How to Become a Teacher in Missouri

To become a certified teacher in Missouri, you must earn a bachelor's degree and pass the required exams. Additionally, you will be required to complete at least some amount of student teaching and professional development. While the Missouri teaching certificate requirements might seem complicated, they're actually quite straightforward. We will be breaking down the process in detail in this article, covering everything from education programs to exams to student teaching requirements.

Are you ready to learn the ins and outs of how to become a teacher in Missouri? Are you ready to join an educator workforce nearly 70,000 strong? Read on for more!

Complete an Educator Program in Missouri

The first step in your journey to a Missouri teaching license is to enroll in (and complete) an approved educator program at a four-year college or university. But before you enter an educator program, you will be required to take and pass the Missouri General Education Assessment (MoGEA) exam. This exam covers essential skills in the following four areas:

  • Reading Comprehension and Interpretation
  • Mathematics
  • Science and Social Studies
  • Writing

In essence, this exam is your 'gateway' into an education program. Once you have passed it, you'll be allowed to enroll. Welcome to college!

Successful completion of an accredited educator program will then earn you a bachelor's degree and - if you pass the required exam(s) in your content area - the awarding of an IPC (Initial Professional Certificate). The IPC is valid for four years and represents the first step in your career as a teacher in Missouri.

Here's a breakdown of the basic steps you need to take to obtain the IPC.

1. Enroll in an educator program approved by the Missouri State Board of Education. The program should specialize in the content area you wish to teach.

2. Complete the coursework and other requirements (such as student teaching)

3. Take and pass the exam(s) in your chosen content area

4. Apply for the IPC

Although there are alternative paths to certification (which we'll touch on later), this is the primary route to becoming a certified teacher in Missouri. The credits and work experience required by the Missouri Department of Education are a bit complex, so choosing an approved education program that suits your needs is important. It will streamline the whole process for you.

A few colleges in Missouri that offer these programs are listed here:

  • College of the Ozarks
  • Northwest Missouri State University
  • University of Missouri (all campuses)
  • Missouri State University
  • University of Central Missouri

Please note that this is in no way an exhaustive list - there are many more colleges in Missouri offering approved programs. If you have your eye on a specific college or university, it would be wise to check to see if they have an educator program that focuses on the content you wish to teach.

Educational Requirements for Missouri Teaching License

As we discussed earlier on, all Missouri certified teachers must possess at least a bachelor's degree. This holds true whether you earn your certificate in Missouri or you transfer your certificate from another state. However, the exact educational requirements you need will vary depending upon which subject and grade level you want to teach. Here's a table showing the basic educational requirements, broken down by the level you want to teach at.

Educational Level Education Requirement GPA (in content-area coursework) Recommendation Required? Professional Education Development
Early Childhood (Birth - Grade 3) Bachelor's 3.00 Yes 60 semester-hours
Elementary (Grades 1-6) Bachelor's 3.00 Yes 36 semester-hours
Middle School (Grades 5-9) Bachelor's 3.00 Yes 45 semester-hours
Secondary (Grades 9-12) Bachelor's 3.00 Yes 36 semester-hours

Although it is not explained in the table, you must also achieve at least a 3.00 GPA in your professional education development coursework.

Required Exams for Missouri Teacher Certification

After you've completed your educational requirements, the next step in earning your Missouri teaching certificate is to take and pass the required exams. Missouri uses its own exit testing program and standards known as the Missouri Content Assessments. The Missouri Content Assessment exam is a requirement for all content fields. Whether you're seeking to teach elementary school Music or high school Chemistry (or anything in between) you will need to take this test in your chosen content area.

How to Become a Teacher in Missouri: Main Exam Route

Once you have graduated from a certified education program, you will be eligible to take the Missouri Content Assessment test in the subject of your choice. This is essentially your "Missouri teacher certification test."

These exams are broken up by academic discipline and by teaching level. For example, elementary school teachers will need to take an exam that evaluates their knowledge across multiple content areas. This is because elementary education requires all teachers to know basic Mathematics, English, Social Studies, and Science.

The exams become more content-specific when you get into the middle and high school levels. For those seeking to teach at the secondary level (grades 9-12), subject exams include Business, English, Physics, and Journalism among others. Prospective secondary education teachers will not have to take exams other than the one(s) they specifically want to teach.

To take your required Missouri Content Assessment, you will need to register online. Testing is done by computer at various Pearson Vue Centers both in Missouri and nationwide. Online testing is also available, depending upon your specific needs. The fee for most exams is $73. Tests are available year-round by appointment.

Supplementary Exams

Although the Missouri Content Assessments are the main body of tests that most Missouri educators will need to take to become certified with an IPC, a few specialized teachers might need to take additional exams. For instance, those who want to specialize in speech-language pathology may be required to take a Praxis II examination, as well as hold additional qualifications.

