How to Become a Teacher in Arizona
If you have decided to pursue a career as a teacher in Arizona, congratulations! Teaching is an in-demand career, especially in Arizona. This guide can help future educators learn how to get an Arizona teaching certificate.
There are many teaching certificates available for aspiring educators, including K-12, substitute teaching, alternative teaching, adult education, career/technical, and administration. Arizona emergency teacher certification is available to address teaching shortages during temporary periods. K-12 licenses are further divided into early childhood, elementary, secondary, special education, and subject-specific certifications.
There are several main criteria candidates must meet in order to become eligible to apply for a teaching license in Arizona:
- Completion of a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA
- Completion of a teacher preparation program
- Passing of required exams
While there are more specific steps candidates have to complete on their path to licensure, these three requirements require a lot of planning ahead and preparation.
Complete an Educator Preparation Program in Arizona
Educator preparation programs are a vital step towards earning a teaching license. These programs help future educators learn the skills and basic knowledge necessary to teach, as well as specialize in their desired grade level or content area. Licenses are available for early childhood education (birth-3rd grade), elementary education (K-8), and secondary education (6-12), with additional categories for special education or mixed-grade licenses. These programs require varying amounts of completed credits, but all require at least 8 hours of practicum experience and successful completion of appropriate exams.
Additionally, educators specializing in middle or secondary education can become certified in their licensure area (for example, English or Chemistry). Oftentimes, aspiring high school educators choose to double-major in secondary education and their desired concentration.
Arizona State University and University of Arizona are both home to highly-regarded education programs. Whether pursuing a traditional teaching program with a bachelor's degree or an alternative teacher certification, there are many schools in Arizona with accredited educator preparation programs. All state-wide requirements are set by the Arizona Department of Education, but individual programs may be accredited by one of the agencies recognized by the United States Department of Education. However, candidates planning to teach in Arizona should make sure their program is accredited by the Arizona Department of Education.
Arizona Teacher Education Requirements
Arizona has very specific education requirements for each specialty. For early childhood education, candidates must complete 37 credit hours within their education program. Elementary education candidates must complete 45 hours, and secondary education candidates must complete 30. All three age groups require 8 credit hours of practicum experience in a classroom setting, but this requirement can be waived for candidates who have already completed a 2-year student teaching assignment.
While educator preparation programs differ depending on the desired license, licensed educators in the state of Arizona must complete some form of preparation program. For traditional tracks, students usually complete their education program during their bachelor's degree. One exception to this is the Substitute Teaching License, which does not require an educator preparation program and only requires applicants to hold a bachelor's degree. Another exception is Arizona emergency teacher certification, which allows any person with a bachelor's degree to teach for an extended period of time if a school demonstrates there are no qualified educators to fill a position. An emergency teaching license is not a permanent license and can only be granted to the same candidate 3 times.
Required Tests for Arizona Teachers
Future educators in Arizona must pass the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessments (AEPAs) that correspond with the grade level or content area of their bachelor's degree. There are specialized assessments relating to early childhood education and elementary education, as well as individual assessments for subjects like Music or Biology.
Candidates should double check the amount of assessments they'll need to take. Some licenses require only one AEPA, but most require 2 (one professional knowledge test and one subject knowledge test). Some middle and secondary education candidates may choose to take multiple subject knowledge tests to become certified in more than one content area.
Candidates for middle or secondary education should also take the National Evaluation Series (NES) that corresponds with their teaching specialty. The NES assessments are part of the AEPA program and certify that an educator is able to teach a certain subject to a certain age group.
In addition to the AEPA/NES assessments, all candidates must pass an exam on the United States and Arizona Constitutions. Alternatively, candidates can provide proof of coursework that covers the same material.
Arizona does not require the PRAXIS test.
Additional Arizona Teacher Certification Requirements
Teaching candidates in Arizona must submit to a background check and fingerprinting through the Arizona Automated Fingerprint Identification System. An official Identity Verified Print (IVP) is the only acceptable fingerprint . Candidates must also be recommended for licensure by their higher learning institution and should contact their academic advisor before they apply for certification.
