How to Become a Teacher in Kentucky
Prospective educators wanting to learn how to get a Kentucky teaching certificate will quickly find many paths that might suit their needs. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDOE) follows the standards set by most states in the U.S. in that they require educators to complete their bachelor's degree and attend a teacher preparation program prior to receiving their teaching license. However, potential routes include paths for:
- College faculty or adjunct instructors
- Veterans and Teach for America alumni
- Those who finished a bachelor's degree before deciding to teach
- Out-of-state educators
This article will discuss those paths and more in greater detail later.
The most common path is for prospective teachers to major in education during their undergraduate degree, and if that university is accredited by the state, they will graduate from their undergraduate university ready to apply for certification.
The most basic Kentucky teacher certification requirements are:
- Completion of at least a four-year bachelor's degree
- Completion of a state-approved teacher preparation program. (These programs will always offer full-time student teaching opportunities, which is a requirement for certification in the state of Kentucky).
- Praxis passing scores on Praxis I (core), Praxis II (subject area), and the Praxis II Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT). (Typically, one will need a passing score on Praxis Core prior to admission to a teacher preparation program).
In Kentucky, the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) oversees teacher certifications.
Kentucky Teacher Certification Tiers
Kentucky has a unique tiered system for its certified teachers. Certification seekers who have a bachelor's degree and graduated from a teacher preparation program (often one and the same) will qualify for Rank 3 upon licensure. If a certified teacher has a master's degree in their subject area (from an institution approved by the EPSB), they are eligible for Rank 2.
Additionally, teachers in Rank 3 who earn certification from the National Board Certification (NBCT) may also be eligible to move to Rank 2. Teachers who have a regular teaching certificate, have an approved master's degree, and earned thirty semester hours of approved graduate course work, or teachers who are in Rank 2 and earned initial or additional NBCT, are eligible for Rank 1. Rank 1 teacher certification in Kentucky is more rigorous, so Rank 1 educators on average see a 21% increase in salary.
For those wondering, "How do I get an emergency teaching certificate in Kentucky," the state will also award Rank 4 certifications to individuals who have between ninety-six and one hundred and twenty-eight credit hours from an approved university. Further, in a more extreme emergency situation, Kentucky may award Rank 5 certifications for students who have between sixty-four and ninety-five semester hours from an approved university.
While these certificates are rare, they are not unheard of. For example, following the COVID-19 pandemic, Kentucky issued emergency teaching certifications in two consecutive school years. These certificates are awarded when there are either A) no qualified candidates, B) a teacher is needed to teach outside of their designated certification area.
Kentucky Teacher Certification Programs
Kentucky has a large number of programs that meet state requirements from the ESPB. Many of these institutions also have accreditations from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Below are just a few of the schools offering Kentucky teacher certification programs that meet all three standards:
- Georgetown College, which offers degrees in education combined with various subjects (such as Elementary Education or Biology Education) that will prepare candidates to teach their specific subject area
- Berea College, a liberal arts college that offers courses in core concepts in the candidate's area of study as well as professional preparation for actual teaching
- Asbury University offers a variety of teacher education programs, including bachelor's, online, and graduate programs
- Kentucky State University, which has eight different undergraduate and one graduate education preparation programs
- University of Kentucky offers programs in both initial and advanced teacher preparation, as well as programs ranging from STEM Education to Educational Policy Studies & Evaluation, and more
- Transylvania University, whose teacher preparation courses include labs and fieldwork, with a major that includes a professional development component
- Union College offers graduate and undergraduate programs in education, including secondary certifications in specific subjects
Teacher preparation programs can come in all shapes and sizes. The road most traveled is typically completing a teacher preparation program while in undergrad. Many higher educational institutions also offer master's degrees that meet ESPB requirements like student teaching.
Some institutions, like Western Kentucky University, will offer post-baccalaureate, certification-only programs. Teacher preparation programs are an essential part of becoming a teacher in Kentucky.
Kentucky Teacher Education Requirements
Kentucky, like every state in the U.S., requires candidates to complete a student teaching component before obtaining a teaching certification. This is typically the biggest time commitment during state-accredited teacher preparation programs. All state-approved teacher preparation programs will therefore include student teaching in their curriculum.
Each program will have different educational requirements outside of student teaching, but many will look at pedagogy, behavior management skills, and teaching literacy. Many teacher preparation programs provide secondary certifications or majors in specific subject areas that candidates might teach, so graduating from the program will often involve coursework in the candidate's specific subject as well as more general courses on education.
Kentucky Teacher Testing Requirements
All state-approved teacher preparation programs require applicants to pass the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (also called the Praxis 1) prior to admission. Aspiring educators at the graduate level may, however, submit official GRE (Graduate Records Exam) scores in lieu of taking the Praxis Core exams.
Following the completion (or near the end) of one's teacher preparation program and prior to submitting a teaching certificate application, one must pass the Praxis Subject Assessment (which varies depending on one's content specialty) and the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) (which varies depending on grade level).
Candidates who wish for more details as to which tests may apply to their situation and their target passing scores can review the Kentucky Test Requirements page on the ETS website.
