How to Become a Teacher in Wisconsin

How To Become a Teacher in Wisconsin

To become a Wisconsin teacher, candidates need a Wisconsin DPI (Department of Public Instruction) license, which authorizes candidates to teach in the state. The basic requirements for a Wisconsin teaching license are: obtaining a bachelor's degree, completing a state-approved educator preparation program, and passing the required exams. These exams include the three Praxis Core Tests (Praxis Core Math, Praxis Core Writing, and Core Reading) and the Praxis test for the subject the candidate will be teaching. If the candidate is seeking to teach early childhood, elementary, special education, and reading, then they need to take the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading exam. Those who will be teaching a world language must take an ACTFL World Language Test for their area. Once these are completed, prospective teachers can apply for one of three licenses: Provisional Educator License, Lifetime Educator License, and Master Educator License. The Provisional Educator License is what initial teachers in the area should apply for. It lasts for five years, and after teaching with it for at least six semesters, the teacher can apply for the Lifetime Educator License. If a teacher hasn't completed six semesters within the five years, they will need to reapply for the Provisional Educator License. Teachers can get the highest tier, the Master Educator License, after getting a National Board Certification.

License Renewal Requirements
Provisional Educator License Renew after 5 years Bachelor's degree, educator preparation program, exams
Lifetime Educator License Does not need to be renewed Previous license plus six semesters of teaching
Master Educator License Does not need to be renewed National Board Certification

To obtain a Wisconsin substitute teacher license, candidates can apply for a five-year long-term license, a three-year short-term license, or a one-year long-term substitute teacher license (which can only be applied for if the school specifically requests it). The five-year license is for teachers who qualify for a full teaching license in Wisconsin or for those who have an equivalent license from another state. The three-year license is open to those who have an associate's degree or higher, who have completed a substitute teaching program, and who have not completed a state-approved educator preparation program.

Approved Wisconsin Teacher Education Programs

Taking an educator preparation program, in addition to getting a bachelor's degree and passing exams, is a required step to become licensed as a Wisconsin teacher. The locations for these programs can vary from universities to school districts to private companies. If the program is offered by one of Wisconsin's universities, then the candidate can obtain both their bachelor's degree, and an educator preparation program certification at the same time. In selecting a program, candidates should be sure the to pick one accredited by CAEP or a regional accrediting agency. The easiest way to verify legitimate accreditation is through the Wisconsin Department Of Public Instruction. Educator preparation programs typically include coursework on issues in education, child development, and current issues facing education, in addition to coursework in the subject areas the candidate wishes to teach in. Here is a list of a few accredited schools with just some of the preparation programs they offer. All of the following state-approved institutions' programs meet the requirements of an educator preparation program. Here is a small list of institutions as well as the specific licensable minors they offer in addition to an education in teaching:

  • Alverno College, Milwaukee. Programs: Early Childhood, Elementary, Secondary, Special Education.
  • CESA 1 PBL. Pewaukee. Mathematics, Computer Science, Early Childhood Special Education.
  • Edgewood College, Madison. Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Professional Educator.
  • Lawrence University, Appleton. English as Second Language, Theater, Secondary English, Elementary.
  • Urban Learning Collaborative, West Allis. Regular Education, Special Education, Math.

Wisconsin Teaching License Requirements

The requirements for becoming a Wisconsin teacher include obtaining a bachelor's degree, taking a state-approved educator preparation program, and passing the required tests. The degree and preparation programs prepared students to become teachers in a variety of ways. Some classes will focus on the fundamentals of teaching in a classroom setting, while others will zero in on teaching specific subjects to a certain age range. Most places will offer extensive opportunities to teach children in a classroom setting. At the end of the program, candidates produce a teacher portfolio for their capstone. This portfolio articulates the candidates' philosophy on teaching and pedagogies, as well as demonstrates of knowledge of their subject area, and articles used in a classroom (such as lesson plans and tests). Also, there is usually an oral defense of the portfolio. As shown later in the article, the alternative routes to licensure also require time teaching in the classroom.

