Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Licensure Requirements in Tennessee

Prospective Tennessee teachers must hold degrees at the bachelor's level and must meet requirements for one or more endorsements. They will need to complete approved programs and go through the assessment process that is mandated for their teaching area. Programs may be completed as part of academic degree programs or as a separate post-graduate step. Programs may be offered by various entities, including local education agencies. The qualifying degree, though, must come from a regionally accredited institution.

Programs correspond with endorsements. Options are many, from early childhood or elementary school generalist to secondary academic content area instructor or all-grades arts or language teacher. There are multiple distinct special education endorsements. While many programs qualify a person for a single endorsement, it is not uncommon to pursue more than one related endorsement at the initial licensure stage.

Individuals who hold degrees but have not yet completed program level requirements sometimes begin teaching under a practitioner license. This is also the first license for inexperienced teachers who have met program-level requirements. Experience is among the requirements for moving from the practitioner to the professional level. There are limits on renewal at the practitioner level.

While prospective educators typically complete a student teaching assignment, three years of teaching experience can be accepted in its stead. This teaching experience can include work performed in early childhood programs accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

State code (current as of 2018) also permits teaching under adjunct licenses or international exchange licenses. Adjunct licenses can be issued to experienced professionals who have significant coursework in a subject that corresponds with an area of critical shortage; they authorize teaching a few courses in the shortage area and can be renewed, though there are some limits. The adjunct teacher must meet a pre-service training requirement that includes core knowledge and skills identified by the Tennessee Board of Education.

Tennessee programs must be approved. They must have formal partnerships with school districts where they place students for their student teaching or internship experiences. Out-of-state or online schools that place teacher candidates in Tennessee must also have partnerships with the cooperating districts.

Tennessee Teaching Endorsements

Tennessee elementary teacher endorsements are issued for grades K-5. Early childhood education, meanwhile, covers Pre-K-3. There is a separate early development and learning endorsement, issued for Pre-K-K.

Schools are allowed some flexibility. A person endorsed through fifth grade could, for example, be assigned to teach a combination class that included some sixth graders.

There are many special subject endorsements available at the Pre-K or K-12 level. Health and wellness and arts endorsements such as instrumental/general music and theater are among those issued as K-12. World language programs and endorsements are available as all-grades (Prek-12) or middle grades/ secondary (6-12).

A number of endorsements cover middle school and secondary grade bands. Included are a number of social studies and science disciplines, for example, geography, Earth science, and history. Psychology and sociology are issued at the secondary level (9-12).

Some teachers choose to focus exclusively on the middle grades. Core subjects such as English/ Language Arts and social studies are offered at the 6-8 level.

Special education interventionist is offered in two grade bands: K-8 and 6-12. The special education comprehensive program endorsement is K-12. Some special education endorsements are for the full grade range, beginning at Pre-K.

The Assessment Process

Tennessee uses Praxis tests. Candidates take the Principles of Learning and Teaching assessment and an assessment in their specialty area.

Assessments are, in most cases, computer-delivered. Study resources are available from ETS (

Teachers will take additional specialty assessments later if they seek to add endorsements. In some cases, teachers can add endorsements by examination alone; a teacher’s area of certification determines what can be added in this manner. Elementary K-5 teachers cannot add additional teaching areas without completing additional coursework. Middle grades teachers can add additional middle grade core teaching areas by assessment. Middle grade/ secondary and all-grade teachers will typically have a lot of subjects they can add -- provided they can pass the test.

Out-of-State Applicants

Tennessee is a party to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) agreement and also has provisions that can permit licensure of individuals from outside NASDTEC states.

Applicants from other states can be licensed in Tennessee on the basis of out-of-state licensure or completion of an out-of-state program; institutional recommendations are to be from within the prior five years. Tennessee has assessment requirements for those seeking licensing on the basis of program completion that do not apply to those with current full and renewable licensing in other states.

The Application Process

Tennessee uses an online system, TNCompass.

In-state schools are a partner in the licensing process; prospective educators apply through their schools. Candidates pass their assessments before receiving institutional recommendation.

The Office of Educator Licensure and Preparation has provided a checklist for out-of-state applicants ( They will request to have their transcripts sent directly. They will request Praxis scores sent directly (if required).

Required forms are available online (

Additional Information

Tennessee teachers are licensed by the Office of Educator Licensure and Preparation ( The Office of Educator Licensure can be reached by telephone at (615) 532-4885 or by email at ‘Educator.Licensure at’.

There were some revisions to rules in 2018. Rules of the Tennessee State Board of Education can be found online (