Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Certification in Iowa

Iowa teachers are educated at the bachelor's or master's level. There are a number of state-specific training and assessment requirements. Some are specific to the teaching area or endorsement

Teacher Preparation and Assessment

A prospective teacher may complete either an in-state or out-of-state educator preparation program, but in-state programs are a more direct path. Out-of-state students will need to seek certification first in the state where they went to school. They will also need to pass the exams required in Iowa. In-state students will have had the required assessments as part of their teacher certification program.

In both cases, students will need to select schools that are regionally accredited. In both cases, they will present an institutional recommendation when they apply for licensure.

Iowa programs must meet state standards. They include coursework in pedagogy as well as coursework in content relevant to the endorsement area. The Department of Education has provided a directory of approved programs (

An out-of-state teacher can be exempted from taking Iowa tests if he or she has at least three years of teaching experience. A teacher can also be exempted on the basis of having completed a program before 2013.

There are two ways for an out-of-state graduate to meet the assessment requirement: 1) to pass two Praxis exams (content and pedagogy) or 2) pass a nationally scored edTPA assessment. The latter is a portfolio-based. Many jurisdictions require students to complete edTPA in conjunction with student teaching. Praxis tests are under the ETS banner; ETS maintains a page about Iowa Praxis requirements ( Assessment scores must be at the level required in Iowa.

A Regional Exchange License allows an out-of-state teacher who has some deficiencies to teach for a year -- in some cases, up to two years.

Alternative Secondary Teacher Certification

Some very well-prepared post-baccalaureate teaching certification candidates pursue programs that allow them to teach an actual class as opposed to complete traditional student teaching. Iowa currently has two intern programs ( Both are at the high school level. Students must meet content area requirements for an Iowa secondary level endorsement. They must have more than just a degree; Iowa sets a minimum of three years of successful work experience. Candidates receive some education and field experience at the onset of the program. Then they are placed into an actual classroom. They enter a state mentorship and induction program.

Individuals who have completed nontraditional programs in other states are asked to contact a licensing consultant; they may or may not be eligible for licensure in Iowa.

Iowa Endorsements

Teachers in the upper grades are generally specialists while teachers in the primary and middle grades may be generalists or specialists; Iowa endorsements reflect this. The elementary K-8 credential requires nine credit hours each of literacy, mathematics, science, and social science. Coursework in these core areas will include both content and methodology. The student will have practicum experiences in two age bands (primary and intermediate) before student teaching.

A range of endorsements are offered in two overlapping grade bands: K-8 and 5-12. Among them are art, music, physical education, health, language arts, speech/ theater arts, history, and math. In most instances, the content requirement is 24 credit hours, but there are exceptions. The language arts credential for grades 5-12 requires 40 hours. There is a long list of competencies that are to be demonstrated. The Board of Educational Standards also cites an extensive set of competencies for reading specialist.

STEM-endorsed teachers meet coursework requirements in various areas, including college-level science and math and teaching methods; they have at least a little coursework related to engineering and technical design. Some endorsements are offered only in the 5-12 grade band. Examples include agriculture, business, journalism, and physics.

Elementary or secondary teachers may pursue middle school endorsement. Middle school grades 5-8 endorsements are offered in the four core areas: math, science, social science, and language arts. A middle school-endorsed teacher must have coursework in middle school design and instruction, literacy development, and childhood development during the middle school years. The teacher will be endorsed in two content areas. He or she will have 12 credit hours of qualifying coursework in each. An endorsement for teaching high school algebra I in middle school may be added to a K-8 or 5-8 math endorsement.

Sometimes a school system needs a teacher to teach outside his or her current certification before the endorsement has been completed. The teacher can be granted a license authorizing this.

The Application Process

The applicant will create an account on the online system, Applitrack. Background checks are required; the applicant can order a background check packet from within the system. (The Board of Educational Examiners notes that one can order the packet even if he or she isn't quite ready to submit the application.)

Application instructions for out-of-state applicants can be found on the Board website ( The applicant will upload PDFs or scans of some qualifying documents. In-state applicants should receive instructions from their programs.

Levels of Teacher Licensure

An Iowa teacher begins at the Initial level and moves up to the Standard level after successful experience.

A new teacher who is working in an Iowa public school setting will need at least two years of experience to move up the ranks. A teacher who works outside the Iowa public school system can achieve the higher license but will need three years. Accepted settings may include private schools, schools located outside Iowa -- even Head Start.

The Master Educator license represents a higher level yet. To achieve this level, the teacher will need a master's degree, whether in a recognized endorsement area or in another area of curriculum or instruction.

Additional Information

Information is available from the Iowa Department of Education ( and the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (