How to Become a Teacher in Montana
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More than 147,000 students make their way to a public school in Montana each day, where teachers help them develop writing, science, and math skills. The state employs more than 10,500 teachers across its 401 school districts.
Montana, like many states, has struggled with teacher recruitment and retention. In July 2021, the Montana Office of Public Instruction reported 120 requests for emergency teacher authorizations — the most reported since at least 2005. These authorizations allow school systems to hire teachers without certification when they cannot find a licensed educator for a position.
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According to the most recent report by the National Education Association, Montana teachers earned an average of $52,135 in 2019-20, ranking 40th out of 50 states. Lawmakers in the state continue to work to improve pay for teachers.
Are you interested in how to become a teacher in Montana? The process begins with earning a bachelor's degree from approved teacher preparation programs.
How Do I Become a Teacher in Montana?
The minimum requirements for obtaining teaching certification in Montana include earning a bachelor's degree, passing required exams, and completing a background check. Teacher certification in Montana primarily falls under three types of teaching licenses:
- Class 1: Professional Teacher's License — requires a master's degree in education or a specific subject area and three years of successful classroom teaching experience.
- Class 2: Standard Teacher's License — requires a bachelor's degree from an approved teacher preparation program at an accredited college
- Class 5: Provisional License — Individuals with a bachelor's degree in something other than education may apply for a provisional license and begin teaching while taking necessary classes for full certification
The state welcomes educators from other states to apply for teaching certification in Montana. Individuals must meet the same requirements as applicants for Class 1, Class 2, or Class 5 license applicants before teaching in Montana.
Meet Minimum Education Requirements
The minimum education requirement for teaching certification in Montana is a bachelor's degree in education. A standard teaching license requires completing an educator preparation program approved by Montana's Office of Public Instruction or a school that holds programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Ten post-secondary campuses offer approved teaching preparation programs in Montana.
A degree in education often allows you to specialize in a specific subject or student population. Popular education degrees include elementary education, secondary education, or special education.
Most bachelor's degrees require 120 credits, including about 60 general education courses. Typical courses required for an education degree include educational psychology and child development; multicultural education; integrating technology into education; and assessment, curriculum, and instruction.
Montana includes seven tribal territories and a Native American population of more than 66,000 people, and the state's constitution requires all citizens to be encouraged to learn about the history and culture of Native Americans. Montana offers a free Indian Education for All online course to ensure teachers have the resources and tools necessary to meet that constitutional requirement.
Popular Online Teaching Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
Gain Student Teaching Experience
Student teaching allows students to put their knowledge of lesson planning, classroom management, and student assessment to work. Montana requires at least 14 weeks of student teaching. Students must apply for student teaching through their college's education department.
Prerequisites include practicum classroom experience, completion of all required education courses, a 2.75 GPA, and current certification in first aid and CPR. Students must also undergo fingerprinting and background checks before they may work in schools.
Your school will place you in a classroom with a mentor teacher. Placements align with your subject area or grade level. Throughout the semester, students will be observed in the classroom and meet regularly with their supervisor and cooperating teacher. Student teachers also complete a capstone assignment, such as putting together a teaching portfolio.
Pass Required Certification Tests
The Praxis Tests serve as the primary exam for educators. These standardized tests measure content knowledge and instructional skills.
Teaching in Montana requires taking the Praxis test for your subject area. The state sets the minimum qualifying scores they will accept. Praxis will send your scores to Montana's Office of Private Instruction if you include the state code, 8653, on your registration.
The length of the test varies by subject but ranges from 1 hour 25 minutes to four hours. Fees also vary by subject, ranging from $90-$180. You can find testing locations or choose the At Home Tests option.
Apply for Certification
You must apply for teaching certification in Montana through the Montana Office of Professional Instruction (OPI). The application includes your transcripts from an approved teacher preparation program, university recommendations, and your fingerprint cards.
Your teacher education program will send appropriate recommendation forms once you complete your degree requirements. You must also wait for final grades to post and Praxis scores to be transmitted. It can take several weeks to process an application.
Montana charges $36 to process a teaching license application. The state will note endorsement areas. These endorsements specify the grades and classes you may teach. If you wish to add an endorsement later, the state offers a Class 5 license or internship options while you complete any necessary college coursework.
How Do I Maintain Teaching Certification in Montana?
Once granted a Montana teaching certification, you must ensure you meet all continuing education requirements for renewal.
A Class 2 standard teaching license remains valid for five years. During that time, you must earn at least 60 continuing education units. You can earn these credits through approved continuing education providers or by taking college-level courses.
You can apply for renewal beginning Jan. 1 of the year your license expires. The license expires June 30 of that year, but you can submit continuing education credits until Aug. 31. However, the state warns that it can take up to eight weeks to process a renewal application.
You also have the option of upgrading your Montana teaching certification. If you hold a Class 2 license and have earned a master's degree, you may qualify for a Class 1 professional teaching license. Teachers who attain National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification also qualify for a Class 1 license.
