How to Become a Teacher in Colorado
Learn how to earn a teacher certification and become a teacher in Colorado. This guide also explores salaries and jobs for teaching in Colorado.
Updated June 10, 2022
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With outdoor opportunities from hiking to white water river rafting, Colorado is an excellent option for adventurous people seeking a teaching career. People interested in teaching in Colorado can work in diverse educational settings, including charter schools, large public city schools, and small mountain town districts.
Colorado offers one of the fastest-growing salaries compared to other states. In 2020, the typical salary for teachers rose by 5.03%. Teachers in Colorado make about $60,000 a year on average. Teaching positions in Colorado are projected to grow significantly in the coming years as well.
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Ready to start your journey?
Prospective educators can take many paths to earn a teaching certification in Colorado. Possible pathways depend on whether you are a first-time student, hold a degree, or are going back to college to get a teaching degree.
How Do I Become a Teacher in Colorado?
Public teachers in Colorado must hold a license. New teachers in Colorado must first apply for an initial teaching license. After completing a teacher induction program and gaining years of experience, teachers can apply for a professional teaching license.
All teacher candidates in Colorado who wish to teach at a public high school must complete the following:
- A bachelor's degree
- A teacher preparation program
- Any state or national competency exams for specific content areas
- A teacher application with supporting documents, including a background check
Students completing a teaching program in a state other than Colorado must either hold or be able to hold a teaching license in the state they completed their program. Colorado also offers an alternative licensing option that allows people to teach while completing teacher training requirements.
Private schools do not have to follow state requirements. For many private schools, a bachelor's degree is sufficient to teach. Check with each private school to see their specific needed qualifications.
Meet Minimum Education Requirements
Teaching in Colorado requires at least a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college. The type of degree a student holds depends on their teaching goals. For instance, if they want to work as an elementary teacher, they may pursue a bachelor's in elementary education.
However, students interested in becoming a middle or high school teacher may complete a bachelor's degree in their specific content area of interest. Examples include English literature, math, or social studies. They might also complete a music education program.
Candidates who know they want to pursue a teaching career typically apply to an institution's school of education for their preferred area of study. These programs are aligned with Colorado state teaching requirements and usually have advisors who can help learners navigate licensing preparation.
Gain Student Teaching Experience
Colorado does not set a minimum requirement for student teaching experience. Instead, each college determines its own requirements for student teaching experience. Typically, a teacher candidate takes several practicum courses throughout their program. They also complete at least one semester of full-time student teaching.
Student teachers often design and implement at least one instructional unit to teach during their semester student teaching experience. The instructor who oversees student teaching at a college or university will likely meet with the student teacher and their cooperating teacher to go over specific parameters.
Pass Required Certification Tests
The certification tests students take depend on what type of endorsement they want to earn. Many endorsements require a passing score on one or more PRAXIS exams. For example, according to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), in addition to a degree, elementary education candidates must complete the following exams:
- PLACE 01 AND PRAXIS 5205; OR
- PRAXIS 5901 series (as outlined below) AND PRAXIS 5205
- Mathematics 5903
- Social Studies 5904
- Science 5905
Future teachers for grades 7-12 must take content area PRAXIS exams. For example, the 7-12 English language arts licensure requires a passing score on the PRAXIS 5038.
The PLACE exam is no longer offered, but Colorado will honor previous PLACE scores until May 2022.
Apply for Certification
To complete an initial teaching license application, candidates must complete a background check and submit their fingerprints. They must submit their completed application within 30 days of the CDE receiving their background check.
For an initial teaching license, applicants must submit the following with their application:
- An approved government-issued identification
- Official transcripts from all attended colleges
- Passing scores from any required content exams, like the PRAXIS
- Prior work experience
- An approved program verification form filled out by the registrar's office of where you completed a teacher preparation program
- An application fee of $90
The CDE evaluates applications within 45 days of receiving completed paperwork.
How Do I Maintain Teaching Certification in Colorado?
Once professionals have their initial teaching license, they must complete a teacher induction program for professional teaching license eligibility. People who cannot complete the program within three years of acquiring their initial teaching license must apply to renew their initial license.
Educators must renew their professional teaching license every five years. To renew, teachers must submit 90 clock hours of professional development or 6 semester credit hours of coursework. They can do a combination of professional development and semester hours.
Career Outlook for Teachers in Colorado
Education jobs are in high demand in Colorado. Depending on what specific teaching position educators pursue, they may experience even higher demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects elementary teaching positions to increase 7% from 2020-2030. The BLS also projects high school teaching jobs to increase by 8% during that same time.