Wisconsin Teacher Testing Requirements

The tests required to get a Wisconsin teaching license measure a candidate's competence in their specified subject. The tests for Subject Area Competency are the Praxis II tests (or Praxis 2) that encompass every subject except World Languages, which is instead assessed by the ACTFL World Language Test. Teachers looking for a position as an elementary school teacher, special education teacher, or reading specialists need to score a 240 or higher on the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Tests. Certain education preparation programs require the following in addition or instead of the previous tests for licensure: getting a G.P.A. of a 3.0 or higher in a subject area, and/or completing a content portfolio through the educator preparation program. Here are the tests prospective teachers need to take:

Test Who Needs to Take It
Praxis II Core Exams All take the 3 Core exams
Praxis II Subject Exams Candidates take some of these exams according to specialization
ACTFL World Language Test World Language Teachers
Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test Elementary, Reading Teacher or Specialist, Special Education

The Praxis II

The three Praxis II Core exams test reading, writing, and mathematics. The Praxis passing scores are 156 for the Reading test, 162 for the Writing test, and 150 for the Mathematics test. All prospective teachers need to take and pass these three tests in addition to the tests on their individual subject areas, such as Computer Science, English, Geography, History, etc. There are different levels of Praxis subject area tests for each age range of students. Candidates should check the Praxis website to evaluate which Praxis Subject Assessment or Praxis II exams they need to take and pass to receive a Wisconsin teaching license.

The ACTFL World Language Tests

Candidates who aspire to teach a world language (such as Arabic, Spanish, French, or others) in Wisconsin must take the ACTFL World Language Exams that correspond to their subject. Wisconsin requires two of these exams: the Oral Proficiency Interview and the Writing Proficiency Test. The Oral Proficiency Interview is a one-on-one interview in the language being tested. It is a spontaneous conversation directed by the interviewer to measure one's ability to ask questions, explicate on opinions, and hold a conversation. It measures a candidate's ability to use the language as they would in real life. This test is scored holistically looking specifically at Function, Accuracy, Content & Context, and Text Type. It plain terms, the oral interview assesses if the candidate can stay on topic with their responses, be understood, and engage in tasks like asking questions, describing things, or supporting their opinions. The Writing Proficiency Test measures a candidate's ability to write in a real-life setting. Test-takers will fill out a survey about their lives, which the proctor will use to randomly select questions and prompts. Like the oral test, the written test is about unrehearsed language creation. Both tests are scored the same way. The score report does not give specific numbers for its scores, but rather a grade of either Novice, Intermediate, or Advanced. Novice and Intermediate have a grade score range between 1-5. Advanced is simply advanced. Both tests require a score of at least Intermediate-High (meaning a score of I-5) to pass in the state of Wisconsin.

Additional Wisconsin Teaching License Requirements

Lastly, there are a few more requirements to become a Wisconsin teacher.

  • A background check is required for all candidates.
  • Fingerprints are required if the prospective teacher has taught, worked, or taken classes in places other states, U.S. territories, Great Britain, or Canada.
  • Candidates that have a criminal record must provide documentation and an explanation of their prior misconduct. Documentation includes police reports and disciplinary letters, and the explanation must be the candidate's reasoning for the action.

A delay in the background check process is not a cause for concern or worry. If there is any need for more information, the candidate will be contacted directly.

Applying for the Teaching Certificate in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction uses ELO (Educator Licensing Online) for processing applications for a Wisconsin DPI license to become a Wisconsin teacher. Here is how to apply:

  • Find out if fingerprints are required. Refer to the DPI for guidance on this.
  • Submit fingerprints, if necessary, through Fieldprint.
  • Read the Conduct and Competency Questions to determine if misconduct documents are necessary.
  • Submit the license endorsement from the Educator Preparation Program. This is where the bulk of the requirements come from. Candidates should talk to their Certification Officer from their EPP to be sure everything is in order.
  • Wisconsin substitute teacher license applications require some additional paperwork, either a scanned DPI-endorsed course completion certificate, substitute teaching verification form, or a previous license.
  • Go to ELO.
  • Navigate to the "Apply for a new license" section of the Quick Start Menu.
  • Fill in the information for the candidate's desired license and submit.
  • Use email confirmation to navigate to the next section of the application.
  • Pay fees and fill out Conduct and Competency questions.