Additionally, you will need to take more Missouri Content Assessments if you want to broaden your teaching content qualifications. If you want to be certified to teach both high school Math and Physics, for instance, you'll need to take both corresponding content exams. Any test can also be taken by a current license-holder to add certification areas. As you take (and pass) more assessments, you'll be able to teach more and more subjects!

Individual Skill and Score Requirements

The skills required for the Missouri Content Assessments will vary hugely depending upon which exam you want to take. The Elementary Education 1-6 exam, for instance, is a multi-content test that covers basic Math, English, Science, and Social Studies. This test is mandatory for all elementary teachers, who must have a good grasp of a wide variety of subjects.

Generally speaking, the required skills and competencies will become more and more advanced as you move higher up in grade level. The secondary education exams, therefore, will typically be the most technically-challenging. However, these exams are also the most specific in terms of content. To prepare for the Missouri Content Assessments, your best bet is to visit the official state website and become familiar with the details of the exam you need to take.

In terms of scoring, the passing score for all exams is a 220. The tests are graded on a scale of 100 to 300.

Other Requirements for Missouri Teachers

Beyond completing coursework, obtaining a recommendation, and passing the Missouri Content Assessment exam, there remains only one other major requirement to obtain a Missouri teaching certificate: student teaching. This is typically included in the "professional education development" portion of your coursework. Student teaching will often require you to observe experienced teachers in a classroom setting. It may also require you to teach material or even plan lessons for students.

The goal of student teaching is to give you a feel for what real-life classroom environments are like. It also helps you build skills (such as communication, empathy, and other soft skills) that are difficult or even impossible to learn without real-life practice.

Missouri Teacher Licensing Application Process

Once you've fulfilled all the requirements, your next step is to apply for your IPC! This is done via the state's education website. You will need to create an account online, answer a few questions, and fill out an application. You may be required to send additional documents (including diplomas, test scores, etc.) in order to complete your application.

Missouri has also made a background check mandatory for all aspiring teachers, so you'll need to submit to a fingerprint background check when you apply. The processing fee for this background check is $41.75, whether you're a Missouri resident or not.

Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification in Missouri

Up until now, we've been focusing heavily on the traditional route to becoming a certified teacher in Missouri. While this is the most common path to becoming a Missouri educator, it is by no means the only path. Here are a few other ways that one can be certified as a teacher in Missouri:

Returning to School

If you've already obtained a bachelor's degree in a specific content area (but have not completed any educational training), some colleges of education offer two-year programs that allow you to obtain an IPC. Typically, you will be issued a "provisional certificate" while you're in these programs, which allows you to teach while also taking classes. At the end of your two years, you will have taken around 30 credit hours of classes and completed two years of teaching. If you've done this satisfactorily, you will be eligible to receive your IPC.

Temporary Authorization

This pathway is similar to returning to school, but has more flexibility. If you decide to seek temporary authorization, you will need to complete approximately 24 credit hours of college classes in your chosen content area. These courses may be self-directed or self-paced. You must also already have a bachelor's degree. Once you have enrolled in your initial courses, you are then mentored by a school district and allowed to teach there, provided that you remain enrolled in at least 9 semester hours of classes each year. This process typically takes about two years.

Upon reaching the end of the program, you must take at least two exit exams. If you pass, you will obtain your IPC.

American Board of Certification for Teacher Excellence (ABCTE)

Another route to certification is to complete a study program through the ABCTE. To be eligible for this, you must already have a bachelor's degree. You can then enroll in an ABCTE program, complete it, and pass the required exam. This will automatically qualify you for an IPC in Missouri.

While this is probably the most straightforward of the three main alternative ways to be certified, there is a catch: Missouri only accepts the ABCTE for certain content areas at the middle and high school level. These areas are:

  • Mathematics
  • U.S. or World History
  • English/Language Arts
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • General Science
  • Physics
  • Elementary Education

If you're looking to teach other subjects or other grade levels, you'll need to either follow the traditional certification route or one of the other alternative routes.

Missouri Certification for Out-of-State Educators

If you're already a certified teacher in a state other than Missouri, there's a very good chance that you'll be able to transfer your certification quite easily. This is known as "reciprocity." Here's how the Missouri teacher certification reciprocity process works:

1. Submit a Non-Missouri Graduate Application online.

2. Pay the processing fee of $100.

3. Obtain institutional recommendation from your college (not required if you already have a valid teaching certificate).

4. Mail in your original transcripts. These cannot be emailed, faxed, photocopied, or scanned.

5. If you have a valid teaching certificate, include a photocopy of this certificate in your application packet.

6. Verify your previous teaching experience. Substitute and student teaching do not qualify - this must be contracted teaching experience.