Teacher salary depends on location, years of experience, and level of education. However, in 2020, kindergarten and elementary teachers made a median annual salary of $60,660. High school teachers made $62,870.
Many teachers in Colorado are compensated on a scale similar to Denver Public School's teacher salary schedule, which offers higher salaries for more years of education and more experience. Earning a master's in education degree can help graduates stand out when applying for jobs and may increase their pay.
In-Demand Teaching Careers in Colorado
English Language Learner (ELL) Teacher
Teachers certified to teach ELL instruct students who are new to the English language in reading and writing. In the school setting, ELL teachers may administer assessments, collaborate with other classroom teachers, and plan lessons to help students gain the necessary English skills to access their educational environment.
ELL teacher candidates must pass a PRAXIS exam in English to Speakers of Other Languages.
Median Annual Salary: $55,350
Special Education Teacher
Special education teachers adapt general education lessons to meet the needs of students with mental, physical, emotional, or learning disabilities. Special education teachers typically have a caseload of students and manage Individual Education Plans (IEPs). They also write goals for student IEPs and keep data to track progress.
Prospective special education teachers must receive passing scores on all applicable PRAXIS exams.
Median Annual Salary: $61,500
High School Math Teacher
In secondary schools, math teachers usually teach specific math courses, such as algebra, geometry, or calculus. Math teachers plan units and prepare lessons to meet individual students' needs. High school teachers create assessments and use results to guide teaching decisions.
High school math teachers must pass a math PRAXIS exam. Available PRAXIS exams include math for grades 7-12 and middle school mathematics (grades 6-8).
Median Annual Salary: $62,870
Early Childhood Educators
As experts on preschool-aged children, early childhood educators use their understanding of child development to plan activities that foster pre-literacy and pre-mathematics skills. Using play, early childhood educators plan engaging and fun lessons geared towards preparing preschoolers for kindergarten.
To become licensed, future preschool teachers must pass the Education of Young Children PRAXIS and the Teaching Reading: Elementary PRAXIS tests.
Median Annual Salary: $31,930
Middle School Science Teacher
Most middle school science teachers work in grades 6-8. Along with creating engaging science lessons, many middle school teachers work as part of a grade-level team and must collaborate across content areas. Science teachers adapt lessons to meet the needs of students with various abilities.
To earn licensure, science teachers must pass a secondary (7-12) science content PRAXIS exam.
Median Annual Salary: $60,810
Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Certification in Colorado
How do I get teaching certification in Colorado?
To earn a teaching certification in Colorado, you must complete an approved bachelor's degree that meets the state's requirements for teachers. Along with completing a degree, you also must earn passing scores on any state-accepted content area exams.
Once you have completed these requirements, you must complete a background check. After the CDE receives your background check, you will have 30 days to submit all necessary documentation, along with your application fee.
Can I teach in Colorado without certification?
Colorado does offer a path for alternative licensure for people who are interested in becoming teachers but do not hold a teaching license. This path allows them to apply for and accept a teaching position while earning a Colorado teaching license.
The alternative license takes at least a year to complete. All candidates need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college. Specific requirements depend on the specific teaching position. For example, a high school science teacher can either hold a bachelor of science degree, hold 24 approved college credits in science, or pass a science PRAXIS exam.
You may also be able to find a position teaching at a private school without certification.
How long does it take to become a teacher in Colorado?
The time it takes to earn teaching certification in Colorado depends on many factors. First-year students in a teacher education program may spend four years earning licensure because they must earn a bachelor's degree.
For bachelor's degree-holders, the amount of time it takes to become a teacher in Colorado depends on what field in which they earned a degree. Completed coursework and a candidate's desired teaching focus area also impact licensure timelines. Alternative licenses can take 1-3 years to complete.
What can I do with teaching certification in Colorado?
Obtaining a teaching license in Colorado allows you to teach at an elementary or secondary school in the state. Your specific certification areas determine what grade levels and/or subjects you can teach. Holding a teaching license can open the door to eventually becoming a school administrator.
How do I become a substitute teacher in Colorado?
Colorado offers many avenues for people interested in becoming a substitute teacher. For substitute license consideration, you must submit and pass a background check with fingerprints.
To apply for a one-year substitute authorization, you need a high school or GED diploma and documented experience working with children. If you would like a three-year substitute authorization, you need a bachelor's degree in any content area. If you hold or have held a Colorado teacher license, you can apply for a five-year substitute authorization. You may also apply for a five-year substitute authorization if you hold a current out-of-state teacher certificate.
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