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How to Become a
Teacher in Arizona

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How to Become a Teacher in Arizona

To embark on a teaching career in Arizona, you’ll need to obtain state certification. The certification process consists of four major steps: 

  1. Meeting the state’s educational background requirements as well as those for a state-approved educator preparation program
  2. Completing a program, including a teaching residency
  3. Passing the appropriate exams for your desired teaching position
  4. Applying for your certificate and participating in a background check

As an Arizona teacher, you can expect to initially make about $55,614 (the median salary for new teachers). However, recently House Bill 2800 was proposed in order to increase teacher salaries statewide. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through each step and point you to useful resources to make your journey to Arizona teacher certification smoother.

Get Your Arizona Teacher Certification

As mentioned, to get your Arizona teaching certification, you must meet educational requirements, complete an educator preparation program, and pass the required tests. You’ll need to consider a few factors as you go through each of these steps.

Meet Educational Background Requirements to Become a Teacher in Arizona

Arizona requires most teaching applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in any subject from an accredited college or university. If you’re unsure whether the institution you attended is accredited, you can search for it at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the Arizona Department of Education website. 

Educational background requirements will be set by the state-approved educator preparation program you select. You have the choice of enrolling in a university program or taking the shorter options of a post-baccalaureate program or an alternative certification program.

Additional Educational Background Requirements to Become a Teacher in Arizona

If you opt for either a post-baccalaureate or an alternative certification program, candidates for Arizona Alternative Teacher Certification must have a minimum of a 2.5 GPA for acceptance and pass the same exams as traditional-pathway educators, the Arizona educator exams (the AEPA & NES exams). Before registering for an exam, it is recommended that applicants review the requirements for approved subject areasthe certificate, or endorsement they are seeking.  There are several ways to meet exam requirements for both the professional knowledge or subject knowledge exams.

Complete an Educator Preparation Program

If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, a university program gives you the opportunity to earn one while also fulfilling your educator preparation program requirements. You’ll have to go through a four-year degree program, take courses in the specific content areas you’ll need for your certification, and do one year of field work. While completion time will vary from person to person, this certification route generally takes about five years. 

Completing an alternative certification or post-baccalaureate program will take significantly less time since you won’t have to earn credits for a degree. You usually will be able to complete the program’s coursework alongside the required two semesters of field experience. That means you will usually complete the program within a year. 

Another benefit of alternative certification or post-baccalaureate programs is that they’re likely to offer paid internships. Some alternative certification programs offer an unpaid clinical teaching placement that’s shorter in duration than the internship. In all cases (including university programs), once you are eligible for your teaching residency and you secure a teaching position, you must apply online for an emergency certificate, pay an application fee, submit your transcripts, and undergo a criminal background check. An application checklist for the emergency certificate can be found here. 

Pass Required Tests to Become a Teacher in Arizona 

To demonstrate your grasp of educational theory and pedagogical best practices, you will have to take both a professional knowledge and subject knowledge assessments. The state of Arizona provides preparation materials for each test. You will create an account and register for your tests on the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessments website. 

Submit Your Certification Application to Become a Teacher in Arizona

Your educator preparation program must recommend you for certification before you can apply. Once they do, you can complete the application form and pay the fee via your online Arizona Department of Education Educator Certification System account. The Arizona Department of Education will perform a national criminal background check, which includes fingerprinting, as part of the process. 

The Arizona Department of Education issues a standard certificate, but you won’t receive a paper copy. Instead, the Arizona Department of Education will post a virtual certificate to your online account as the official record of your certification as an Arizona educator. Potential employers will search for that virtual certificate via OACIS certificate lookup tool. 

Teaching Careers in Arizona

A high demand for teachers makes Arizona an appealing place to start a teaching career. While the median starting salary for teachers is $55,614, the state has devoted a significant amount of funds to supporting school systems’ strategic compensation models. According to the 2022 – 2023 US Department of Education Teacher Shortage Areas tool, teachers in all subject/content areas are in especially high demand in Arizona due to an overall shortage in the state. 

Hopefully, you now have the information you need to begin your journey toward a satisfying new career. If the alternative certification option sounds right for you, download our Arizona Success Guide for more information. Good luck! 

Frequently Asked Questions about Alternative Teacher Certification

How do I get a teaching certification in Arizona?

To get a Arizona teaching certification, you will need to meet educational background requirements, complete an educator preparation program, pass state-required tests, and undergo a background check.

You must go through four steps. First, you’ll have to meet the educational background requirements set by the state and by the educator preparation program you select. One of those prerequisites will be a bachelor’s degree. Second, you must complete your educator preparation program, which will involve a mix of coursework and field experience. Third, you must pass all the tests required to confirm your teaching capabilities. Once you have completed all the program requirements and passed the tests, your program will send a recommendation for your certification to the Arizona Department of Education.

Your fourth step will be completing an online application and going through a background check, including fingerprinting. The Arizona Department of Education OACIS portal will issue a virtual standard certificate for you, which potential employers can find online.

How long does it take to get teacher certification in Arizona?

If you have a bachelor’s degree, you can earn your certification in 12-18 months by completing a post-baccalaureate or alternative teacher certification program. If you don’t have a degree, you should enroll in a university program so that you can obtain your degree while also completing an educator preparation program. Additionally, that process usually takes about five years.

If you already have a degree, you can opt for a post-baccalaureate or alternative certification program. You can usually complete a post-baccalaureate or alternative certification program in 12-16 months.

What is the fastest way to become a teacher in Arizona?

For a prospective teacher with a bachelor’s degree, the fastest way to become a teacher in Arizona is through an alternative certification program.

Can you become a teacher in Arizona without a degree in education?

Yes. If you have a bachelor’s degree that is not in education, you can become a teacher in Arizona by completing an alternative teacher certification program.

In lieu of a degree in education, you can become a teacher in Arizona by enrolling in an alternative certification program. Arizona requires alternative certification programs to identify the content area (subject) enrollees will pursue for certification. Also, if your degree directly relates to a certification field, the program will identify that field as your content area. But once you’re enrolled, you have the option of taking a certification test in a different content area.

How long does my teacher certification last in Arizona?

Your certification lasts approximately six years. The Arizona Department of Education provides detailed information about the types of certifications and renewal requirements here. 

How do I renew my teacher certification in Arizona?

To renew your Arizona teacher certification, review The Arizona Department of Education’s detailed information about the types of certifications and renewal requirements here. 

Can I teach in Arizona without certification?

Yes, you can teach in Arizona without certification. You must apply for a one-year emergency certificate.

Can I take more than a year to complete an alternative certification program?

You can take more than a year to complete most Arizona alternative certification programs if the need arises. Also, they will often even extend your probationary certificate for up to two years. Your educator preparation program can advise you regarding the possibility of an extension.

How do I get approved to teach in Arizona if I have a teaching certificate from another state?

If you have a standard, renewable certificate from another state, you may apply to the Arizona Department of Education for a review of your credentials. In addition, your certificate does not need to be currently valid, but it must have been a standard-level certificate when it was issued. The Department of Arizona has created a detailed out-of-state reciprocity resource.

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