Teachers in the United States need to take classes and pass exams to obtain a teaching license.
But that license is administered on the state level, meaning that it won’t necessarily be accepted in another state.
So, what if you want to move across the country? Are teaching credentials transferable between states?
There is a solution: teaching license reciprocity.
Reading and researching about teaching license reciprocity can feel a lot like doing taxes. The topic has so many small details and technicalities!
You might be wondering how to get a teaching license in another state, or if teaching credentials are transferable between states!
We are here to answer your questions and break them down for you.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is teaching license reciprocity?
- Who qualifies for teaching license reciprocity?
- How to fill out the paperwork.
- Examples of state requirements.
- Special options for military spouses.
1. What is teaching license reciprocity?
Teaching license reciprocity is the ability to transfer your teaching license from one state to another. Different states have agreements with each other that can allow you to do this.
Not all states support teaching license reciprocity and most of those that do still require a lot of paperwork if you want to transfer your license. But, they will still allow you to transfer without having to earn a whole new license.
The teaching license reciprocity system is managed by NASDTEC, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification. They facilitate the mobility of educators among states.
Currently, the United States faces a teacher shortage. There was a shortage before the pandemic, but two years of Zoom classes have caused many teachers to burn out, exacerbating the problem.
Teaching license reciprocity is one way to help mitigate the shortage.
NASDTEC’s interstate agreement is really a collection of over 50 individual agreements. They cover US states and some Canadian provinces.
Each of these agreements outlines which certificates a state will accept.
It’s important to note that these agreements are not necessarily two-way.
Although Georgia states it will accept Connecticut certificates, this does not imply that Connecticut will accept a certificate from Georgia.
2. Who qualifies for teaching license reciprocity?
Generally speaking, anyone with a teaching license can qualify for teaching license reciprocity. However, there are some caveats.
Qualifications vary by state. Some states are not plugged into NASDTEC at all, including:
- New Mexico
- New York
- South Dakota
On the other hand, eight states offer full license reciprocity. These states are:
Moving to one of these states is the easiest route.
While you will have to fill out paperwork to transfer your license, the process takes less time and costs less money. They require minimal or no additional assessments.
Other states will accept out-of-state licenses but may require additional work on your end. This could include taking classes or demonstrating enough teaching experience.
Additionally, some states have experience requirements. You may be expected to prove a few years of satisfactory teaching experience.
Some states even have programs for special needs and individuals of certain backgrounds. Hawai’i, for example, has a program for military spouses.
This is geared towards people who have experience teaching in one state, but whose husband or wife moved to a military base in Hawai’i.
More information on that program can be found below.
3. How to fill out your state’s required license reciprocity paperwork.
States vary in how much paperwork they require, and how long it takes to process.
The only way to know for sure what you need is to look at individual state requirements.
Lead time for an application varies from state to state and depends on the time of year.
Once you do get your new license, your old one should still be valid.
States with full reciprocity typically require nothing other than an existing license, your personal information, and sometimes an application fee. A police background check is a universal requirement, although, if you have been teaching up until now, this definitely won’t be a problem!
Sometimes states make a distinction between experienced and inexperienced teachers.
In Hawai’i, for example, teachers with at least three years of experience can get a full license. Teachers with less experience, however, can only get a provisional license, which they can later turn into a full license.
States with less than full reciprocity have requirements of all shapes and sizes. Take a look at the state you want to move to, and ask yourself:
- Whether they take licenses from your current state.
- How many years of teaching experience you need to apply.
- What other examinations you will have to pass in order to qualify.
Those are the key factors to identify.
Let’s look at a few states to see how their requirements differ.
4. Examples of state requirements for teacher reciprocity in Arizona, Hawai’i, and California
Requirements for Arizona teaching licenses
Arizona takes licenses from every state. They do not have different requirements for experienced and inexperienced teachers, so if you only have a year or two of teaching under your belt, you’re ok.
Arizona does require you to take courses on the US and Arizona constitutions. However, you do not need to take them right away! You have three years after you start teaching to take care of it.
Arizona’s requirements are fairly open and easy to deal with.
Requirements for Hawai’i teaching licenses
Hawai’i’s requirements for license transfer are also easy and open. They have full teacher reciprocity, so your license should work no matter what state you currently live in.
Unlike Arizona, Hawai’i does not require any additional coursework whatsoever. They do, however, make a distinction between experienced and inexperienced teachers.
To get the “full” Hawai’i teaching license, you must demonstrate satisfactory level teaching for at least three of the last five years. If you can’t do this, you can still get a “provisional” license, which allows you to teach until you can qualify for a full one.
Requirements for California teaching licenses
Let’s take a look at a state that does not have full license reciprocity, just to see the difference. California only offers reciprocity for 45 states, including Arizona, Hawai’i, Texas, and New York.
Teachers must meet subject matter criteria for their credential area. They must also meet state requirements for teaching English learners, which include at least 6 semester hours of coursework.
In order to qualify, teachers must prove they have completed at least two years of satisfactory teaching. This requires two separate performance evaluations.
Clearly, California’s requirements are a bit lengthier than Arizona’s or Hawai’i’s. Be prepared for a more involved process if you want to move to the Golden State.
5. How does expedited processing for military spouses work?
Thirty-eight states offer expedited processing for military spouses. This helps many people who have to suddenly move across the country because of their spouse’s military career.
Take Hawai’i, for example. Wait times for a teaching license application can be as long as six weeks.
Military spouses, however, can indicate their status on their application to get it expedited.
Currently, there are over 630,000 military spouses in the United States.
The program for expedited teaching licenses is part of a larger federal program for military spouses of many different professions.
Identifying all of the requirements
Teaching license reciprocity is a valuable policy that helps teachers move across the country. It couldn’t be more useful than right now when the US faces a severe teacher shortage.
Whether you are new to teaching or a seasoned veteran, teaching license reciprocity programs do exist for you. While transferring your license to another state may be tricky, the process boils down to two steps:
- Identify the requirements for your intended state.
- Fill out the paperwork.
Most states have full license reciprocity, meaning that you will have very little additional work to do to get a new license.
There are states that do not, however, so you should be extra attentive to the process to make sure that you can transfer your license.
Wait times vary, but applications typically take a few weeks to process.
But once you’re done, you are free to pursue your teaching career in another state!
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