the secondary level. The state also instituted middle grade teaching credentials and created provisions for examination waivers (among other things).

The foundation is an academic degree. An Arizona teacher can qualify for a standard certificate right after graduation if he or she goes the traditional educator preparation route – this is not new.

Certification and Endorsement Areas

Arizona has a system of certificates, endorsements, and approved areas. A certificate forms the basis for teaching authorization. There are many types of certificate ( They are issued for the following populations:

  • Elementary (K-8)
  • Early childhood (birth through 3rd grade)
  • Middle grades (5-9)
  • PreK-12
  • Secondary (6-12)

Foundations for Achieving a Standard Certificate

The traditional path is to complete an approved preparation program. Arizona has set specific coursework requirements for the various certificate areas. The program may be approved in Arizona or offered by an accredited institution outside Arizona. Education may be documented through an Arizona Institutional Recommendation or through transcripts. The program will include at least a 12-week capstone. Typically this is student teaching.

A list of approved Arizona educator preparation programs is available online (

A standard certificate can also be granted on the basis of having had teaching experience and pursued some additional coursework (as mandated in state code).

Arizona standard certificates require a number of state-specific trainings. The licensing authority can issue a certificate with “allowable deficiencies”, but the teacher will need to make them up in order to maintain his or her certificate. Arizona Constitution and U.S. Constitution requirements can be met through coursework or testing. Ethics and (when required for the particular teaching field) dyslexia and phonics requirements are met through courses. Information about training and allowable deficiencies can be found in the application materials for the particular teaching certificate.

The requirements for adding additional endorsements and approved areas are not the same as those for initial certification. Sometimes an approved area is added to an existing certificate through testing. However, not all teaching fields can be added in this manner. The Department of Education has provided information about endorsements that can be added to existing certificates ( An elementary foreign language endorsement can be added, for example, on the basis of verified language proficiency and three credit hours of coursework in elementary foreign language methodology.

Assessment and Assessment Waiver

Arizona has its own teacher assessment system, the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessments ( The AEPA includes a combination of custom Arizona assessments and tests that are part of the National Evaluation Series (NES).

In many, but not all instances, a new teacher will need to take both a professional knowledge assessment and a subject area assessment.

Arizona does not place the same obligations on experienced teachers. Teachers who hold comparable out-of-state licenses can be exempted from testing requirements. Assessments can be waived on the basis of having passed comparable assessments, accrued three years of qualifying teaching experience, or achieved National Board certification.

A new teacher who has an academic degree in the specific teaching field would, under new regulations, need to take only the professional knowledge assessment; the subject area test could be waived. In some cases, professional experience or post-secondary teaching in the particular field would be credited as evidence of subject knowledge and justify subject area testing waiver.

Assessments are computer-based and are available on an ongoing basis.

Additional Certificate Pathways for Secondary Teachers

A prospective secondary subject teacher may meet a separate set of requirements and be issued a certificate other than the standard one.

Subject matter expert is a recent credential. The minimum standard is a bachelor's degree. Often the bachelor’s -- or a higher degree – is in the specific subject area taught. This is one way to qualify. However, an individual could also qualify as a subject matter expert based on professional experience or recent post-secondary teaching experience in the subject area. A teacher who holds this certificate will, in most cases, need to pass a professional skills test but may begin teaching without it. An individual with recent post-secondary teaching experience may not be required to take the assessment.

A Specialized Secondary STEM Certificate is valid for grades 6-12 and can be granted to a person who has five years of professional experience in a STEM field and also verifies having met educational standards (either through a degree and 24 credit hours in a STEM subject area or through post-secondary teaching experience).

The Department of Education has provided a list of college majors that can be considered qualifying through the subject matter expert pathway ( Someone with a nursing degree, for example, would be considered a subject matter expert with regard to an anatomy and physiology approved area. The person would not qualify for biology (but could qualify to teach biology on the basis of a degree that included 24 credit hours in the approved area).

Alternative Teaching Certificates

An Alternative Teaching Certificate may be issued to an individual who hold a bachelor's degree when there is an emergency hiring situation and it is not possible to hire someone who is fully qualified. Alternative certificates are not limited to the secondary level. The individual will need to complete an alternative teacher program. An alternatively certificated teacher will be eligible for a standard certificate after program completion.


Reciprocity can be granted on the basis of an out-of-state certificate that is judged comparable. The licensing authority notes that an alternative certificate would not meet this requirement.

The Application Process

Application forms are available online (

The prospective teacher will need to obtain a fingerprint clearance card. In-state applicants have fingerprints made electronically through the approved vendor. Out-of-state applicants will request fingerprint packets (

Additional Information

Arizona teachers are credentialed by the Arizona Department of Education – Certification Unit ( The certification hot line can be reached at 602-542-4367.