Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Licensure and Certification in Minnesota

There were changes to Minnesota teacher licensing law in 2018. Minnesota now has a tiered licensing system. Some procedures have changed. Many things of course remain the same. Prospective K-12 teachers can still select from a wide variety of teaching fields. They can continue to add additional endorsements.

There are multiple paths to professional licensure. All require education at at least the bachelor's level. Teachers will eventually need to pass multiple assessments.

Minnesota approves programs at the baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate level. Some post-baccalaureate programs award graduate degrees. Some are considered alternative; these, too, may be accredited. The Board has provided a directory of approved preparation programs (

Teaching Fields

The Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board of has noted all available fields in its ‘Teacher and Related Services Licensure Fields’ document. The majority are available for initial licensure; some are denoted as endorsement only.

K-12 credentials are offered in a wide variety of areas, including physical education and multiple arts disciplines (visual arts, theater, dance, vocal/ classroom music, instrumental/ classroom music). World language credentials also qualify teachers across grades K-12.

English as a second language is considered a full licensure area while bilingual/ bicultural education is an endorsement. Special education credentials cover a gamut of special needs, from autism spectrum to visual impairment.

A number of additional credentials are available in high school or combined middle grade/ high school grade bands. General science is offered in grades 5-8, specific sciences offered in grades 9-12. Most middle grade-only teaching fields (communication arts/ literature, social studies, math) are endorsement- only; elementary or secondary teachers may pursue them.

Minnesota does not generally allow teachers to add teaching areas by testing alone; an exception is made for an experienced secondary level science teacher who may test to add other high school level science discipline.

The Assessment Process

Teachers are required to take three assessments: general academic skills, subject area competency, and pedagogy. Minnesota utilizes the Minnesota Teacher Licensing Examination (MTLE), administered by Pearson Education.

The adopted basic skills test is now the Pearson NES. However, the licensing authority can accept other assessments.

Individuals who will be teaching world languages or conducting immersion classes in their own language may be granted an exemption from the basic skills exam.

Minnesota’s Tiered Licensing System

Minnesota now has four licensing tiers. Both Tier 3 and Tier 4 licenses can be held indefinitely. It is possible to start teaching at the Tier 3 level. In fact, this is the level for a teacher who has completed a Minnesota-approved program and met all requirements. An individual can also achieve Tier 3 licensing based on an out-of-state teaching program if the other program has equivalent student teaching requirements.

There are other paths to Tier 3. The licensing authority can accept two years of teaching experience and a professional-level teaching license in another state. A Minnesota teacher can get to Tier 3 after three years of teaching experience at Tier 2 (if his or her performance has been such that an improvement plan has not been necessary).

Minnesota offers a portfolio process as an alternate route to certification at Tier 3; this is designed for people who have considerable experience teaching or acting in a similar role. The Board has provided a grid of professional standards as well as standards that are specific to individual subject areas (

A Tier 2 license can be issued to a person who has a master's degree in a content area relevant to teaching or who is enrolled in but has not yet completed an educator preparation program (provided that he or she holds a bachelor's degree). A Tier 2 license can also be issued to a bachelor's degree holder who meets at least two other criteria out of the following:

  • Education in subject-specific teaching methods
  • Eight upper division credit hours in the subject area
  • Passing scores on subject area tests
  • Completion of a preparation program
  • Two years of experience teaching in the field

At the Tier 2 level, it is not necessary to have completed the assessment process. Tier 2 licensing is issued at the request of a school system. Tier 1 licenses are issued only when districts or charters schools are unable to hire teachers who are qualified at a higher tier. They are issued for a shorter time period. A Tier 1 teacher must have, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree.

Tier 4 licenses require three years of teaching experience in Minnesota and Board-approved skills evaluation. The most recent summative evaluation must be at an adequate level (not resulting in need for an improvement plan).

During the transition period, there may be instances where a teacher qualifies at the Tier 3 level or higher but is teaching under a lower level license because a particular position is out of his or her field. The process is expected to be streamlined and changed after new rules are written to reflect recent statutory changes.

Out-of-State Teachers: Minnesota Teacher License Reciprocity

Out-of-state teachers may receive Tier 2 or Tier 3 licensing, depending on circumstances. Tier 2 credentialing is extended to out-of-state teachers who have job offers in Minnesota if they meet other basic requirements.

The Application Process

There are separate applications for different tiers. Currently, these can be accessed from the PELSB website ( The necessary verification forms are included in the application packet. Official transcripts are required.

The $89 initial fee includes the cost of the background check.

Applicants may email or call the Board to request fingerprint cards; fingerprint-specific contact information can be found on the ‘requirements’ page (

Additional Information

Information is available from the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board ( The Board can be reached by telephone at 651-539-4200 or by email at ‘pelsb at’.