Alternative Paths to a Wisconsin Teaching License

There are a variety of non-traditional ways to become a teacher in Wisconsin. The Post-Baccalaureate pathway allows candidates to use an Educator Preparation Program only for their subject and licenses instead of a full degree. The Alternative-Route allows for bachelor's degree holding candidates to take an EPP only in their subject. If there is a work shortage in the candidate's region, then the candidate can take an EPP only in their subject area, regardless of their degree. The Equivalency pathway is for those with three years of teaching experience and/or a college major or major equivalent in their subject. Candidates on this pathway will be tested in teaching performance to get their license. To become a trade specialist, a candidate needs either an apprenticeship and three years' experience, or have four years of institutional training, or a technical college certification; candidates can also become a trade specialist if there is a shortage. Prospective trade specialists should look to the DPI website to see if they meet this pathway's qualifications. The American Board Certification pathway is for candidates who have a bachelor's degree and have completed the American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) program. These candidates will need to submit their transcript for their bachelor's degree, a PI-1612 Institutional Endorsement and Assurances form, ABCTE certificate of completion, and both their ABCTE Professional Teaching Knowledge exam results and their Content Knowledge exam results.

Certification in Wisconsin for Out-of-State Educators

There are variety of ways for out-of-state educators to obtain teaching licenses in Wisconsin and those ways vary depending on experience level. Candidates who have both completed an approved education preparation program and received a bachelor's degree should seek the Wisconsin License that best matches their previous qualifications. These candidates also need to complete the required Wisconsin tests: Foundations of Reading and their Content Area test. If the candidate already has an up-to-date teaching license from another state, or has taught for one year out-of-state, then they are eligible for the Reciprocity Pathway, which simply requires electronic scans of the candidate's current license and employment records. There are also Alternative Pathways for out-of-state educators which are similar to the ones listed in the section above. More information on these can be found on the DPI website.

Wisconsin Teacher Employment Outlook & Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 73,390 teachers, from Pre-K to secondary school, currently working in Wisconsin. The average salary is $55,144. There is a predicted average of 1,667 new job openings for teachers in Wisconsin. Milwaukee Public Schools have a large general teacher shortage from Pre-K to high school. Across the state, generally, there are shortages in the fields of Early Childhood, Special Education, English as a Second Language, Support Staff, Mathematics, Science, Art and Music Education, World Languages, Language Arts and Reading, Health and Physical Fitness, and Career and Technical Education. A prospective Wisconsin teacher can take an alternative route to licensure if they are specializing in a shortage area.

The following table looks at Pre-K through secondary school teachers in Wisconsin; it does not include college teachers or library workers or museum curators.

Wisconsin Teachers Annual Salary Teacher to Student Ratio Job Outlook
73,390 $55,144 15:1 1,667

Expert Contributor

Nadim Tabsch

Nadim Tabsch is an adjunct English professor with over 15 years of experience. He has deep expertise in Literacy and Social Sciences and has been an educator at the elementary, middle school, high school, and collegiate level. Nadim graduated with a B.S. in Elementary Education from Barry University and a Master's degree in Literacy from the University of New England.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you teach in Wisconsin without a teaching degree?

    Most pathways require a bachelor's degree in teaching and an Education Preparation Program. A teacher who has a degree in their desired teaching field (for example, Theatre, English, History) can go through the Alternative Route to a teaching license where they will take coursework in order to teach in shortage areas in Wisconsin. Those with an Associate's degree who have completed a substitute training program can become substitute teachers.

  • What degree do you need to be a teacher in Wisconsin?

    In most cases, prospective Wisconsin teachers need a bachelor's degree in conjunction with an education preparation program followed by passing scores on the required tests.

  • How long does it take to get a WI teaching license?

    Once a candidate has submitted their application, it usually takes from 6-12 weeks for the candidate to get a response.

  • What is a Wisconsin DPI license?

    A Wisconsin DPI license is what legally allows someone to teach in the state of Wisconsin. There are a variety of licenses available based on the experience and subject matter of the teacher.

  • How long does a Wisconsin teaching license last?

    The Provisional Educator License lasts for five years. Substitute teaching license can last for as little as one year or as long as five. Teachers can also move up to a Lifetime License which will not expire.

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