Arizona Teacher Licensing Application Process
Candidates should compile a folder of all the documents they'll need to submit. This includes applications, fees, copies of fingerprints (in the form of an Identity Verified Print clearance card), transcripts, exam scores, and proof of field work.
It usually takes 1-3 weeks to hear back from the Arizona Department of Education about the status of a license application. However, in the summer, processing may take up to 6 weeks.
Passing candidates earn their Provisional Teaching Certificate. Candidates who are denied may need to submit material that was missing from their application or retake certain exams.
Arizona Alternative Teacher Certification
Arizona alternative teacher certification options exist for candidates who do not have a bachelor's degree in education. Candidates who have a bachelor's degree in a subject other than education can enroll in a teacher preparation program, which includes both coursework and fieldwork, as well as English Immersion training. Fulfillment of these criteria qualifies candidates to apply for their Alternative Teaching License.
Aspiring teachers who hold a bachelor's degree in a different concentration can also join a Teacher Intern Preparation Program (TIPP) and ultimately apply for their alternative teaching certificate while working towards their master's degree. This program benefits both teachers and the state of Arizona as a whole. Teacher Interns can earn their license while working in a classroom as a teacher, meaning their fieldwork requirement can be satisfied while they are actively employed at a school. This helps candidates earn their licenses quickly and helps to solve the teacher shortage by bringing more educators into schools.
Candidates who are still in the process of earning their undergrad or graduate degree in education have the option to become an Arizona Teaching Fellow. The Teaching Fellows program allows students to complete their student teaching requirements while acting as teacher's assistant. Fellows receive stipends to cover education and living costs with the expectation that they will continue to teach in the same district after the completion of their education program. If they do continue to work in the same district, their stipends continue.
Certification in Arizona for Out-of-State Educators
Arizona participates in the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC), which simplifies the process of transferring a teaching license from one state to another. However, full Arizona teaching certificate reciprocity does not exist for out-of-state teachers. Passing scores on all knowledge and subject tests are still required, unless the candidate can provide proof of passing scores on similar assessments from another state. For example, certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is recognized as a comparable qualification and can be obtained instead of taking the AEPAs. Out-of-state licenses must be in good standing in order for Arizona teacher reciprocity approval.
Arizona Teaching Certificate Renewal
A provisional teaching license lasts for 3 years and must be converted to a Standard Certificate before it expires. Standard Arizona teaching certificate renewal is required every 6 years. During this time, educators are required to complete 15 hours of professional development for every year of their license (90 altogether for a 6-year license). This can be satisfied by attending seminars, post-baccalaureate classes, school-sponsored in-services, or even free online classes that count towards clock hours.
The annual ESSA Conference is a professional development gathering for teachers in Arizona. This event, hosted by the Arizona Department of Education, consists of workshops, lectures, and networking opportunities.
Professional advancement is possible for teachers who wish to increase their salary or change their career. Continuing education in the form of a master's or doctorate degree can provide a path for educators to careers like school administration or professor positions. Teachers are paid relative to their years of experience and qualifications, so post-baccalaureate education can lead to salary increases.
Arizona Teacher Employment Outlook and Salary
As of May 2020, there are over 50,000 elementary, middle and high school teachers in Arizona working in 5,146 public, private and charter schools. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, elementary school teachers in Arizona make a mean salary of about $47,910 as of May 2020; in contrast, middle school teachers make about $46,540 and secondary school teachers make about $53,620. Job outlook for all educators is expected to increase by 9% from 2020 to 2030, according to BLS. Arizona currently has teacher shortages in ESL, science, special education, and social studies.
Certified teachers in Arizona have the option of joining the Arizona Education Association (AEA), a labor union that supports educators, students, and other school personnel. The organization also has a program for aspiring educators to encourage networking, community engagement, and political action among Arizona's teachers.
Amy Mayers, M.Ed. has taught middle school math for over 7 years. She is a Texas certified teacher for grades 4-12 in mathematics and has passed the TExES Math 4-8 and the TExES Math 7-12. Amy graduated with a B.S. in Mathematical Sciences from the University of Houston and a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Thomas.