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Alternative Routes To Certification

State-by-State Analysis


The vast majority of states offer alternative routes to certification—pathways to a teaching certificate or credential other than a traditional undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited college or university school of education.

Traditional teacher preparation programs are comprehensive and structured to enable graduates to meet state licensing requirements. Traditional programs often take four or five years to complete.

Alternative programs typically attract individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree, and sometimes prior work experience, but are looking to switch careers, according to a U.S. Department of Education issue brief. “Alternative routes to licensure are typically more condensed training programs and often target individuals with certain subject area/content majors,” according to the NEA policy brief (One License, Many Routes: NEA and Alternative Routes to Licensure, 2009). “The ultimate goal for prospective teachers in both comprehensive and alternative route programs is the same: to obtain a license to teach (”

Using the most recent publicly available information, NEA surveyed alternative routes to certification programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to better understand how educators are being trained and supported to be successful in the classroom. The result is a state-by-state compilation of state-approved alternative certification programs, key features, and requirements.

The bottom line: States vary considerably in their approaches to alternative routes to certification. Three states (Alaska, Oregon, and Wyoming) have no approved alternative programs to prepare prospective teachers, while Texas tops the nation with nearly 100 approved programs. Other states fall somewhere in between, offering anywhere from a few to dozens of programs.

States typically outline requirements for alternative certification programs. Some states establish highly prescriptive requirements; other states are more flexible. Program requirements vary considerably from state to state and, often, from program to program in terms of course requirements, prerequisites, length, classroom experience, and more.

This state-by-state compilation of state-approved alternative certification programs investigated each program for these specific attributes:

  • Program duration 
  • Coursework 
  • Requirements for student teaching hours
  • Supervision of program participants
  • Requirements for licensure assessments
  • Type of certification

Important Notes

  • While this research used the best available public information from November 2019 to February 2020, this information is subject to change at any time. In some cases, program information was not available or easily understandable. In such cases, states and program providers were contacted and asked to clarify information. Not all responded. Be sure to verify information before making a decision to apply to any alternative certification program.
  • When a program approval date was not readily available, program managers were contacted. If they did not know the official program approval date, they often explained that the program has been operational since before they started their employment. As such, this compilation uses the phrase “at least since” before the program approval date to indicate the best known information available and provide some context as to how long the program has been operational.
  • The state departments of education are the primary source for each state’s list of approved programs. In a limited number of cases, programs listed on the state-approved list are no longer in operation, being revamped, or not accepting new students. In these instances, the non-operational program remains listed in this research but with an explanation.
  • This research uses N/A to indicate “not available” rather than “not applicable.”

Download the Full Report Here ( PDF, 366 MB, 229 pgs.)

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full report:

Alternative Routes to Certification 
(PDF, 366 MB, 229 pgs.)