7. If you don't have valid teaching experience, you'll need to have a criminal background check.

As you can see, the process is fairly streamlined. If you are already a teacher in another state, you're only a few steps away from getting your Missouri teaching certificate!

Getting a Missouri Substitute Teaching Certificate

Although full-time teachers form the backbone of Missouri's educational system, substitute teachers are also a necessary component of this system. In Missouri, it is quite easy to become a substitute teacher.

If you already have a teaching certificate (whether an IPC or a more advanced certificate), then you're eligible to substitute teach at any school district in the state. If you do not have a valid teaching certificate, you'll need to obtain a Missouri substitute teaching certificate. Substitute teaching certificates are available to those who have:

1. Taken (and passed) at least 60 semester hours of classes from an accredited college or university, and

2. Completed 20 hours of online training through Frontline Education, and

3. Passed a background check.

If you've passed at least 60 semester hours of college courses, all you need to do is send in your original transcripts and complete the online training. You can then submit to a background check. After finishing these steps, you'll be granted a Content Substitute certificate. This certificate allows you to substitute teach in any classroom in the K-12 public school system.

In addition to the Content Substitute certificate, Missouri also issues another form of substitute certificate: the Career Technical Substitute. This certification is for anyone who wants to substitute teach in a career center or vocational program. To be eligible for this certificate, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Bachelor's degree in a relevant area and at least 4,000 hours of approved occupational experience
  • Associate's degree in a relevant area and at least 5,000 hours of approved occupational experience
  • At least 6,000 hours of approved occupational experience

As you can see, it is fairly straightforward to get a Missouri substitute teaching certificate. With a little coursework and some training, it's well within your grasp!

Opportunities for Career Development for Missouri Educators

Career development can be a daunting task in any field, including education. Thankfully, Missouri has built quite a bit of career development into its education system. As a certified teacher in Missouri, you are given access to state programs such as the Missouri Teacher Development System (MTDS). This program gives you access to a host of professional development possibilities, including:

  • Networking with other teachers
  • Relationship building skills training
  • Competency-based training
  • Access to mentoring and training

Educators of all levels - whether freshly minted from college or 30 year veterans - are encouraged to take advantage of these resources.

Additionally, Missouri requires a certain amount of professional development for most of its new teachers. As an educator, you will be required to document a certain amount of professional development hours over the first four years of your teaching career. The requirements vary depending upon what subject and grade level you're teaching, but most teachers in core subjects will need to complete 30 professional development hours over the course of their first four years in education.

You will also be required to complete a professional development plan and receive the guidance of a mentor, who will be assigned to you by your school district. This will encourage you to set (and achieve) your goals as a teacher.

After you have taught for four years with your IPC and completed your professional development requirements, Missouri teachers are eligible to upgrade their teaching certificates to a Career Continuous Professional Certificate (CCPC). This represents the next step on your journey as a teacher! CCPCs are valid for up to 99 years, and are the doorway to unlocking a plethora of higher career opportunities.

Missouri Teacher Salary and Employment Outlook

Because there will always be a demand for teachers, the job outlook for teachers in Missouri is good. Forecasts issued by the Missouri Research and Information Center show a steady growth in demand for elementary, middle, and high school teachers across the state. Additionally, ongoing struggles relating to the pandemic may continue to cause labor shortages in the teaching market. If you want a job as a Missouri teacher, you should be able to find one!

Teaching Category Estimated Number of Jobs (2018) Estimated Number of Jobs (2028) Annual Growth Total Annual Job Openings
Elementary School 24,541 24,992 +0.18% 1,871
Middle School 12,279 12,519 +0.19% 939
High School 26,727 27,248 +0.19% 1,943

In terms of salary, wages for teachers just starting out in Missouri can be rather low - often in the range of $32,000 to $40,000 per year. However, when teachers across all experience levels are accounted for, the average yearly salary of a teacher in Missouri jumps into the 40-60k/year range. Higher salaries are possible for those who want to further their education by going for a master's degree.

Starting salaries for Missouri teachers vary quite substantially depending upon where you get hired. Smaller school districts in rural areas - which may lack the financial resources of larger districts - are often on the lower side. Other districts can offer starting salaries well in excess of $40,000 per year. Typically speaking, salary increases with experience and education level.

There are also other ways - such as tutoring, coaching, etc. - to earn additional money as a teacher. While the income from these pursuits might not be enormous, it can add several thousand dollars per year to your paycheck. Many teachers in Missouri (and elsewhere) are able to earn a comfortable living doing what they love. And at the end of the day, some of the greatest joys of teaching don't come in the form of a paycheck. Rather, they come in the form of inspired students and knowledgeable citizens. Many teachers consider what they do to be a reward in and of itself, and teachers routinely report high satisfaction with their jobs.

Expert Contributor

Amy Mayers

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.

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