A Class 5 license remains valid for up to three years and is nonrenewable. To upgrade to a class 2 license, you must submit transcripts from a teacher preparation program and a university recommendation.
Career Outlook for Teachers in Montana
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Montana has reported shortages in numerous teaching positions, including special education, career and technical education, math, science, language arts, social studies, and foreign language. Many of these teacher shortages apply to specific grades, like middle school and high school. The state also reported a need for school counselors and school librarians for all grade levels.
The NEA reported Montana teachers earned an average starting salary of $32,871 in 2020, with an average salary of $52,135. The starting pay puts Montana teachers well below the national average — something state lawmakers have worked to change. A bill approved last year set the minimum salary for teaching in Montana at $34,000 and tied that amount to inflation. That bill will take effect in 2023.
Some Montana school systems reward teachers who earn a master's degree in education with higher pay and the opportunity to apply for a Class 1 professional teaching license. Montana also requires a master's degree to apply for a school counselor, school librarian, or administrator license. A master's degree in education can prepare students for additional education careers.
In-Demand Teaching Careers in Montana
Elementary teachers work with students from kindergarten into sixth grade. They plan lessons aligned to state academic standards, assess student academic performance, and communicate with parents about a child's progress. These early education teachers also help students learn how to interact with others. Many elementary teachers teach most core subjects, like reading and math. Prospective teachers may major in elementary education or early childhood education.
Average Annual Salary (May 2020): $50,270
High School Teacher
High school teachers, also called secondary teachers, often specialize in a single subject area, like science or English. Teacher education programs focus on the need for in-depth instruction in a subject from grades 5-12. Teachers plan lessons, grade assignments, and enforce classroom and school rules. They may also take on extracurricular roles, such as club sponsors or class sponsors.
Average Annual Salary (May 2020): $52,680
Special Education Teacher
Special education teachers adapt lesson plans to serve the needs of students with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, cognitive delays, or emotional disabilities. Teachers assess their skills and develop individual lessons specific to their abilities and needs. They may work with students from preschool through high school, focusing not only on academic standards but on preparing for independent living after school.
Average Annual Salary (May 2020): $50,310
School librarians work in elementary, middle, and high schools. They support the overall academic program by providing instruction in research methods and the use of technology. They also research new books to include in the collection and help students find reading material appropriate to their age and reading ability. They may assist teachers with lesson plans or finding instructional materials. School librarians may earn a master's in library science or in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in library media.
Average Annual Salary (May 2020): $52,100
School counselors provide a variety of support services for students in a school. They may help students overcome behavioral challenges, learn effective time management and study techniques, or identify career goals. Counselors plan student schedules to ensure they meet graduation requirements and offer advice and support for continuing education opportunities, like college or vocational school. School counselors must complete a master's degree in school counseling to qualify for certification.
Average Annual Salary (May 2020): $50,250
Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Certification in Montana
How do I get teaching certification in Montana?
The Montana Office of Professional Instruction evaluates applications for teaching certification in Montana. You must earn a bachelor's degree, pass the required exams, and complete a background check. Individuals who complete an approved teacher preparation program may apply for a standard teaching license.
Montana requires prospective teachers to take a Praxis content exam for their endorsement area. The state sets the minimum scores they will accept. Additionally, teachers must pass a background check and be fingerprinted.
Can I teach in Montana without certification?
Teaching in Montana requires an active teaching license. However, the state does offer a teaching certification for individuals who may not have completed all the educational requirements for a standard teaching license.
The provisional license allows individuals with at least a bachelor's degree to begin teaching while taking courses in education. This program can allow individuals looking to change careers to begin working in education right away. It also helps schools place teachers who may hold certification in another subject in a classroom when necessary. This license remains active for up to three years and is not renewable.
How long does it take to become a teacher in Montana?
Earning teaching certification in Montana typically takes four years. Most undergraduate education programs require at least four years to complete, including a semester of student teaching.
Once you complete the educational requirements, you must apply to the Montana Office of Professional Instruction. The application includes transcripts, Praxis exam scores, background checks, and recommendations from your teacher preparation program. Allow up to two months for the state to process an application for certification.
What can I do with teaching certification in Montana?
Earning your teaching certification in Montana prepares you to launch your career in education. Teacher preparation programs offer you the chance to specialize in specific areas of education: elementary education, secondary education, music education, or special education. The state has reported shortages in numerous teaching positions, including math, science, and language arts.
After completing a bachelor's degree in education, you may consider a master's in education. Earning a master's in education can prepare you for administrative positions or work as a school counselor or librarian. Earning a master's also helps you qualify for a professional teaching license, an upgrade to a standard teaching license.
How do I become a substitute teacher in Montana?
Substitute teachers fill in for teachers who cannot attend school due to illness or other absences. You do not need certification to work as a substitute teacher in Montana. The state requires only that substitute teachers hold a high school diploma or equivalent, undergo a fingerprint-based background check, and complete at least three hours of training.
Montana allows non-certified substitute teachers to work in a classroom for up to 35 consecutive days, though the state does offer preference to licensed substitute teachers, particularly if a teacher will be out for an extended period of time.
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