Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Certification in Colorado

Colorado has traditional and alternative routes for licensing teachers. Alternative routes may put a professional into the classroom sooner. Some standards are the same for each. The teacher will need to have a bachelor's degree, demonstrate competence in the content, and eventually complete a preparation program. Traditional students complete a degree and a student teaching experience before they get hired; alternative students may complete a program in conjunction with employment. In short, all would-be teachers enroll at some point, but they enroll in different types of programs.

There are many endorsements and many multiple pathways to add endorsements.

Basic Licensing Requirements

The prospective teacher will complete 1) a degree at the bachelor's degree or higher and 2) a teacher preparation program that has been approved for licensing purposes. The degree must come from a regionally accredited school. Approval will come from the jurisdiction where the program is located (whether Colorado or another state). The individual must have a student teaching or practicum/ internship experience. Additionally, the teacher must meet specific requirements for the endorsements he or she seeks.

Upon completing these requirements, the teacher will qualify for an initial license. A professional license is a higher credential, and requires completion of an induction program. (Out-of-state teachers may qualify on the basis of having had several years of teaching experience.)

Alternative certification allows a person to be employed as a teacher while enrolled in a program. The individual must hold a bachelor's degree at the onset and must have demonstrable competence in the content area. Licenses for those enrolled in alternative programs may be from one to three years; this depends on the program.

Elementary education is among the endorsements that can potentially be earned through alternate means.

The Department of Education has provided a searchable directory of Colorado programs, both traditional and alternative (

Colorado Teaching Endorsements

Endorsements may be elementary, secondary, or (if preparing for certain specialized roles) K-12.

The following are among the available certifications:

  • Early childhood (through age 8)
  • Elementary (grades K-6)
  • Special education generalist (age 5 - 21)
  • Social studies (grades 7 - 12)
  • Business (grades 7 – 12)
  • Mathematics (grades 7 – 12)
  • Visual arts (grades K-12)
  • Drama/ theater arts (grades K - 12)
  • Instructional technology (grades K – 12)

In 2018, a new middle school math endorsement becomes available.

The Department of Education has detailed information about the pathways to earn various endorsements ( Elementary education, when pursued as an initial certification, requires both a program and a test.

Colorado utilizes Praxis tests for endorsement purposes. The state recently stopped utilizing the PLACE exam, though scores are still accepted. (The exception is tests that were discontinued more than five years in the past.) The DOE has provided a list of former examinations and date ranges (

Many endorsements can be earned in any of several ways: a college degree in the content area, passing scores on an exam, or 24 units of coursework that meets specific curricular guidelines. An otherwise qualified teacher can, for example, earn a grades 7 to 12 agriculture/ natural resources endorsement on the basis of an agriculture/ natural resources degree program, Praxis test #5701, or 24 units of coursework that meets the distribution requirements shown on the endorsement worksheet. An individual who applied by coursework would need three semester hours of environmental horticulture and three semester hours of food science, among other specific curricular topics.

Some endorsements have additional requirements. The special education generalist credential has both education and testing requirements. The special education specialist credential requires a master’s.

There are additional certifications that are add-on only. Examples include reading specialist, gifted (specialist or core), and linguistically diverse learners.

Some teachers may come to Colorado with middle school endorsements not recognized in the state. They will choose to pursue an elementary and/ or secondary, subject-specific license. Elementary certification might require examination, depending on the years of teaching (

Achieving Higher Level Credentials

It takes experience to move from the initial certification level to the professional level. Teachers complete an induction program at the district level.

Out-of-state applicants with at least three years of consecutive full-time experience may be granted licenses at the professional level (

The Application Process

Colorado teaching applicants must have federal and state background checks. Under current policy, applicants will complete this step before submitting their license applications. The Department of Education has provided instructions ( Fingerprints are submitted to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The total time for processing and receipt of results can be six weeks, though it may be significantly less. The licensing agency notes that the process is agency-specific and that having gone through a similar background check for a school system does not make one exempt.

Colorado has an eLicensing system. Applicants can view the checklist before beginning the process ( They will need to scan some documents.

The licensing agency will need all college transcripts, plus program verification and results from Praxis or PLACE tests that the applicant may have taken. International education must be evaluated by a NACES member.

There is a separate checklist for out-of-state and out-of-country applicants ( An out-of-state applicant will also need to submit program verification. If the program was alternative, the applicant will need to submit a letter from their State Department of Education.

Out-of-state teachers with less than three years of experience may be granted interim authorization. Interim authorization does not depend on having passed required content area examinations.

Additional Information

Colorado teachers are licensed by the Educator Talent Licensing Office ( The licensing office can be reached by email at 'CDELicensing at' or by telephone at 303-866-6628. Currently the call center is active in the morning (until 12:30 PM).