How to Become a Teacher in Arizona

Wondering how to become a teacher in Arizona? Teaching in Arizona takes dedication, education, and certification. Here’s what you need to know.

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by Sharon Wilfong

Updated June 10, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Samantha Fecich

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How to Become a Teacher in Arizona
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Wondering how to become a teacher in Arizona? Requirements for teaching in the Grand Canyon State depend on what path you wish to pursue. Preschool teachers and teacher assistants typically need an associate's degree, while all other teachers need a bachelor's degree at a minimum. Some of the best online colleges in Arizona offer teaching programs from childhood development to educational studies.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postsecondary teachers are some of the highest-paid educators in the state. The average wage for Arizona faculty and professors was between $50,880 and $88,090 in May 2021. These educators usually need a master's or doctoral degree.

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Ready to start your journey?

Teachers at the K-12 levels must obtain teaching certification from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). Certifications are proof of your expertise in specific subjects.

How Do I Become a Teacher in Arizona?

There are different types of teaching certifications. Educators can get certified in early childhood education, career, and technical education, STEM, physical education, or special education. The ADE provides a certificates and requirements page on the website and a portal where you can check your application status online.

The ADE offers emergency certificates at the request of school districts to address the growing need for educators. If you hold a valid, comparable certificate in good standing in another state, you may qualify for reciprocity in Arizona. You'll need a fingerprint clearance card, a photocopy of your out-of-state educator certificate, and official transcripts.

Meet Minimum Education Requirements

The minimum requirements for teaching certification in Arizona are:

Some educators hold a traditional bachelor's in education. Alternatively, you could pursue a post-baccalaureate educator certificate program or a master's degree at an accredited institution. For example, someone with a bachelor's in psychology might complete the school psychology (EdS) educator preparation program.

Arizona state-approved educator preparation programs may also include experience that leads to certification while working as a teacher. Classroom-based pathways provide an opportunity to teach full time while enrolled in a Board-approved district educator preparation program. However, these programs are specifically for grades pre-K through high school.

Gain Student Teaching Experience

Students often complete a teacher preparation program as part of their bachelor's degree in education. Arizona requires at least eight practicum credits where student teachers are in a classroom preparing lesson plans and grading assignments. Students can also gain experience before applying for a teaching certification through the alternative pathways to teacher certification.

However, the number of hours of experience you need for teaching certification in Arizona varies by pathway. For example, early childhood educators need two years of full-time teaching experience. On the other hand, career and technical educators need three years of teaching at accredited colleges.

Pass Required Certification Tests

The ADE suggests applicants review the Arizona educator proficiency assessments (AEPA) and National Evaluation Series (NES) requirements. These Arizona educator exams determine an applicant's professional teaching knowledge and specific subject knowledge. For example, there are early childhood professional knowledge and subject knowledge assessments for birth through age eight.

Secondary teaching requires a secondary professional knowledge assessment. There are also various subject knowledge assessments, including:

There are also exams focusing on early childhood special education subject knowledge, administrator exams, and endorsements for school library media specialists. Additionally, the state accepts out-of-state exam equivalents.

Apply for Certification

There are five basic steps to preparing and submitting your certification application.

  1. Review the certificate requirement document to ensure you've met the requirements and have the necessary documentation.
  2. Apply for the identity verified prints (IVP) fingerprint clearance card.
  3. Request your official transcripts.
  4. Gather exams and any additional documents you need, including Arizona AEPA/NES educator exams.
  5. Once you've gathered all the necessary documentation, you can apply online.

You'll be able to view your application and credentials status in the AzEDCert Educator Portal. Depending on the time of year, your application can take 4-10 weeks to process. Additionally, there is a $60 fee for each certificate, endorsement, or new approved subject area.

How Do I Maintain Teaching Certification in Arizona?

You may renew a valid teaching certification in Arizona six months before its expiration date and up to one year after it expires. Applicants who hold more than one valid, renewable certificate may renew them together.

A renewable certificate that expired between two and 10 years prior may be eligible for renewal under the experienced educator option. Additionally, emergency certificates are bestowed at the request of a district or charter school superintendent. The emergency substitute certificate covers temporary certified teacher absences, while the emergency teaching certificate is a limited teaching contract.

The ABE also approved emergency teaching certificates if applicants couldn't take AEPA/NES exams during a "public health emergency." This emergency credential is a non-renewable certification valid for one year at any Arizona public school.

Career Outlook for Teachers in Arizona

Arizona is desperate for teachers, especially in STEM subjects. Considering the teacher shortage in Arizona, the job market isn't as competitive as in many other states. Not only that, but the teacher shortage isn't recent.

