Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Certification in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has the second highest teacher attractiveness rating in the nation, according to the Learning Policy Institute. This means it’s considered a very good place to work. For those who want to tech here, there are multiple ways to begin the journey toward certification.

A person can meet all requirements by completing a Pennsylvania-approved program. The licensing authority expects a 3.0 GPA. State-mandated assessments will be incorporated into the program. When a Pennsylvania-approved program issues its institutional recommendation, the candidate is almost ready for licensure.

A person can also become a Pennsylvania teacher by completing a comparable out-of-state program. The prospective teacher will need to make sure that there is a corresponding Pennsylvania instructional area. It may be necessary to take some assessments that are not required for licensure in the other state. The licensing authority will seek confirmation of student teaching, practicum, or internship.

Pennsylvania educators can be issued Instructional I licenses once basic requirements have been met; these licenses are considered to be at the NASDTEC Stage 3 level.

If the jurisdiction where the other program was located has not entered into a reciprocal agreement with Pennsylvania through the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement, and the individual is not eligible to apply on the basis of experience and credentialing, the program will be evaluated according to Pennsylvania educator program guidelines (

Pennsylvania Instructional Areas

Public school teaching is a broad field. Pennsylvania educators are recognized in a number of different instructional areas. Generalist practice is common at the lower levels. The PK-4 certificate has replaced older elementary and early childhood certifications. Certification can be extended to include grades 5 and 6. Middle grades 4-8 certifications are issued in science, social studies, math, and English language arts.

A number of specialist instructional areas are available for all grades, pre-kindergarten through 12th. The following are among them:

  • Art Education
  • Health and Physical Education
  • Foreign/World Languages
  • Environmental Education

Foreign/ world language itself represents a broad field. Pennsylvania recognizes 28 languages, including American Sign Language.

There are additional instructional options at the secondary level (7th through 12th grade). The following are among them:

  • Social Studies 7-12
  • Communications 7-12
  • Citizenship Education 7-12
  • General Science 7-12

Pennsylvania recognizes secondary biology, physics, and chemistry instructional areas; the state also issues a general science credential.

General special education credentials are issued at the PK-8 and 7-12 level; the teacher will need a corresponding content certification. Some specialized special education credentials (for example, visually impaired) are issued for PK-12.

Many teaching areas can be added later on the basis of testing ( Some cannot be added in this manner; this list includes special education, health and physical education, and cooperative education.

Pennsylvania issues supplemental endorsements in some fields where certification is not available. Endorsements can be added after completion of a 12 credit hour program. Autism spectrum disorders, creative movement, and gifted education are among the options. The Department of Education notes that these endorsements are not mandatory for working in the teaching areas designated.

The Assessment Process

Prospective Pennsylvania teachers must pass Pennsylvania assessments. It is not enough that an out-of-state test is similar in scope; it must be the same one. Many, but not all, of the tests used in Pennsylvania are in common usage around the nation. Teachers who hold National Board certification, moreover, can be exempted from tests.

There is some flexibility with the first test, a test of basic skills. A prospective Pennsylvania teacher may take the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA). However, other examinations can be accepted, including the Praxis Core and tests used for college admission. Pennsylvania, like many states, has set cut-off scores for the ACT and SAT. Individuals who pursue teacher preparation at the post-baccalaureate level do not need to take an academic assessment. Those who hold master’s degrees are also exempted.

Most subject area tests are part of the ETS Praxis series. Middle level teachers take the Core 4-8 assessment, which includes pedagogy sub-tests for language arts/ social studies and math/ science. Students must pass all of them, whatever subjects they plan to teach. They will take separate subject area tests in area(s) for which certification is desired. PK-12 teachers take a fundamental subjects assessment and a subject area test corresponding to their own teaching area.

The following assessments are offered through Pearson as part of the Pennsylvania Educator Certification Tests (PECT) series: PreK–4, Special Education Pre K–8, and Special Education 7–12 (

World language assessments are offered through the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages/ Language Teaching International (LTI/ACTFL).

The Department of Education has provided links to testing agencies and to program pass rates (

Post-Baccalaureate Options

Some individuals who already hold degrees complete programs that place them into the classroom sooner. These may be alternative programs or internship programs. A student may enroll in a post-baccalaureate program that includes both student teaching and internship options. The internship option will be contingent on meeting additional eligibility standards. Internship takes place in an employment context. Interns are at the NASDTEC Stage 2 level.

The Application Process

Programs are responsible for ensuring that state requirements have been met before issuing an institutional requirement. Thus they are very good resources about the application process.

Out-of-state applicants will have more supplemental materials to submit. They are asked to submit official transcripts and, if applicable, copies of teaching certification and National Board certification.

Applications must be submitted though the online system, Teacher Information Management System (TIMS). Applicants will receive a cover sheet to use when submitting supplemental materials.

The DOE website includes various forms, including one that out-of-state graduates use to verify their education (

Private School Academic Credentials

Some, but not all, private school academic teachers are required to be state-certified. This depends on the status of the school. Pennsylvania issues private school credentials. However, standard certificates are also appropriate.

Additional Information

Certification Services is under the banner of the Pennsylvania Department of Education ( Applicants are asked to attempt to find needed information on the website before contacting Certification Services. Email, telephone, and chat contact information is available online (