Kentucky Teacher Licensing Application
Candidates who meet the educational requirements to apply for certification in the state of Kentucky can submit the following materials to the EPSB:
- Completed EPSB application form and $85 fee
- All official transcripts (electronic or hard copy)
- Passing Praxis Core, Praxis 2, and Praxis PLT scores
The EPSB asks that candidates upload all required documents to their website. They can send a hard copy of their official transcripts or electronic, but the electronic copy must be sent directly from the institution's third-party transcript provider, through which the institution can digitally sign and certify the transcript.
It takes approximately two weeks for Kentucky to process applications.
Kentucky Teacher Certification Renewal
Teachers must renew their certification every five years. This process involves submitting an Application for Certification Renewal, completing at least three years of classroom teaching during the five-year certification period or six semester hours of graduate credit, the superintendent's signature or transcript verifying classroom or semester hours, and payment of appropriate fees.
Alternative Teacher Certification in Kentucky
Kentucky has many different accessible routes to earn a teacher certification. Kentucky recognizes that professionals transitioning to teaching careers bring unique experiences to the table. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDOE) has also created a questionnaire for prospective teachers to help identify which of these seven alternative routes is the best fit for their prior experience.
The KDOE lays out eight different routes:
- Exceptional Work Experience: This route is viable if the candidate possesses a bachelor's degree, graduated with a 2.75 GPA or higher, and has exceptional non-teaching work experience in their intended content area.
- Local District Training Program: Occasionally, local schools will make an offer of employment to a candidate who does not meet the traditional requirements. In this case, as long as one has a bachelor's degree with higher than a 2.75 GPA and a passing score on the Praxis subject exam of their area, certification may be feasible.
- College Faculty: If the candidate has five years of experience teaching at the college level in one's intended content area (and a master's degree or higher), they may be eligible for certification.
- Adjunct Instructor: If the candidate is an adjunct faculty member and has a minimum of a bachelor's degree in their intended area of expertise, they may be eligible to apply for a part-time teaching contract (a contract position).
- Armed Forces Veteran: Veterans with six years of military service (honorable discharge) and a bachelor's degree in an academic content area (minimum of 2.75 GPA) may be eligible for certification.
- University-Based Alternative Route: Candidates who have a bachelor's degree in a non-teaching major can enroll in a teacher preparation program. Once admitted, this program will give the candidate a hiring eligibility letter that will allow them to work in a school while they complete the educational requirements for certification.
- Institute Alternative Route: In order to qualify for a certification on the Institute Alternative Route, one would enroll in a state-approved institute that teaches up-to-date teaching practices. Prospective teachers here need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75 and passing scores on Praxis Core (or GRE) and Praxis II (content area). There are two programs that follow this model: Central Kentucky Educational Cooperative (CKEC) Teacher Certification and Nelson County Schools New Teacher Institute.
- Teach for America: Teach for America frequently places educators in Kentucky. Following the closure of their program, teachers starting with Teach for America may be eligible for state certification.
Certification for Out-of-State Educators
Kentucky is a member of the NASDTEC interstate agreement. This means that for out-of-state educators whose teacher preparation program was conferred in a state that is also part of the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement, Kentucky will accept their credits for certification.
Kentucky is relatively lenient with teacher certification reciprocity across state lines. If one holds a teaching certificate out-of-state and has been in good standing for more than two years, testing requirements will be waived during the application for licensure.
Kentucky teacher certification reciprocity is evaluated on an individual basis. Applicants must have completed their teacher preparation program at a regionally accredited institution or program accredited by the Council for Accreditation for Educator Preparation (CAEP).
They must still meet Kentucky's requirement of a minimum 2.5 GPA. In addition, within the first five years of teaching, they must complete the following:
- Three-hour content literacy course on the six International Reading Association Standards 2010: Middle and High School Content Classroom.
- Two or more courses on the six International Reading Association Standards 2010: Middle and High School Content Classroom.
Kentucky Teacher Employment Outlook & Salary
As of the 2019-2020 school year, the Kentucky public school system had nearly 650,000 students and over 42,000 teachers, giving it a student-to-teacher ratio of approximately 15:1. It had 1,477 schools in 171 districts and a four-year cohort graduation rate of around 91% in 2020.
Kentucky has seen significant job growth in the last few years. Kentucky has recently experienced teacher shortages, so the market is in need of qualified educators. From 2016-2026, the state projected a job outlook of 5.8% for preschool, primary, secondary, and special education teachers.
Salaries vary depending on the candidate's level of education and years of experience. Salaries can also vary between school districts. The average classroom teacher salary for the 2020-2021 school year was $54,548, per Kentucky's Department of Education.
Katie Slaughter, M.A. has taught middle school science and math for over 6 years. She has helped lay a foundation for personalized learning in her school and has presented internationally about what she is doing in her classroom. She has successfully passed numerous Praxis exams. Katie completed a B.S. in Marine Science from Coastal Carolina University and an M.A. in Teaching from Georgetown College.