There's an ongoing need the state has tried to address with emergency certifications for substitute teachers and contract teachers. Certified teachers can earn from $31,000 to over $100,000, depending on their education and experience. School administrators and postsecondary teachers typically earn the highest salaries.

Teaching roles in elementary and high school require a bachelor's degree. However, a master's degree can significantly expand your career opportunities and earning potential. Of course, careers in education take time. Some educators pursue graduate school, eventually becoming professors, deans, or college presidents.

In-Demand Teaching Careers in Arizona

Middle School Math/Science Teacher

Middle school math and science teachers are typically responsible for teaching several sixth through eighth-grade classes daily. They create lesson plans, assess students' abilities, teach lessons, grade assignments, and communicate with parents, guardians, and other educators. Skills in curriculum planning or STEM education can mean more opportunities and higher salaries.

Median Annual Salary: $47,470

High School Physics Teacher

High school physics teachers write lesson plans, develop demonstrations and lab activities, and evaluate and grade assessments. These teachers typically teach at least one non-physics subject, such as physical science, chemistry, or mathematics. Skills in curriculum development, administration, public speaking, and Microsoft Excel can expand career opportunities and increase your salary.

Median Annual Salary: $55,190

High School Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers help teach children with disabilities by adapting the curriculum to meet specific students' needs. They collaborate with guardians, other teachers, therapists, and social workers, to ensure the student receives a quality education. Professionals with skills in case management and oral and verbal communication typically earn the highest salaries.

Median Annual Salary: $52,780

ESL Teacher

English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers help non-native speakers learn English and may also teach other subjects such as math or science. They can also help students understand American culture and expectations. Professionals can increase their salary potential with skills in public speaking, childhood education, online education, or test planning.

Median Annual Salary: $46,230

Elementary and Secondary School Education Administrators

Elementary and secondary school education administrators, such as the principal or vice-principal, are responsible for holding teaching staff accountable, approving syllabi, and enforcing a student code of conduct. They may also establish and supervise programs, including school counseling and extracurricular activities. These educators can increase their salary potential with program management and strategic planning education or experience.

Median Annual Salary: $66,180

Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Certification in Arizona

How do I get teaching certification in Arizona?

A teaching certification requires a bachelor's degree at minimum. Postsecondary teachers need a master's degree or higher. You'll also need to complete a Board-approved teacher preparation program and typically must have two years of teaching experience. Once you've met the educational requirements, you'll take the AEPA/NEA exam and gather the necessary documentation, including your official transcripts.

You'll need to have an IVP fingerprint clearance card, as well. You can apply online and check your application status through the ADE's education certification system portal. Valid, comparable certification from another state may also qualify you for teaching certification in Arizona.

Can I teach in Arizona without certification?

Arizona passed legislation in 2017 allowing individuals to get subject matter certificates to teach grades 6-12. Option B enables graduates with a bachelor's degree or higher in the subject area to teach in that subject. Official transcripts are required.

Option C allows individuals with five or more years of work experience in a specific subject to obtain certification. They must submit an official letter verifying their subject knowledge is comparable to a bachelor's degree or higher. This certificate authorizes the holder to teach in the approved area only. It is valid for 12 years and is renewable.

How long does it take to become a teacher in Arizona?

It can take anywhere from six months to six years to become a teacher in Arizona. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement, typically taking four years to complete. You must also be enrolled or have completed a teacher preparation program and pass the AEPA/NES exams.

Two years of teaching experience is another requirement, which professionals sometimes complete while getting certified. However, a teaching credential from another state may qualify you for Arizona's reciprocity program. Educators must pass a background check and complete an application with an IVP fingerprint card, official transcripts, exam scores, and proof of experience.

What can I do with teaching certification in Arizona?

You can teach in elementary, middle school, high school, depending on the certificate. The ADE offers certifications such as career and technical education, STEM, special education, ESL, and administration. The ADE also assists out-of-state educators in preparing for teaching in Arizona.

Typically, the certification you pursue should align with your education and experience. For example, if you have a bachelor's degree in early childhood development, you might pursue certification in PreK-12 teaching. High school science and math teachers may obtain professional and subject matter certifications in other subjects as well.

How do I become a substitute teacher in Arizona?

Requirements for substitute teaching in Arizona include a bachelor's or more advanced degree and copies of your transcripts. Coursework and degrees outside the United States must receive a course-by-course evaluation. Additionally, you'll need to obtain an IVP fingerprint card, complete an application for certification, and pay the appropriate fee.

If you hold a valid teaching certification in Arizona or an administrator certificate, you don't need a substitute teacher certificate. The substitute teaching certificate is valid for six years and renewable by reapplication. The emergency substitute certificate is valid for two school years and expires on July 1 of the year of expiration.

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